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  1. #1
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    Any condo dwellers in da lownje

    Mrs. Opus and I are contemplating a move and thinking about a condo. I’ve heard horror stories about HOAs. Anybody have a good experience living the condo life?


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  2. #2
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    I haven't owned one myself, but my parents recent sold theirs and moved back into a house. The deciding factor for them was the HOA fees, which in their building was over $300/month. The one nice thing is their HOA didn't have ridiculous, draconian regulations. If you see one that regulates what kinds of Christmas wreaths you can have on your door or the kinds of chairs you can place on your balcony, run. Don't walk. One reason why my parents' HOA fees were so high was to stave off the threat of an assessment fee. If you don't know what that is, basically it's a fee levied on all the residents as a result of finding lots of major stuff that need fixing, and you have to pay your share right away. Directly after my parents moved, the building adjacent to theirs (same HOA) levied a $25k assessment fee resulting from damage done by a hurricane, so they all got the shaft.
    Ghurarmu shirkush’ agh azgushu. Zant ya apakurizak. Gűl-n’ anakhizak.

  3. #3
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    I rented one in my downtown area for about 6 years. Personally I wouldn't own one due to what the regime fees were (300-350/month), unless my job was within walking distance.

    I'd also be wary of the tenants. If you're a professional and there are owners who rent out their units to young college kids, take a long look. While I was there, one of the owners on my floor rented to a couple freshman. Someone left an anonymous note about one or both of those kids having relations with their ladies in the community pool after dark. I personally experienced a mid-week rager in the common area directly outside my unit. I don't know what pissed me off more - the noise or that I wasn't invited to the huge bash happening outside my door. The building was occupied mostly by professionals, so nobody appreciated either.

    Also, you get to fully experience the mistakes and idiocy of others. Within about 6 months I saw my floor flooded (plumbing mishap), and the floor beneath me flooded (movers nicked a sprinkler in the hallway). It sucks when you come home from work and you have no running water.

  4. #4
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    I've owned my condo for about 3 years.

    I think your experience will partly depend on the style of condo development you live in.

    Apartment style, with a common entrance, can certainly lead to stories beeristasty's.

    If they're totally separate structures i.e., house-like, you'll have more privacy.

    Mine shares a common wall with each neighbor. They're built well enough that I never hear either.

    To me, condo fees+condo taxes = the same thing as home taxes except lower due to the lower value of the property. It's a wash.

    Yeah; read the restrictions and don't take your realtor's word for it. I don't have the restrictions SauronHimself mentions but I do have to maintain the look of exterior doors and windows. I wish the condo laws required a simple majority vote to pass large scale improvements such as paving and roofing. It's almost impossible to get anything done when the majority vote required is too high a percentage.

    I like the lifestyle as I'm single and don't want to be bothered by some maintenance issues. I like being closer to neighbors.

  5. #5
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    The one we’re looking at is more like a duplex. Separate entrances, but one common wall. HOA fee is $150, but we’ll also pay less in insurance, so it helps offset the cost. Assessment fees would be a gamble.


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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    The one we’re looking at is more like a duplex. Separate entrances, but one common wall. HOA fee is $150, but we’ll also pay less in insurance, so it helps offset the cost. Assessment fees would be a gamble.


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    What do you get for the $150/mo?
    Ghurarmu shirkush’ agh azgushu. Zant ya apakurizak. Gűl-n’ anakhizak.

  7. #7
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    No but the GF lives in one and is the association president (or whatever the title is for the person who deals with all the crap) so I do have a lot of second hand experience.

    Tons of crap to deal with, but I can't really say the horror stories I've heard are any worse than what I've heard from some home owners who also have to deal with unexpected expenses, bad contractors and crazy neighbors.

    Read the fine print about fees. Or have an attorney do it for you. While he or she is at it look at insurance to determine how exposed you'd be to something happening. Sure, it's $150 now but you'll want to know what potential there is for change in the future. What happens if, for example, the place needs a new roof. Does the association have a bank roll already to cover that? Would fees go up if new expenses exceed the associations savings?
    I don't really know what I'm talking about but the point is learn what that $150 is buying you and it's potential for change.

  8. #8
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    Older condo buildings tend to have higher association fee due to the nature of older building just like higher health insurance cost for older folks.

    There are pluses and minuses in all types of properties. If you like freedom, condo isn't for you.

  9. #9
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    What do you want to know, OP? I've owned a townhouse in a 16-unit association since 2002 and been on the board since 2005. I've owned and lived in a 676-unit building since 2011, which I bought from my mother's estate. I somewhat regret the townhouse.

    An HOA is only as good as its board, which itself is usually run by one or two members.

