Condos, or condominiums if you insist on being formal, have a lot going for them. You don't have to do yard work, and depending on the condo complex you buy into, you may have access to amenities you probably could not afford on your own, such as swimming pools or tennis courts. On the other hand, condos have drawbacks, some of which may make you think twice about buying one.
Lack of Control
First and foremost, remember that condos are not houses. When you buy a house, you are buying the house, the landscaping and the land surrounding the house. When you buy a condo, you are only purchasing the space inside the inner walls of the structure. You do not individually own any of the common areas, or even the outer walls of your own unit. Because you don't own those areas, you also cannot make decisions concerning these areas -- at least, not on your own.
CC and Rs
CC and R is an acronym that stands for covenants, conditions and restrictions. These are the rules of the road as far as the condo association is concerned. They determine what is and is not permissible in the common areas of the complex and maybe even inside your unit. CC and Rs can be as simple as banning smoking in the common areas, or as controversial as blocking outside displays of the American flag. Breaking the rules could result in fines or even a nasty lawsuit. CC and Rs may also dictate criteria that potential buyers must meet before a condo sale can be finalized.
When you buy a house and your roof leaks, you call a roofer. It's expensive and the process can be a hassle, but you choose the roofer and decide how much to pay. This does not happen with a condo. If the roof in any part of a condo complex leaks, the condo association decides on a roofer. The money for the roofer comes from maintenance fees, which can be very steep depending on the condo development. Special assessments or major expenditures -- like a new roof -- can drive fees even higher.
If you're lucky enough to like your condo neighbors when you move in, hope they never move out. You may not be so pleased with their replacements, and you have no say in the matter if the condo association gives the OK. In many important ways, living in a condo is like living in an apartment, with all of the disadvantages of common walls, floors and ceilings. You could find yourself stuck with neighbors who slam doors, stomp across the floors and blast their music at all hours.
- Realtor.com: What about the CC&Rs?
- Realtor.com: What Buyers Should Know About Condominiums
- Realtor.com: Condo Quiz
- Mortgage News Daily: Buying a Condo Is Not Like Buying a House
- Mortgage News Daily: Buying a Condo -- Make Sure You Cover All Contingencies
- Consumerism Commentary: Why I Will (Probably) Never Buy a Condominium
Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.