Why buying a condo is not like buying a house.

Some folks like to imagine that buying a condo is like buying a house without yard work. In some ways this is true, but it many ways it does not tell the full story. There are real differences between buying a condo, whether you are a first time buyer seeking affordability, or if you are a long-time homeowner down-sizing.


Consider the legal limitations of condominium ownership. For example, the title of a single family home provides to the owner near total control of any legal use of the property. That means total control of the landscaping, the colors of the house and the types of windows and doors you have. But condos are titled differently.  The governing documents in a condominium complex describe common areas and shared resources. The common area and shared portions of the property are controlled by a---sometimes burdensome---democratic apparatus of owners in the complex. The association might restrict the color you can paint your door. It is not uncommon for the association to decide what plants are planted and what types of windows you may install. On the other hand, some homeowners associations make similar restrictions. A cynic might note that a homeowner does not have control over the street or "common area" that is controlled by the county. In a real sense we all have an association with the community at large. It's just a matter of where the community starts and what responsibilities we cede to the community. In a single family home, community control begins at the curb, but in a condo, community control begins somewhere just beyond the paint on your walls.


Because the community has shared elements, condo owners don't just have neighbors. Instead, condominium owners actually live next door to their investment partners. Condominiums force a relationship with your neighbors that goes beyond what the owner of a single family home might find. If your neighbor ruins the carpet outside his door, he ruins your carpet too. Life is simpler in a condominium: you don't need to worry about maintenance. Many times some or all of the utilities are managed by the association.  Often the building insurance is managed by the condo association.  Freedom from responsibility means less control and fewer choices about the community: but do you really care who cleans the gutters?  Do you really want to spend your life picking the insurance company?  If not then, a condo might be for you.

Condo Benefits

Condos are a lifestyle choice. In Northern Virginia, where prices are high and choices are limited, condo ownership makes a lot of sense. However, condo ownership has unique challenges and aspects that you should fully understand before buying. If you choose a condo specialist like us, you'll know that we have answers to important questions.

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Condo Living, Home Buying

Stuart Nesbitt

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Stuart Nesbitt is a Realtor® licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia. His office is located in Fairfax County near the City of Alexandria in Belle Haven. He was born and raised in Northern Virginia and attended Fairfax County schools. Call him at any time to discuss your real estate needs.