  10. #10
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    My wife and I bought a condo years ago when we first got married as our first place. We loved it but we did do lots of looking before we decided. Part of that process included pulling the HOA's records, which your sales agent should be able to get for you. These records should show how much money is in the fund, what repairs have been like, any increase in dues and so on. The place we decided on had an extremely large amount in their contingency fund, was relatively new construction (10 years old when we bought) and had a very proactive maintenance schedule. We were fairly certain that the HOA was running smoothly and barring any natural disasters there shouldn't be a fee increase. There were also some places we looked at that we absolutely love the Condo unit we looked at but the HOA records were a mess so we stayed away. The only reason we moved and sometimes we both wish we hadn't, is because we had a child and we thought we needed more space.

    My advice is to really scrutinize the HOA's books and fine print on what is included. Ours included all maintenance on the outside of the structure as well as the grounds and pool facility. We were responsible for everything inside the living space.

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  11. #11
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    I love my condo.

    It's a 2 bedroom, private entrance townhome in a location that I could not have afforded if I had to buy a house. Each unit has four residences. Each residence had a ground level entrance and one or two car garage, plus one or two assigned parking spaces. There is also guest parking available.

    The $325 a month association dues are the best money I spend every month.

    I don't have to worry about anything outside. Yardwork, common areas, building exterior including roof and siding are all taken care of.

    Water, sewer, and garbage pickup are also covered.

    I get a budget report in my email every year. The property management company budgets for operation costs, plus some emergency funds for unexpected repairs. They do a good job of forecasting and budgeting for large expenses. Two years ago we got new roof and fresh paint on the siding and trim. This was covered by the existing budget, so no special assessment was needed. So far, in my 15 years there, there have been no special assessment needed. Everything had been covered by the monthly dues.

    My homeowners insurance policy is less because I don't have to insure the structure. Only the contents.

    We have no oppressive rules. At least not that I've encountered.

    I have neighbors on either side of me. One is a flight attendant who is hardly ever home, and the other is an elderly lady who spends most of her time traveling or snow birding in Arizona.

    I bought the place in 2003 for$180k. It currently assesses at $375k.

    It's within walking distance of a park and ride. And two blocks from a major freeway interchange that connects me to anywhere I need to go.

    There are several hundred miles of paved rail trails, and thousands of miles of forest and fire roads to ride on nearby. All accessible from just outside my front door.

    I have not had a single regret buying the place in the 15 years I've owned it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SauronHimself View Post
    What do you get for the $150/mo?
    They handle all exterior maintenance including yard work and snow removal in the driveway. That’s about it.

    Glad to hear so many positive experiences, though. That's helpful.


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  13. #13
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    My wife has one she rents out since we built our house in 2010. The HOA monthly fee is over $300, but covers water, sewer, garbage, yard maintenance, and contingency fund for repairs and eventual roof replacement, etc. She is on the Board, and as others mention, it's 2 or 3 who always take care of business. Fortunately it doesn't take a lot of time.

    Yes, there are always one or two owners who think the HOA fund is supposed to cover expenses created by their own stupidity. It is hard to explain things to stupid people, so that's probably one the biggest problems.

    It was a good living environment, but we only had a one car garage, and I like having the house with basement storage and the 3-car garage with attic storage cuz I need/want space for all my toys: boats, bikes, and workshop.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    They handle all exterior maintenance including yard work and snow removal in the driveway. That’s about it.
    That is pretty fair for the work done. Before moving out of NY, I lived in my gf's house which had an HOA fee of $194. That covered the yard work and snow removal. At least her HOA was fairly lax, and the neighborhood was full of old people who kept quiet.
    Ghurarmu shirkush’ agh azgushu. Zant ya apakurizak. Gűl-n’ anakhizak.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by SauronHimself View Post
    That is pretty fair for the work done. Before moving out of NY, I lived in my gf's house which had an HOA fee of $194. That covered the yard work and snow removal. At least her HOA was fairly lax, and the neighborhood was full of old people who kept quiet.
    We didn’t think it was too bad. Also, we’re in the midwest, so depending on the winter...

    I’ve done a little digging into the HOA bylaws and most around here seem preoccupied with making sure you don’t put signs up. Also, no bikes stored outside (not that I would anyway). Nothing too draconian.


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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by SauronHimself View Post
    and the neighborhood was full of old people who kept quiet.
    Kind of like this forum?

  17. #17
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    Something else that should be available from seller's agent in the financials is a breakdown of delinquencies and how aggressive the management is in dealing with them. Having a lot of delinquent owners is a real problem for everyone else. Also find out what % of units are owner-occupied. This can give you a feel for the character of the place.

    scott s.
    .

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott967 View Post
    This can give you a feel for the character of the place.
    scott s.
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    Exactly. The "character" of a condominium complex is defined by its residents. It's mostly financially driven. Higher priced condos attract wealthier people. You're less likely to have rental units within the development.

    I certainly observed this when looking at the three, long and well-established developments in town.

  19. #19
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    I currently own a condo in Toronto in a 250 unit mid-rise and previously owned one in a 550 unit high rise. I bought these because it's the only game on our expensive town if you only have $500k or so to spend. My university student offspring uses them. More comments below.

