Are the kids finally gone? Is your house starting to feel big and empty? Do you often wonder why you continue to mow the grass week after week in a yard that you rarely use? Are you weary of cleaning gutters, repairing downspouts, and painting trim? It sounds like you might be ready to consider selling your homestead and moving into a condo.
People and lifestyles
You are probably anxious to leave behind the noise of neighbors’ children, barking dogs, loud music, and evening patio parties that are a normal part of suburban life. Perhaps you are envisioning a condo community made up of quiet empty-nesters like yourselves and maybe a few young, single professionals who are never home. Nothing could be farther from reality. Condo communities are no different than suburban communities – – they are made up of many different kinds of people with highly diverse lifestyles that may present challenges for the naïve empty-nester with preconceived notions of peace and quiet.
Young People in Condos
Many young people live in condo communities. Some are young friends sharing the house payment. Some are young married couples. Either way, these individuals may have lifestyles that are contrary to your idea of a condo community. These folks can be noisy, have lots of visitors, and come and go at odd hours of the day and night. Because they are very busy people, they may not take care of the exterior parts of their condos the way that your suburban neighbors cared for their homes. They may leave old newspapers on the porch and not bother to cut the weeds growing around their patios. Remember that these young people are probably not planning on living in your community for life. Someday (sooner than later) they will move on. You, on the other hand, are there for the duration. To them, their condo is just a stopping-off place; to you, it’s your home for the rest of your life. Understanding this difference can help you understand and adjust to the lifestyles of your young neighbors.
Young families with children also live in condo communities. Unfortunately for them, there is no private yard for the children to romp and play in. Therefore, the children will use the common areas to play. Common areas border all of the properties, so you are quite likely to hear and see children occasionally playing right outside your patio. If you are expecting to escape the noise of children when you move into a condo community, you may be surprised to find that children will be there, too.
Many condo residents run businesses out of their homes. Usually, these are mail-order businesses, or the owners are flea marketers. These folks may have lots and lots of stuff jammed into their garages, large trucks for hauling merchandise, and considerable activity in their driveways as they pack and unpack merchandise. They cannot park their trucks in their garages, so they leave them on the driveways or take up previous community parking spaces. In most suburbs, people park their vehicles in their garages, so you might be surprised to see so many cars and trucks parked in driveways in your condo community.
Quite simply, you will likely encounter a wider variety of people and lifestyles in a condo community than you did in your suburban neighborhood. Knowing these possibilities will ease the pain of any unpleasant “people” surprises that you encounter.
One of the main attractions of condo living is the freedom from exterior maintenance. No more gutters to clean. No more trim to paint. No more roofs to repair. Most condo communities contract with a property management company to provide exterior maintenance services. These companies generally manage numerous condo communities, so remember that you are not the only customer they have.
When you lived in your home, you undoubtedly made exterior repairs in a very timely manner. Be aware that you may not always receive prompt service from your property management company once you move into a condo community. But there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of prompt service. The property management company usually assigns one or two maintenance supervisors to a community. These individuals are out and about on a regular basis in your community. Find these folks and get to know them. They can be your best pipeline to the company.
Sometimes you may have to be a squeaky wheel to get things done. After filing the initial work order, e-mail or call on a regular basis until you get what you need. Soon the property management company will figure out that you are someone that isn’t going to go away. Before you buy a condo, you might want to check out the company that manages the condo community you are contemplating. Ask around. Make some phone calls. Find out if you will receive professional and timely service when it is needed.
Community Covenants and Homeowners Association (HOA)
Now that you know some of the potential challenges of condo life, don’t abandon your plans to move into one. All condo communities have covenants that govern life in the community. The sole purpose of these covenants is to maintain the quality of life in that community. Most condo communities have a homeowners association (HOA), consisting of community representatives who ensure adherence to the community covenants and who collaborate with residents to establish or modify the covenants, as needed.
Residents pay a monthly fee to the HOA, and this payment is assurance that the HOA will address any and all issues and concerns that you may have. Whether it involves noise, dogs, or unkempt conditions around a condo unit, the HOA will deal with the problem. They also work closely with the property management to ensure timely and professional response to maintenance requests and general community upkeep. The quality of life in your community is directly related to the power of your HOA. Prior to buying a condo, check out the community’s HOA. Talk to neighbors and find out just how effective the HOA is.
Once you move into your new community, get involved in the HOA. Find out who the members are. Generate an opportunity to meet and talk with them. Attend your community HOA meetings to find out what’s happening in your community. Your interest and involvement will give you some power in assuring that your life in your new community will be a worry-free and enjoyable as possible.
Now that you have more than one reasons to move into a condominium unit, it’s time to scout for the right area, impressive developer, and some great condo deals, just like the condominiums listed in Condo Wizard. Start your research now and make sure you don’t settle for less.