Buy a house or buy a condo?
During the last year or two, prices of homes have greatly increased, more so than the cost of condominiums. Not surprisingly, condos are starting to attract more attention.
Living in a condo has many benefits. You need not mow the lawn or worry about roof repairs. You may have access to amenities that otherwise you might not be able to afford, such as a pool or a hot tub, a tennis court or a clubhouse. You needn’t worry about packages or newspapers at your front door that might announce to the world that you’re away on vacation.
Yet condo living has disadvantages too.
Consider your family—do you have children who might enjoy playing in a yard and benefit from being able to be noisy without having condo residents complain? How soundproof are the condo’s walls, floors and ceilings to protect you from the noise of others? You may have neighbors above, below, on either side and across the hall from you. You may want to consider meeting your future neighbors before you sign the contract.
How about the dogs and cats you own? They may need a yard, unless you’re able and willing to walk them whenever necessary. Most condos have rules concerning animals. For obvious reasons, many associations won’t allow pets on Condo Common Grounds. This brings to mind that all condominiums have House Rules and CC&Rs that require careful study before you buy. You want to make sure that you can live with all Rules, Conditions and Restrictions. Because all violations are fined.
In some California cities, as in the fair City of Alameda, you may no longer smoke, not even on your balcony or inside your own Condo bedroom. The reason is that condominiums and apartments are considered community housing. Your cigarette smoke might affect other residents. In other words, cigarette smoking is viewed with hostility and therefore is strictly taboo.
It may surprise you that the majority of complaints that our condo manager receives are no longer about dogs but about some hapless neighbor, who is smoking. Of course, if you live in a separate, single-unit house, you can smoke as much as you desire, even in the City of Alameda. By the way, smoking fines are not cheap. Alameda City Law and our condo association are imposing a fine of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and a hefty $500 fine for the third violation.
House Rules that regulate noise are vital for harmonious community living. It may mean No Noise after 10:00 pm or before 7:00 am in the morning — as for example no loud music, TV, or using a vacuum or washing machine. And of course no barking—barking is usually restricted throughout the day. But how do you explain that to your dog? Actually, shock collars and citronella spray work very well and don’t harm the dog if used appropriately.
Now to the financial aspect of owning a condo. To begin with, it may be less expensive to buy a condo. However, condos require the payment of monthly Dues. The association pays for upkeep, management, repairs, replacements, legal costs and amenities. Expect the dues to increase on an annual basis.
Occasionally, an association will levy an Assessment needed for the unexpected. However, unforeseen costs can also hit owners of houses.
Finally, ask yourself a personal question. Are you an outgoing person, who enjoys the close proximity of others, who smiles if the neighbor’s children laugh or scream, who manages to close his or her ears if the lonely dog above you barks or whines unhappily? Or are you a person who deeply treasures peace and quiet and cherishes the idea that your home is your castle?
The list of pros and cons is long. Weigh all aspects carefully; it is worthwhile to take the trouble.
Until next time,