I’ve written before about why my husband and I bought a condo instead of a single family home. In short, it was the best price and condition for the location. We wanted a smaller mortgage payment, walkable location, and non-fixer home. So, for us, it was condo or nothing.
We’ve lived in our townhouse condo for almost nine months now and we really love it. It was a great choice for us and is pretty much all that we expected it to be. That said, there are pros and cons to condo living. It’s not the right choice for everyone. For example, if you are more excited than we were about a large mortgage payment, you might opt for a single family home instead. Likewise, if a backyard is a necessity for you, or you are willing to sacrifice a prime location, a single family home is probably the way to go.
Here are my top five pros and top five cons of condo living so far. Some of these are unique to our particular condo and homeowners association.
• Location. We love our walkable SE Portland neighborhood. This was one of the most important considerations for us. To purchase a single family home, we would have had to spend a great deal more or chose a less walkable neighborhood further from the city core.
• Price. Single family homes in similar condition run $100,000 – $200,000 more in our neighborhood. We could have spent less on a fixer, or less in a different neighborhood.
• Two-story layout. Many of the homes in Portland are one story layouts. Often they have attics with low, slanted ceilings and basements that need to be insulated and finished. We never thought we’d get a two-story layout, especially in a condo. But having two floors with both bedrooms upstairs makes our condo feel really spacious and livable.
• New fixtures & finishes with vintage charm. Since we bought a condo that was built in 1950 but completely renovated in 2006, we get the best of both worlds. Many of the houses we looked at were either brand new, or needed extensive renovations.
• HOA (home-owners association). Almost all of our utility payments are rolled into one monthly payment. We also never have to worry about exterior maintenance, landscaping, or repairs.
• Shared walls. Our neighbors are nice people, but sometimes we do hear them. Especially if they are watching sports, singing to their baby, or running up and down the stairs. It’s better than living next door to party animals or people who don’t care about their property, but it is kind of a bummer to share walls.
• Shared courtyard. We can take our dog out to play in the shared courtyard, and grill on our back porch, but it doesn’t compare to having a private fenced yard.
• No room to expand. Short of purchasing an adjoining unit and knocking down walls, we don’t have any option to expand our living space. This means we can’t add a second bathroom, a third bedroom, or a larger kitchen.
• Outside entrance to basement. I’m glad we have private space in the basement with our own washer and dryer and storage, but we have to go out our back door and re-enter the building. It means I sometimes skip doing laundry if it’s raining (quite frequent in Portland.)
• HOA. Wait a minute… wasn’t that on the “pros” list?! Yes. It’s both a pro and a con. The downside is that we probably pay a little more per month than we would if we purchased the services and utilities on our own. The higher HOA fee will also make it trickier to sell this place someday. And we pay for services (such as weekly landscaping) we’d otherwise probably save on by doing ourselves.
What about you? Did you chose a condo over a single family home? Or vice versa?