Posted in: Condos, First time homebuyer tips, Buying a home

Smaller size, big living – Is condo life right for me?

condo exercise room

Whether you’re paying rent on an apartment, living rent-free with friends or ready to move on from an oversized single-family home, you may be considering a condo purchase as your next step.

Condos, which are composed of jointly-owned common areas and individually-owned condo units, are unique living spaces that can be a perfect option for buyers who want a lower maintenance homeownership option.

Wondering if living in a condo is right for you? Here are insights about what it’s really like to own and live in a condo in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

Will I be happier living in a condo than an apartment?

This is a good question, and one that many would-be condo owners ask as they start to consider condominium living. And to be candid, the answer to this question depends on what you’re looking for and what you like or don’t like about living in an apartment.

As a condo owner, you’ll be a homeowner who can make decisions about your individual condo unit and its appearance, including what wallpaper you want to put up or what kind of new tile you want in your master bath. You’ll also have the benefit of knowing you’re paying your own mortgage and adding to your own net worth, not your landlord’s.

But condos can also have shared walls and jointly-owned common spaces, so condo living typically feels more like a community than a private property. If you like the built-in friends and acquaintances that can come with apartment life, a condo can be a great next option. If you are ready for privacy, including as you park your car and pick up your mail, a condo may not be the right fit.

One other thing to keep in mind about living in a condo is that you’ll pay condo fees to a homeowners’ association (HOA), the organization that manages the day-to-day operations and long-term upkeep of the condo complex.

This can be a win if you find an HOA that takes care of the services you wish to avoid — think water and trash bills, pool maintenance and snow plowing. But if you disagree with how the HOA is spending their budget, it can be difficult to intervene unless you have a seat on the board.

Learn more about condo fees, including what they cost and cover.

What are the ethics or guidelines of living in a condo?

As with anything, the rules and the ethics of living in a condo are related, but they’re not exactly the same. Your condo will have a set of guidelines that outline very specific rules for your condo complex. These can include everything from the type of pets allowed, to the restrictions on smoking in your property, to the rules of how and when you can enjoy the common amenities. These rules are meant to cover many common questions condo owners have about the complex and how they are allowed to use their own private unit as well as the shared units. But these rules don’t cover every instance of condo living or the ethical boundaries you should keep in mind as you live communally with other condo owners. To best navigate the gray areas of condo ethics, we recommend that you simply follow the Golden Rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated. Examples of this can include:

  • Keeping your music or television volume levels down, especially late at night or early in the morning.
  • Reserving the party room or rooftop deck if you have a large gathering that will preclude anyone else from using the space (and cleaning up the space when you’re done).
  • Training your dog so they don’t bark at passersby in the hallway.
  • Tossing your mail in a proper recycling bin, rather than leaving unwanted or junk mailers strewn across the mail pickup area.
  • Breaking down boxes before placing them in recycle bins so that your neighbors have space to recycle theirs, too.
  • Reporting a broken dryer to the property management company or HOA so that it’s fixed quickly and doesn’t burden other tenants.
  • Removing laundry from shared washers and dryers in a timely manner.

What are the costs associated with condo life? Is living in a condo cheaper than an apartment?

It all depends on what kind of condo you buy and what kind of apartment you were renting. If you move from a small apartment in the suburbs to a swanky North Loop condo, for example, it’s unlikely that you’d save money in the long run.

But as with any home, buying a condo is about more than just making the monthly mortgage payments. The cost of owning a condo includes:

  • Your loan principal and interest
  • Annual property taxes
  • Any required or preferred insurance policies
  • Monthly HOA fees
  • Additional complex-specific payments, such as parking or laundry (which are sometimes, but not always, included in the condo purchase
  • Everyday living expenses like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, linens and bed sheets
  • In-unit maintenance as needed

It’s true that homeownership has more financial variables to consider, but with rent prices creeping up, it may still be advantageous to buy a condo in the long run.

To compare the cost of a condo to your current or hypothetical rent, check out this rent vs. buy calculator from NerdWallet. (Be sure to add in your estimated HOA fees under “More options”.)

Key points and next steps

To best determine if condo living is right for you, consider:

  • If you’d like living somewhere with a community feel
  • How you’d feel about relinquishing control over common areas and services, in exchange for less responsibility overall
  • The official guidelines and ethical norms that help keep the peace in a condo community
  • How much you’ll spend on condo ownership in comparison to your current or hypothetical rental costs

And if you’d like to tour for-sale condos in your desired area, get connected with a local market specialist from Edina Realty. Our customer care team is available seven days a week and we can match you with the right condo expert.

Additional resources to consider

Condos 101: What are condominiums, anyway?
11 questions every condo buyer should ask
Buy or rent: What’s best for you?
Is it better to buy or rent a home?

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