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Condo Ownership – What is Your Responsibility?

  • Ryan Tollefsen
  • September 19th, 2018

How to Choose Between a Condo and Single-Family HomeCondominiums and townhomes can be a very alluring purchase for some with the apparent ease of living with little-to-no maintenance responsibilities. In many condo associations this can be the case, but in others, quite the opposite can be true. When shopping for a condo or other multiple-family development it will be very important to do your research and find out just what the rules and responsibilities are at that particular condo.

How to Approach the Condo Buying Process

Hiring a real estate professional should be your first step; keep in mind that a buyer will normally not pay any commission to a real estate licensee, so this will be absolutely to your advantage. A real estate pro will be able to pull up condo association rules and covenants outlining how owners shall care for their property.

What Are Condo Owners Responsible For?

The big question with many people in regards to a condominium is its maintenance. Who is responsible for exterior repairs? Who mows the lawn? Who pays for failing appliances? These should all be items covered in the condo association’s by-laws and/or covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCR’s). There will also be information covering common areas, animals and even visible décor regulations. Some associations have very lenient guidelines to follow, while others will have very strict and specific statutes to abide by.

Generally, a condo homeowner will be responsible to maintain their own home and any part attached to their unit (garage, deck, private yard if applicable). Any object that is intended to service a single unit, whether inside or outside the unit (water boiler, shutters, gutters, ducts or wiring, etc.) is considered a limited common element, and association bylaws should outline who is responsible for maintaining such items.

Once a person buys a condo or townhome, they have taken ownership of that unit and will be responsible for maintaining their own appliances and water heaters, heating/cooling systems, etc., unless a condo association has a specific provision including coverage of such an item. A condo association will generally be responsible for maintaining all common areas as outlined in the condo association bylaws.

What Are Condo Association Fees?

Another big responsibility of a condo owner, is maintaining condo association dues. Dues can be anywhere from $50 or $75 up to $300 or more per month, it all depends on the association. Some dues are only due quarterly or even yearly. When shopping for condos check for dues and coverage, condos and townhomes that are listed in the Multiple Listing Service will outline the amount and frequency of dues, and what services the dues will cover.

Association dues are paid to the condo association and will be pooled with other owners’ dues to cover the common maintenance that the association is responsible for. Most associations will maintain common areas such as parks and lawns, clubhouses, tennis and other sports courts, pools or saunas. Association dues are also applied towards building maintenance such as exterior walls and doors/windows, walkways, painting and snow removal.

Dues are normally deposited into an account under the association management and accumulate over time, readily available for larger maintenance issues such as structural repairs or building updates.

Is a Condo or a Single-Family Home Right For You?

So you have made the big decision to buy a home, but are you sure what exactly you want to buy? There are advantages and disadvantages to owning a condominium/townhome versus a single family home, it all depends on your situation and needs in a home.

The Run-Down: Condos

Condominiums and townhomes are attached units with shared walls and common areas. Some developments may have duplex-style condos where you will have just one shared wall between you and one neighbor, where others can have as many as 4, 8, even 12+ units where you will share 2 or more walls with 2 or more neighbors, depending on the layout. 

An advantage to shared buildings such as these are you may have lower heating and cooling costs compared to single-family residences, and common areas such as yards and club houses will be maintained by your condo association, and not something you will have to keep up with. Keep in mind, that with your condo come your condo association dues. These generally can range from $100-$300 and above per month, and will cover maintenance on common areas such as yards, gyms and equipment, club house/entertaining halls, stairways halls and elevators, parking lots/garages, sport courts, snow removal, etc.

Most condo developments offer great amenities such as these, you just have to decide if you want the ease of paying dues and not having to maintain such services yourself, whereas in a single family home you are responsible to maintain your own yard and driveway and such, but most likely will not have high association dues. Condos and townhomes are popular among first-time buyers, single adults and couples without children, and investors.

The Run-Down: Single Family Homes

Single Family Homes are just as they sound; single-structure homes with no attached neighboring buildings. With a single family home, you can have your own private yard and own maintenance responsibilities. Many neighborhoods will still have homeowner associations with guidelines for exterior maintenance and appearance, but will generally have lower dues compared to condo associations.

At a single family home, you will have your own free space to develop as you wish, but will most likely not have the nice facilities that a condo development normally offers. A single family home can generally offer more space to have pets or children, and more freedom to paint or remodel or build on to your existing home.

Another advantage to owning a single family home, is your investment value. Even though condo sales have been consistently rising, single family homes are still more appealing to buyers and have better appreciation and return rates. Single family homes are more private and are continuously a buyer’s first choice when looking for a place to live.

The Decision to Purchasing a Condo or Single-Family Home is a Personal One

When it comes to choosing which to buy, you will just have to decide what amenities and freedoms are important to you and your current situation. Financing can also be a factor to consider, some loan options will not allow for multiple-unit residences, so be sure to discuss your plans with your lender before you shop.


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