We’ve previously discussed the advantages of buying a condo instead of a house, but there are some quality-of-life issues to consider before you decide which condo to buy. These five things may seem small, but can have a huge impact on your happiness in your new home:
1. Laundry facilities – If you currently rent an apartment, you might be looking forward to not having to lug your clothes to a laundry room, but you should be aware that many condos don’t have their own laundry hook ups. Instead, just as with many apartment buildings, there’s a common laundry room. If that’s something you’re hoping to avoid, be sure to look for condos that have their own washer and dryer.
2. Parking – I have a friend whose condo came with one parking spot that requires a really tight turn to access it. Not long after moving into his condo (and after a few bumps), he traded in his SUV for a much smaller car. There’s also almost no parking for guests at his place, which is discouraging to entertaining and visitors. If you have a car or two, make sure you check out the parking situation before making an offer.
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3. Responsiveness and management of the Homeowner’s Association – Many homeowner’s associations (HOAs) hire management companies to handle the day-to-day business issues, such as custodial services, trash pick-up, and maintenance of the common areas. The management companies also work with the HOA board, which is composed of condo owners, to enforce the common rules, such as not allowing smoking in common areas, assigned parking spaces, etc. But not all management companies and not all HOA boards are created equal. Once you’ve decided you’re seriously interested in a place, ask around to see how happy the residents are with the management company and HOA board. If there are a lot of complaints, you might find living there unpleasant.
4. Package delivery – The post office, FedEx, UPS and other delivery companies somehow manage to deliver packages just about everywhere. But if you receive a lot of packages and aren’t home most days, it can be difficult to get those packages if your home is located inside a secured condo building with restricted access. If there’s a management office right on site, they will probably accept packages for you. But otherwise, you might want to consider just how much you want to deal with scheduling and/or missing package deliveries.
5. Restrictions on changes to your home – When you buy a condo, you generally agree to follow a set of rules that everyone who lives there follows, such as not smoking outside. Another common restriction is that you can’t alter the outside appearance of your home. That usually means you can’t paint your door a different color, have brightly colored blinds or window shades that show from the outside, and maybe even that you can’t have certain types of plants. If that sort of thing is important to you, you’ll want to check the rules of the particular condos you are interested in to see what is and isn’t allowed.