Monday, December 21, 2020

How to buy a condo/townhouse...very carefully!

I bought these pink chairs for our town
home in Arizona. 

We have lived in two condo/townhouse location. They are the perfect solution for someone that cannot or doesn’t want yard work. Exterior maintenance is taken care of and, in many cases, amenities are very like a resort kind of living. But, you need to be aware that you do not have the freedom that you had when you lived in a single family dwelling

While there is very little maintenance, in some cases there is not enough. If you are accustomed to living in a single family home, you might like to make your home your very own even from the outside. But if you happen to buy into the wrong location with the wrong association president you are in big trouble. At the very least it can be annoying beyond belief.

In our particular case, the association was confident that they could keep our condo looking like a motel with each unit like the other. We were not allowed screen doors or plants near the steps. We were not even allowed to hang the American flag because there was plenty of room to put a flag stand on our patio in the front. If the association ran out of money and flower beds were left untrimmed, we were not allowed to trim the plants because “everything needs to looks the same”. We came to dislike it so much we could not wait to escape. 

Now the truth is that a HOA is a fact of life. I don’t want my neighbor to paint his house purple and park dead cars in the front yard so the HOA is a necessary evil. But even at that, they really are a pain in the neck. Yet they are a protection from the worst instincts of humans.

Then we bought a townhome in Arizona. I love the townhouse but we decided to sell. Why? Well we began to look around and realized that in the not so distant future the infrastructure of this development is going to need a lot of work. The pool was restored last year but even though they have top coated the streets they just do not hold up. I am expecting the association dues to increase by a lot.

So here is what I recommend:

  • When you are buying a condo be sure to read the CC&R carefully. Make notes and understand what you can and cannot do. Want to feed the bird? Like to hang planters on the porches? Want your grandchildren to come to stay while they are in college? Find out what you can and cannot do.
  • Note the condition of the complex. Are the units very old? How long has it been since they painted or installed a new roof? In a townhouse/condo that will be an expense the goes to the owner in the form of association dues. You will be asked to pay for those things. Pay attention.
  • If they have a pool, do they allow you to bring in guest or family? How much does the pool key cost? What hours can it be used.
  • What are the restrictions on parking? Is there somewhere for guests to park?
  • Where is your mailbox and if you are handicapped, is there a special provision for you?
  • Is there an onsite manager or how do you make contact with the management company.
  • If you are moving into a large complex, take note of whether the streets are maintained by the city or by the residents.
  • Have a dog/cat? Remember that every pet can be required to have a leash then they are outside the house. You can get away with a lot but that is a double edged sword. Dogs that are not controlled (barking etc) can make your life miserable.
  • While you have no control over the exterior you may still be required to wash windows and keep the sidewalks clear. A two storied unit can require a window washer to take care of the windows. You may even need to stain decks and replace exterior light bulbs. 
So many people want to downsize. Yes, a condo or a townhouse is a good investment. But, it is as always a situation where the buyer needs to beware. How good it works out for you is up to you. DON’T FORGET TO READ THE FINE PRINT!

Can you add to this? Leave a comment.



  1. excellent advice for anyone looking to purchase a home in a HOA.


  2. Dear Barbara, I'm sure this is all excellent advice and will truly help others. For myself, when I decided to move from my two-story, 1870 home in Stillwater, MN., I bought a ranch-style home here in Missouri that I thought could take me through the years . . . possibly to my coffin! No steps, because I have Meniere's and an attached garage (my first). It works so well for me. I hire someone to mow the lawn and my neighbor is kind enough to shovel a walk through the snow we get here--it's so little compared to Minnesota. I think my next move will either be to the funeral parlor or the nursing home! Peace.

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