Is a condo right for you?

A home doesn't have to be a house -- it can be an apartment, too

These days, many renters have decided to purchase residences of their own. But with the price of single-family homes soaring in many markets, a number of people are exploring another option — condominiums. In fact, in recent months, condo sales have begun to match the sales of traditional homes. How do you know if a condo purchase is right for you? There are several points to consider before you decide.

Split responsibility for the property. “With a condo, you own everything on the interior of the walls,” says Sid Davis, author of A Survival Guide for Buying a Home (AMACOM; $17.95). If something breaks, you must fix it yourself — you can’t call the landlord. As for the maintenance of things outside your condo unit, such as lawn care, building siding, and roofing, Davis says, “That’s the property of the owners of your complex.”

This is exactly what made a condominium appealing to 29-year-old Travis and 28-year-old Adreon Fenderson, newlyweds who purchased a condo in Inglewood, California, a little over a year ago. “I didn’t want to deal with landscaping,” says Travis. While the condo complex must actually attend to such things, your maintenance fee may pay for some of that upkeep. This is a separate charge from your condo mortgage payment. But if fewer maintenance concerns, the convenience of additional amenities (e.g., a pool, tennis court, etc.), and a lower mortgage appeal to you, a condo may be what you’re looking for.

Buy the best location you can afford. “It’s a lot better to have a smaller condo in a good area than a bigger condo in a bad area,” Davis says, explaining that people may have a problem if they outgrow their space. “If they outgrow their condo and need to move to a bigger location, they can’t, or it’s difficult.” He also says being near a good school will help your resell value, but purchasing near a freeway, business complex, or an airport may hurt your chances of selling. Roderick McDaniel, broker and co-founder of Huntington Browne Real Estate in Inglewood, also warns consumers not to buy in an area “that is overly congested with [other residential] apartment complexes that can’t be distinguished from condos.”

Find out what percentage of the condo units in the complex are rentals. If more than 50% of a building’s condo units are rentals, pass on buying says Davis: “People who are renting probably won’t take as good care of the property as those who are owners.”

Decide if you’re compatible with condo residents. Talk to your prospective neighbors before buying. Since most condos do not have great sound insulation, you’re going to get to know your neighbors well. Finding out what they think of the complex and the neighborhood will help you decide whether or not to buy.

Look into the complex’s homeowner’s association. Each association has a written set of rules and regulations. “Get a copy and make sure you can live by those rules,” says Davis. Obtaining the minutes from the last five or six association

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