    OP you don't say what kind of condo you are considering. In contrast to these examples are retirement/townhouse type developments, which would be totally different (remember the Seinfeld Del Boca Vista episode?).

    The positives to condos are that they are easy to lock and leave if you are a snowbird for instance. All the general maintenance of the building is looked after. You just pay the bills, property tax and condo fees.

    there are a lot more potential negatives to consider, lets start with construction quality (speaking as someone who spent a whole career in construction). There is plenty of incentives for the builder to cut corners - on everything they can get away with, and the general rule here is to buy a new building and get out before it's 15 years old. Even with new construction there can be devastating quality issues - see the class actions in Vancouver on leaking issues.

    My current condo was built by a large developer with a good reputation, and it's an expensive looking building, but they cheaped out on the heating/cooling systems leading to rafts of complaints, especially from the south and west facing units. Both buildings for the first three years suffered numerous mechanical issues with the common elements and horrendous multiple elevator breakdowns in the high rise.

    Other negatives - extensive rules, noise complaints, high rental rates (over 60% in my first building) plus some rule-breaking airBnB type uses.

    As a long-term investment, a condo is a very poor second choice to freehold. As a short term investment in a hot market they can be pretty good.

    OP if you tell us a little more about the type of development and area/market you have in mind I could write more.
    We just don’t realize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening
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  20. #20
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    I mentioned it’s a duplex style (one shared common wall), separate entrances and a two car garage. Location is an up and coming suburb. This will be our primarily residence. We’re not buying as an investment property or planning on renting it out. There is a management company that operates a number of different units in and around the area. A Google search doesn’t turn up any red flags, only some fairly mundane meeting minutes. I’ll do a little more digging to see what I can find about their financials.


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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    I mentioned it’s a duplex style (one shared common wall), separate entrances and a two car garage. Location is an up and coming suburb. This will be our primarily residence. We’re not buying as an investment property or planning on renting it out. There is a management company that operates a number of different units in and around the area. A Google search doesn’t turn up any red flags, only some fairly mundane meeting minutes. I’ll do a little more digging to see what I can find about their financials.


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    My 2 immediate questions would be:

    How old is the duplex? More than 10 years and I'd be getting a good inspection. If a new roof is needed you know who pays.

    What is the common wall construction? ie concrete or block = good, drywall = bad. Followed by what are the neighbors like?
    We just don’t realize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening
    Back then I thought “well there'll be other days”
    I didn’t realize that was the only day
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9yrupye7B0

    There's sometimes a buggy.
    How many drivers does a buggy have?
    One.
    So let's just say I'm drivin' this buggy...
    and if you fix your attitude you can ride along with me.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GekiIMh4ZkM

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    The one we’re looking at is more like a duplex. Separate entrances, but one common wall. HOA fee is $150, but we’ll also pay less in insurance, so it helps offset the cost. Assessment fees would be a gamble.


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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Touch0Gray View Post
    What about that tree in your backyard, can you take it with you?
    Well, given the size, it might still reach...


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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott967 View Post
    Something else that should be available from seller's agent in the financials is a breakdown of delinquencies and how aggressive the management is in dealing with them. Having a lot of delinquent owners is a real problem for everyone else. Also find out what % of units are owner-occupied. This can give you a feel for the character of the place.

    scott s.
    .
    I like these suggestions. We lived in a townhouse in VA, and the Board slowly stopped doing much as the original settlers aged in place, died or moved away. Lots of deferred maintenance, and delinquents--probably the 2 people that were running it moved away. Then some newbies started making noise about the decline, and tried to implement some of the original bylaws that had been ignored for 20 years, and that got everybody's back up. We moved, so I don't know how it ended, but it was unpleasant.

    I would also check and find out who the builder was, and do a little google-foo on them. The bad ones leave a trail of lawsuits, incomplete repairs, and premature systems failures because they shouldn't be in the construction business. A friend had a complete nightmare when she purchased a condo in a small development where the builder went broke, and then some moreons came in and cheaped out on the finishing, including leaving out major drains in the common area, and associated water proofing over some units and the parking area, It was a **** show that cost each resident in excess of $20k....
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  25. #25
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    Any condo dwellers in da lownje

    Quote Originally Posted by bikerjulio View Post
    My 2 immediate questions would be:

    How old is the duplex? More than 10 years and I'd be getting a good inspection. If a new roof is needed you know who pays.

    What is the common wall construction? ie concrete or block = good, drywall = bad. Followed by what are the neighbors like?
    2004 for the build date and I just went through it with an inspector and he was impressed with the quality. No red flags.

    The common wall is concrete with an air gap, then studs and drywall.

    No idea about the neighbors, but given the hot-rodding, Harley-revving neighbors we’re leaving, it seems quieter at least... famous last words, I know

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    Last edited by Opus51569; 03-05-2018 at 06:01 PM.
    The Law of Headwinds states: If the ride out is easy, you better have something saved for the turn...

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