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Thinking of Buying a Condo or Townhouse? Here are Seven Lessons I Learned as a Condo Owner

Condo03    After viewing a string of ugly, worn-out single family homes, our Realtor asked if we’d like to see a townhouse.

“Sure, why not?” we said.

Because it had two floors, high ceilings, and a small patio and lawn outside the glass sliders, it felt more like a house than an apartment. For our price range, it looked like the best deal. We lived there for five years, and then sold for a profit.

Here are seven things I learned from that experience:

1) The HOA management is an important factor. When we moved in, the 16 units were self-managed and had very low HOA dues. By the time we’d moved out, a management company had been set up and dues were more than double.

2) Your neighbors will affect your life more, because they are close by. Fortunately, we had wonderful (quiet, friendly, non-invasive) neighbors. But others have not been so fortunate, so it is a good idea to do a little door knocking before you decide on a unit.

3) Look at the HOA budget. You want to see that there is money in reserves so if something like a roof repair or exterior paint is needed, you won’t be hit with a large assessment.

4) City condo living can be fun. From our condo, we loved walking to downtown shops, the movie theater, library, an array of restaurants, as well as the park on the shore of Lake Washington.

5) Parking could be an issue. Each unit had a single garage plus one outdoor space, so it worked out. When my husband purchased his ’66 GTO, we needed more garage space. So think ahead. Some condos charge extra for covered parking.

6) No yard maintenance is great! As busy professionals, not having a lawn to mow, leaves to rake, or weeding to do was a big plus. The HOA took care of weekly maintenance. However, I still enjoyed planting flowers in large pots by the front and back doors.

7) Small pets are allowed in most condominiums, but find out ahead what the rules are, especially if you love a large animal. For us, our kitty got along just fine.

We have many happy memories from our condo days. The profit we made helped us move into a single family residence when we were ready for more space and a private yard.

Three Things to Be Thankful For

thanksgiving In honor of Thanksgiving week, so here are three things we can be thankful for:

1) Interest rates are still very attractive at 4.375% to 4.5% for the 30-year fixed rate and 3.5% for the 5/1 ARM.

(The 5/1 ARM is fixed for the first five years, then adjusts every year thereafter. It is a make-sense choice for people who plan to keep the property for six years or less.)

2) The housing market has been improving for the past year, giving home owners more equity, and giving more sellers the ability to sell which gives buyers more inventory to choose from.

3) Buyer’s agents are free to home buyers. They are paid by the seller. Your buyer’s agent is required by law to get you the best price, best terms, and look out for your best interests in every aspect of the real estate purchase.

It is my opinion that making an offer between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a good strategy for getting the best price. Typically, the market slows down during the holidays, so there is not as much competition. Sellers aren’t receiving offers or even lookers, so this is the time for you to pick up a good deal. Furthermore, the market tends to pick up in January when renters make New Year resolutions to become home owners.

Some years back, I bought a condominium for a great price in December. My agent told me later that the home owner was so angry when he saw my purchase offer that he threw the papers across the room. (Thankfully, I didn’t have to see it, because I had a buyer’s agent representing me.) But then his wife said, “Honey, let’s just make a counter-offer.”

The counter-offer was not bad. I countered again, per my agent’s suggestion, and I got a lovely home at an attractive price. I lived there for five years and made a nice profit when I sold.

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