Many people picture a high-rise building filled with apartments when they think of a condominium. But, not all condos are high-rises. In fact, not all condos are buildings, much less hi-rises! For example, a bare land condo is a condominium in which the owner owns land only.
Even horses are getting into the act! Some stables have gone condo. In a stable condo, the owner purchases a single stall for his horse in a stable, but shares the stable and grounds with other horses and owners. At a marina, it is possible to condo a single slip from a dock. In both cases, the owners pay a fee to the association for maintenance, but in both cases, the owner is solely responsible for his interest in the condo.
A more common type of condominium is the garden-style condo. Garden-style condos are one to five floors of condominiums and usually don’t have an elevator. From the exterior, townhouse condos look exactly like regular condominiums.
It is even possible to have a single family residence titled as a condo. This can happen in a vacation community where the association maintains the exterior and grounds of the house, while the owners have possession of the interior of the house.
This article was reprinted by permission from CondoBenefits.com. If you are a condo expert or if you would like a link from CondoBenefits.com just drop me a line. I’m building a directory of condo experts from around the country at that site and would love your input!
One of the major disadvantages to buying or renting a condo is the potential for conflict with the neighbors. While some residents may foster incredible relationships with all of their neighbors and never once have a disagreement with a neighbor this doesn’t always happen. Most condo residents experience at least one instance of dissatisfaction with a neighbor. If this happens to you, you might not want to confront the neighbor about the issue. But whether you confront the neighbor or not, it is likely to cause at least some tension in the living situation. In some cases avoiding the issue can cause the problem to worsen. In other situations, discussing the issue can make the situation worse.
Although most modern condominium buildings are built with a fair amount of insulation, there is still the real possibility of neighbors in a condo hearing music, television, conversation or other noises emanating from a neighbor’s condo on a regular basis. This is due to the close proximity of the condos to each other as well as the common practice of having at least one shared wall among neighbors in an apartment complex. Condos should be aware of this and make an effort to avoid noises which will likely be heard through the walls during nights or early in the morning when others are likely to be sleeping.
Being Considerate of Others
Consideration for others is one of the key elements which can make condo living more bearable and less prone to conflict. For example, while condos residents are free to listen to music in their own condo, they should limit listening to music at a loud decibel to daylight hours when it is not likely that other residents are trying to sleep.
Residents in a condo complex should also be conscientious when throwing parties. (Many condos actually have a “party room” as an amenity.) This is important because the condo is responsible for the actions of his guests. Therefore the condo resident should ensure his guests are not causing discomfort for residents of the condominium complex.
When Your Schedule is Unusual
Finally condo owners and renters who have an unusual schedule may have a great deal of difficulty functioning in a condo complex. This includes, but is not limited to, residents who work a night shift and sleep during the day. The unusual schedule kept by these residents makes them more prone to being disturbed by other residents who assume everyone residing in the complex sleeps at roughly the same time.
Unfortunately residents in this situation may have to make an effort to make their living situation bearable. While discussing the situation with the neighbors is certainly worthwhile, it is unrealistic to expect the neighbors to remain exceedingly quite during the daytime hours. Many residents do chores such as vacuuming during this time which can resonate in a neighboring condo. However, asking the neighbor to do these types of activities in the evening is not feasible because the neighbor would likely be disturbing a number of other neighbors by doing so.
This is why the condo resident with the unusual schedule is often required to make changes to make the living situation workable. This may include purchasing and using earplugs while sleeping or investing in a white noise machine which can help to drown out ambient noise and make the environment more conducive to sleeping. Additionally, the condo resident with the unusual schedule should make an effort to be quite during hours in which they are awake but the majority of neighbors are likely sleeping.
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Know your budget, consult with a financial institution about what you can be pre-approved for.
Know your needs, including:
Number of bedrooms
Walking distance to a bus stop
Walking distance to a metro stop
Age of the property
Amenities (for condos)
In unit washer/dryer
Utilities included in condo fees
Realize that something will have to give to get what you want, prioritize your needs so that you can get the most important features.
Budget time and money:
Finding any home is easy. Finding the right home requires time invested in looking at properties.
Money for down-payments and closing costs can vary from a couple percentage points to a cash purchase where you provide the entire amount up front.
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Everything built by man requires some maintenance at some point.
Even so-called maintenance-free homes require some attention. So when making the transition from renting to buying, one aspect of home ownership that must be considered carefully is maintenance.
Renters enjoy few advantages over buyers, but one benefit of renting is that in most cases renters needn’t worry about the expense of maintaining a property. Many first time buyers aren’t ready to take on the hassles and expenses of yard work, gutter cleaning, painting and so on, and for this reason condos are a viable and interesting alternative.
In the case of a condo, maintenance can be separated into two categories: owner’s responsibilities and association responsibilities.
These exact nature of these duties and responsibilities will vary from condo to condo, but there are a few rules of thumb. For example, certain retirement communities provide maid service as part of the condo, but most often the condo owner is responsible for cleaning his own unit.
In most cases, the condo owner must clean the condo interior, including all windows which are reachable from the interior. The condo owner must clean of his or her private balcony or patio. Most renters are accustomed to this type of arrangement already.
Unlike renters, condo owners own the appliances in the unit. Thus, the condo owner cleans and maintains all the appliances, but the condo owner also pays for repairs and replacements as needed. A condo owner
has the power to pick his own appliances, but with that benefit comes the duty of maintaining that unit.
