by Dan Krell © 2007
When you think of a condo, what may come to mind is the typical flat in a building. However, condos come in many shapes and sizes, including duplexes, townhomes and semi-detached homes. The term condo is actually in reference to ownership, rather than style of home. Condominium ownership means that your home is part of a condominium association that owns and maintains common areas, while you own the interior space of your unit. The common areas typically include the building exterior and common grounds as well as amenities, such as a pool or play ground.
Everyone in who owns a unit in the association pays a fee, typically monthly, for maintenance costs. Condo fees vary depending on the size of the association, types of amenities, and whether or not utilities are included.
For some, living in a condo offers convenience and worry free living that a single family home does not. Many condos developments are convenient to the amenities of downtown areas, such as Rockville, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Silver Spring. These homes can be close to metro too, reducing your need to drive a car. Additionally condo ownership typically means that you don’t have to concern yourself with mowing a lawn or repairing a roof, as the association takes responsibility for these things.
Condo living is an affordable opportunity to owning a home. Compared to single family homes and townhomes, condos tend to be less expensive and a viable option for many first time homeowners.
There is a downside to condo ownership, however. Although condos may be more affordable, history suggests that they do not appreciate as fast as other types of homes. Because some condo buildings appear densely populated, some neighbors can be noisy. Additionally, the level of maintenance may vary depending on the condo association and management company.
If you are considering purchasing a condo, here are some ideas to assist you. First, exercise your right under Maryland law to review the condo docs. The condo docs include the association rules and bylaws as well as a recent budget, which includes reserve funds for emergencies. Reviewing the condo docs can reveal rules that may impact your lifestyle, such as having a pet. Additionally, the budget and reserves can reveal how well the association manages condo funds.
If you have an opportunity, attend a board meeting to get a feel for what is happening within the association. Internal politics can impact the way the condo is managed. If you want to have input in the direction of the condo association, get involved with the association board.
Although the condo association has an insurance policy that covers the physical building, you may want to consider a policy to cover your possessions inside your unit.
Parking in your development can be easy or it could be a problem. You may have one or two reserved spaces for your unit. However, if your condo is convenient to metro or other amenities, you may find non-residents taking advantage of this.
No matter how you look at it, purchasing a condo can be a practical and affordable home for any home buyer. As there are many considerations when purchasing a condo, ask your Realtor for additional resources and ideas in helping you decide on the best home.
This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of April 30, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Dan Krell.