A condominium or townhome can be a cost-effective housing solution if your situation allows. For those without the ability to commit to a full mortgage or to a permanent location, it can be the only logical option to lease a property within a complex. But with the boon of not having to deal with maintenance, outdoor care or home improvement comes the potential downside of being tied to the rules and regulation of a housing community.
It’s important to research the things that set your complex apart; to that end, check online reviews and ask around to find out if anyone you know has or knows someone who has lived there. But for more specific questions, it’s best to go directly to the source. Your complex will be more than willing to answer your questions and assuage your fears in order to have you both as a customer and a member of the community. Here are some questions that might help you shed some light on whether this is the complex for you:
How much storage is available? Don’t expect attics or basements – you may have to do some spring cleaning if you have too much to fit in the condo. Some complexes offer storage lockers as a benefit of the lease; others offer them through an upcharge as an extra amenity. Figure out what the storage situation is for your complex of choice up front.
What amenities are there? In addition to storage units, complexes could include a clubhouse and facilities that allow private access to things like a fitness center or a swimming pool. Consider how cost-effective these are to your lifestyle. You’ll be paying for them whether you use them or not, so consider them a part of the rent figure. On the flip side, an included fitness center could allow you to save a significant amount on monthly membership dues at an external club.
Are there required association fees on top of rent? Understand the price of membership for the condo board or HOA, if applicable. It’s a good idea to get in touch with them and extend an olive branch. These organizations will have rules you have to abide to, but they’re often worth it for the ease of shared maintenance costs and repairs. Make sure you know how to get your voice heard in front of them.
Who handles maintenance? A related point is the matter of who is taking care of maintenance and security. These services are often outsourced – get the numbers for whoever is in charge in case you have an emergency. Some complexes have keypad entries and doormen, which will be very useful if you travel to regulate access while you’re not home.
How many units are owned by investors? Some lenders require a certain percentage of the building to be owner-occupied. If there are too few, you may have trouble acquiring financing. Similarly, ask about the average vacancy rate for your building – it’s never too early to think about resale.
Can I meet other residents first? Your neighbors, obviously, will be a big part of your life while living at this complex. You’ll share space as well as decision-making votes with these individuals, so it’s important to make sure you can work together. If possible, try to meet your closest prospective neighbors before making an offer.