Monday, April 23, 2012

Condo v. House

One of the decisions I will need to make someday is whether to keep my house, downsize to a smaller place or move to a condo.

I've pretty much decided to eliminate the middle choice. I like my current home a lot, even though it is old (built in 1929), large, and has too many stairs and too much yard.

Need I say that ranch-style bred moi first fell in love with the house BECAUSE of the stairs and the yard and its age?

I live only ten minutes from city center (20 minutes if I'm traveling by bus).

But I am very attracted to life in the middle of my city--the sheer walkability, the restaurants, the magnificent library, how close the cultural institutions are.

I've never minded apartment life, and I certainly would not mind NOT having to worry about upkeep. I refer to my yardcare as 'Darwinian.' I have the lawn moved and the flower beds weeded, but whatever grows is what survived the rainy season. Nothing is planned, so I'm always as surprised as the next person to see what comes up when.

So, in general terms, I think I'm the ideal condo-dweller.

BUT, I worry a lot about monthly condo fees and how unpredictable they are. Isn't the point of paying off my mortgage prior to retirement, NOT to have more monthly fees? At least with a home, I make a personal decision as to what I want fixed or updated. It's scary to think of a condo board making those decisions for me, possibly at a cost that I could not afford.

Then, too, I wonder if I'm ready or ever will be for the rules and regulations that come with owning a condo. I've never been part of an HOA nor wanted to be. I prefer eccentricity to cookie-cutter houses.

Finally, at some level, I am concerned that condos are seldom good buys--the recession hit their market far harder than the housing market, which was bad enough.

I'm starting to read up on the advantages/disadvantages of condos versus homes See here and here--read the comments as well.

12 comments:

Janette said...

Right there with you on the worry of condo fees. I was looking for a condo by my daughter. Found one in the mid$100,000 range. The condo fee? $475 A MONTH! That does not include the $2,500 property tax! Come on! There are 40 condos for sale in the 200 condo group....
Cannot move into an apartment again unless it is in the middle of a city. That, most likely, will never happen.
That moves me back to the idea of going into a smaller house- where I know the price and the property costs. I want a one level 2 bedroom/ 2 bath / great room/ kitchen---that is IT:>) I have been looking. No luck so far. I am thinking, seriously, of buying land and building one!

Florence said...

I'd stay in my house as long as I could. OTOH, if you are in a one-bedroom condo, you wouldn't have to worry with kids moving back home.LOL.

Maureen said...

There will be pros and cons to both, the trick will be to getting as much information as possible.
My choice would be to stay put, I just would love to put roots down and stay in one place for the rest of my days.......

Grace. said...

Janette--property taxes are another factor. Those on my current home are locked in and cannot go up more than 3% per year, based on the sale price 20 years ago. If I buy a new place, even a condo at a price less than my current home, the taxes on the condo reset to the price at which I make the purchase.

Florence--more on that in a later post!

DeeDee said...

My sister-in-law's parents just moved out of a condo and into an apartment. The space is the same, the rent is about equal to the condo fee and there are no taxes to pay.

Up until then I always had the gut feeling that 'owning' was better than renting, but I can see it both ways in this case.

DeeDee
www.KidNeedsAKidney.blogspot.com

LC said...

From my mother's experience and the experience of her friends, there may come a time when we will not feel safe and secure in our home and when the details of upkeep will prove overwhelming.

My mother arrived, painfully, at the decision to sell her home and to move into a studio apartment in an "independent living" complex with housekeeping and three meals a day provided.

I think one reason she was happy there is that she had been considering options years earlier in case she ever felt she couldn't live alone. She made an informed decision rather than wait until her children had to make a decision for her.

Shannon said...

ugh. I bought a condo when I was 24 in 1999. It is a total pain in the butt. You're right, the fees have done nothing but go up. I met my husband and we each had a condo so we decided to sell and buy a house together. While his sold, mine sat. AND SAT AND SAT some more. I still own the damn thing. I'm lucky that I finally got some renters, but I'll never be rid of that place, that's for sure. It's worth about 15K less now than what I paid for it. While having the yard taken care of was a perk for me at the time, it's totally NOT worth it. Especially if you are approaching retirement. What if, God forbid, your children have to put you in a nursing home and they can't sell it so you are out the money that would have paid for better care for you?? Pay off your mortgage now, and save up to hire a lawn service later. I could not say enough how much of a hassle owning a condo is.

Grace. said...

LC--I don't think of a condo and assisted living as the same thing. I will have no reluctance to move into assisted living (preferably one that allows me to stay on-site with advanced nursing care) if/when the need arises.

priskill said...

My FIL lives in the greatest assisted living condo with perks up the wazoo and as much or as little assistance as he wants or needs. It's like a beautifully appointed college campus with tons of clubs, activities, meals prepared -- or, the choice to hang out by himself. It isn't cheap but we keep telling him this is what you worked so hard for all those years -- to be safe and happy.

I have heard that if you go the condo route, make sure YOU are on the boards and committees that decide fees, etc. LA Times has a weekly column of grievances from condo owners fending off less than scrupulous condo associations.

I dream of renting the tiniest apartment near the beach -- and I won't miss my yard, either! Smart to think of this now . . .

Bob Lowry said...

i hadn't thought about the maintenance fees and property taxes involved in a condo purchase. Plus, what if I can't sell it when it is time to move to a three-level retirement community? I'll need the sale money to buy in.

All good points for me to consider when it is time to downsize again. It sounds as though an apartment may be a better choice.

Jessie said...

My immediate thought is that if you like where you are, staying put is probably the best thing to do. If one of these days the hankering for some place new and near downtown grows strong enough that you you no longer enjoy where you are, you might be surprised by what you can find. I just listed a condo for a friend's mom and it sold in just over 20 days. It was tiny, but it had a nice big garage, was situated in a well-established, nice neighborhood, and didn't have the feeling of a condo. The condo fees were just over 250, and the assoc had recently paid for a new privacy fence and roof with no additional assessments. The seller loved it but needed assisted living. So you never know!

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