House or Condo? 7 Things to Know

Should I buy a condo or a house? This is a question that comes up a lot , especially in Seattle's hot market and lack of housing inventory. If you’re in an apartment, you know rents are rising quickly, and your monthly "investment" isn't doing much work for your money.  If you’re already a homeowner and you want to move, buying a condo can make sense, based off location, size and your lifestyle. 

Here are 7 things to consider if you're going back and forth between a house or a condo:

1. HOA Dues

  • Condo- Condo’s charge associated HOA dues that must be paid each month to maintain the structure itself. What's saved in time of maintenance, you spend. HOA fees vary, depending on the location, size, amenities and quality of your community. They can be expensive. 

  • House- If you’re not part of a PUD (planned unit development), you can avoid HOA fees. With a house, you’ll still need to pay homeowners insurance and taxes long after your mortgage is paid off, but that’s unavoidable.

2. Maintenance

  • Condo-  If you live in a condo, it’s likely you’ll have less maintenance to do compared to a detached home. Landscaping, exterior upkeep, and building maintenance is likely covered by your association dues. 
  • House- Get your ever growing honey-do list ready, because maintenance will keep you busy on the weekends. Mowing the lawn, pulling the weeds, cleaning the roof, pressure washing the driveway, and more. While you can pay to have this done, consider the costs adding up over time as well. 

3. Location

  • Condo-  if you want to buy in, or closer to downtown, condos’ may be something to consider. If your lifestyle includes walking to restaurants and shopping areas, condo’s are a great option. 
  • House- To find a detached home, you may need to search outside of the metropolitan area. There’s no “sub divisions” or detached homes until you make it out of downtown. 

4. Cost

  • Condo- The median citywide cost of a condo is $389,250 (nov 2016), which makes buying a cheaper initial investment. Of course, it’s not always the case, considering our luxury condo market, or if you’re looking to buy a penthouse. 
  • House- The median home value in Seattle is $612,400, which is well over the average condo price. Of course, the price will vary based off size, location, and other factors. 

5. Privacy

  • Condo- If you’re in a condo, similar to an apartment, you’ll be sharing walls with other tenants. You’re in a shared space, which means both respecting and dealing with your neighbors. (Homeowners have neighbors too, of course, but not as close by.)
  • House- Houses have more privacy, because neighbors do not live in as close proximity as in condos. You’ll also have more storage, indoor/outdoor space, which make sense for pets or a growing family. 

6. Control

  • Condo- Condo’s come with rules.  Before you decide to modify a condo, you need consent from the association, even though you own the property. All homeowners share in decision making processes that affect the group. Penalties for violating the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) could include fines or being asked to leave.
  • House- If you own a detached home, you can renovate however and whenever you chose (for the most part).

7. Community and Safety

  • Condo- Apartment renters come and go frequently, but owners are looking to build a community. You’ll likely have regular times to socialize and familiarize yourself with your neighbors. In addition to a secured community, safety is in numbers.
  • House- Being in a detached home doesn’t always come with a security system. Also, frequently seeing your neighbors or members of your community is harder to come by. 

If you’re contemplating buying a house or condo, determine your lifestyle, where you want to live, and what you want to pay. If you want to live close to the city and a condo seems to be your best bet, compare your estimated mortgage payments to what similar apartments are renting for. If you need a lot of space, have a growing family, and can manage the maintenance, a home may be your best option.

In addition to the above, there's a lot more to consider when making this decision. Financing will be different, appreciation could be slower in a condo, and assessments can come up in a condo. If you have any questions about buying a home or condo in our area, please don't hesitate to reach out. 

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