Condos vs. single-family homes

Q:   Should I be looking for a single family home or a condominium?

A:    Traditional single-family homes and condominiums each have their own advantages and each buyer needs to decide what’s right for them.  Start by considering what’s important to you in choosing a place to live.

Where would you ideally like to live?  Are there both single-family and condominium options in those areas?  If location is very important to you that may help you determine which kind of home you will have available to you. 

How much do you value your privacy?  Living in a condominium may not afford you as much privacy as a single-family home.  On the other hand, perhaps you would enjoy encountering your neighbors more frequently which is more likely to occur in a condo.

Some people dream of giving up home maintenance and would never miss cutting the lawn each weekend or shoveling the snow from the driveway while others enjoy having a “to do” list for their home.  If that’s you, then perhaps a single-family home offers more of those opportunities.

When you own a single-family home, you own the entire structure, the land it is on and any other structures and systems attached to the land (e.g., a separate garage or shed, fences, a sprinkler system).  This is called “fee simple ownership.”  Condominium owners purchase the exclusive right to own everything that’s within the walls of a specific unit or apartment.  Everything else – the land the building sits on, the outside walls, landscaped grounds, fences, swimming pools – is commonly owned by all of the homeowners in the building.

Living in a condominium usually means giving up some control (and responsibility) over your property.  Condominiums typically have rules and regulations, covenants and other guidelines which define what owners can and cannot do.  For example, if you wanted to remodel or replace your windows you may need to get approval from the other owners in the building directly or through a homeowners association (HOA).  (Recently some newer single-family home developments have created condominium-like policies and practices, as well.)

Your budget may determine which option is better for you.  It may be that, in the neighborhoods you find most attractive, condos are a more affordable choice.  When you do your budgeting, keep in mind that in addition to the purchase cost of the condominium you may be required to pay a monthly fee that covers such things as management of the property, hazard insurance, routine maintenance and possibly some of the utilities (e.g., water or sewage).

Whether you are buying a single-family home or a condominium, it is an important investment.  The recommended steps of working with a REALTOR®, contacting a lender to be pre-qualified for the loan you will need to buy the property, and having a professional inspection apply in both cases.  In addition, if you are considering a condominium (or a single-family style community with condominium-like rules and policies), ask to see all of the governing documents (Rules and Regulations, Policies, Covenants) as well as the HOA annual budget and the reserve budget (used for repairs and emergencies) along with the minutes of at least six month’s worth of HOA board of directors meetings.  Check to see if there is any recently concluded or pending litigation against the HOA.  This, as well as any planned major construction, could mean increased costs for you, the buyer, in the future.

This article was provided by the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association.  Additional information about buying and selling real estate is available at http://www.coloradorealtors.com.

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