In most older condos, the association supplies the heating and cooling to the unit, and the condo owner owns the convector or radiator (heat transfer appliance) in the unit. In new condos, the owner typically owns the HVAC (heat pump / air conditioner) that heats and cools his unit.
Plumbing and electrical concerns remain for owners of single family homes and townhouses, but in all but a few rare cases the condo owner need only worry about systems that are outside the walls. For example, the condo owner typically owns the bathroom vanity and the pipes supporting that vanity but not the pipes which supply water and take sewage away from the bathroom. A condo owner owns his kitchen cabinets, but not the electrical wires inside the wall that bring power to his kitchen appliances.
In general, the condominium owner is responsible for his personal space, but the condo association is responsible for all common areas. This includes maintaining and operating the elevators and outside doors. In most cases this includes the windows. Most always, the association maintains the lawns, flowers and shrubs. The condo association maintains the roof.
While the owner of a single family home must maintain his own driveway, a condo parking lot is maintained by the condominium association. The parking garage can be private, common, or common with assignments. If the parking garage is common, with or without assignments, the condo association will clean and maintain the parking. A private garage is the domain of the condominium owner.
Review your docs
Ultimately, you’ll want review your condo documents, charter and by-laws to determine exactly how your condo association interprets its domain. Rest assured, a condo owner will have more to maintain than a renter, but significantly less responsibility than the owner of a single family residence or townhouse.
A condominium is usually a housing unit or apartment in a multi-unit building in which each unit is individually owned, while common areas and the property in general are jointly owned by the residents and the owner of the building, or all of the residents together. Some people choose to purchase and live in a condominium because some condos are less expensive than a traditional single-family house. Additionally, many condos have added amenities and facilities.
Most condominiums have amenities you won’t find on a similarly priced single family residence. A typical condo has a pool, a work-out room, and party room. Typically all or some of the exterior maintenance and lawn care is provided by the condo association. Many condos have utilities included in the price of the condo fee. These and many other luxuries are standard in a condominium community but are beyond the reach of those who reside in single family homes. In short, condo owners choose condo life because they love life and they don’t want to be bogged down with maintaining a lawn or cleaning gutters. They want to walk out the back door and enjoy a dip in the pool while the other guy is spending time writing checks to pay his utilities.
The best part about owning a condo is that your condominium sets you on the path to financial freedom. Buying a condo costs more monthly cash flow than renting an apartment. But, in most cases, all that money comes back to you at the end of the year in the form of tax refunds. Best of all, next year your mortgage will be the same amount and your debt will be reduced. With an apartment your money is gone and your rent will surely have a cost of living increase.
Before deciding to purchase a condominium, it is important to do your research into both the legal and practical aspects of owning a condominium. As with any home purchase, location, size and price are important. With a condominium you’ll also want to understand the ownership scheme. This type of information is found in the “condo docs” or condominium documents. Most states, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, require condo doc disclosure before any purchase contract is finalized. The condo docs will contain detailed information on the ownership and property rights of the condo and its owners. The rules of the homeowners association are generally explained in the condo docs in plain English (and not in legal jargon)? It’s important to read the condo documents to understand the annual maintenance and upkeep fees, as well as to obtain a full understanding of exactly how much control the association have over the regulation of the property?
Condominiums can be found all over the country, with more being developed each year. Condominiums are quite common in Northern Virginia and the National Capitol area. Some condos are new construction, and a few are apartment buildings that were rental apartments before making the switch.
In newly constructed condos, it’s common to find a sales office onsite at the condominium. And whether your buying from a condominium owner or a condo office, it’s a good idea to take a guided tour of facilities and the units that are available for purchase. Of course, many new condominium offices have staff that act as sales agents. Potential condominium owners can make an appointment to meet with a staff sales agent to discuss interest in condo ownership; hHowever, when you’re in the market for a condo, it’s a good idea to employ your own Condo Alexandria real estate agent rather than rely on the services of the condominium staff. Your real estate agent will have an understanding of the condominium ownership structure and the condominium documents and the real estate agent can explain what this means to you.
Although there are various types of condominiums, the most common legal arrangements involve individual ownership of each unit, with joint ownership of the communal or common areas by all of the residents in the building. You might be surprised to learn the variety of sizes found in condominiums. Condos range from studios and one bedroom apartment, to a four bedroom penthouse apartment. Even condominiums with the same number of bedrooms can have different floor plans and different numbers of bathrooms and half-baths.
While some condominiums are located in large multi-unit buildings, others may be detached form each other and be located in a gated or planned community. Some condominiums may be located in resort or vacation destinations. Besides total cost of the property, you should also inquire as to the annual homeowners association costs. These fees are usually charged in order to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the common areas. Owning a condominium can be one of the largest investments you make, so make sure that the one you choose can accommodate your specific needs. Purchasing a condominium can be a great way to buy a property in the location you really want with all the amenities you seek.
Although smokers argue that they should have the indisputable right to smoke in their own homes, non-smokers who are concerned about second-hand smoke in condominium communities have challenged that idea. An increasing number of condos are banning smoking, preventing people from lighting up anywhere, even in their own units.
Property managers say properties that choose to go smoke-free have a few options for dealing with long-time tenants who smoke. They can help them quit, or they can grandfather in those who currently live there. Some smokers are opting for electronic (smokeless) cigarettes.
The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium will help landlords draft leases that include smoke-free clauses. It’s interesting that the country is moving toward an increasing relaxed stance toward marijuana smoke and at the same time an increasingly intrusive position on tobacco smoke.
Condo shoppers might want to check out these resources: