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Is a Condo Right For You?

Posted by Johnine Larsen on March 19, 2019
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Maybe you’re sick of renting, but you can’t afford the down payment for a $700,000 house in Seattle. Maybe you want an affordable investment property. Maybe you just hate mowing lawns.

Consider the condo. Carefully. And consider it even if you don’t fall into those “maybe”s.

Buying a condo is more than a “cheap” alternative to buying a house. Condos come with their own considerations, restrictions, and opportunities. They’re cheaper than a house, yes, but (1) they might be better than a house—even for financially endowed buyers, and (2) they might not be a good solution for certain cash-strapped people who want to own their own place.

To decide if a condo is right for you, first take stock of your own goals and preferences. Many features of condos can be huge negatives or positives purely depending on your lifestyle.

 

Space

Big isn’t necessarily better when it comes to housing, especially after certain life transitions. If the kids moved out and you’re looking to downsize, or if you no longer need 2,000 square feet after the divorce, or if navigating stairs has become more and more difficult as you age, the small space of a condo offers major advantages.

 

Location

You’ll often find condos downtown or in Seattle’s urban villages. Moving into a condo offers easy access to all the excitement and opportunities of these urban spaces (restaurants, art galleries, shopping, walkability), but they also offer all the downsides: noise, crowds, lack of green space, traffic on all sides. Depending on your own needs and preferences, this is either a pro or a con.

 

Transportation

Transportation issues/opportunities go hand-in-hand with location. Want to walk to the grocery store? Want a light rail station two blocks away? Think about a condo! But if you need your own car, many condos will make you pay for it. A reserved parking spot can easily cost upward of $1,000/month, and in some areas, you can’t get by scrounging for street parking. But then again, if you want to ditch your car in favor of greener transportation, car-less-ness counts as a plus.

 

Privacy

If you want to have neighbors nearby to help in medical emergencies, or if you want an extra sense of security when you leave for a long vacation, a condo’s lack of privacy counts favorably. If you need your own space or feel like more of the Ron Swanson type, lack of privacy could rule out a condo. You can often hear your neighbors above, below, or beside you—although a top-floor, corner unit lets you escape the worst of it.

 

Yard

No yard, no problem—if you don’t want responsibility for it. If you want a yard for your dogs or children, though, houses have the advantage.

 

Maintenance

When it comes to upkeep, life in a condo lands somewhere between renting and home-ownership. As a condo owner, you’re on the hook for many of the small repairs and updates, but the building owner handles the big stuff. This is a downside if you want to customize your home to your heart’s content; it’s an upside if you simply want a living space that doesn’t saddle you with extra work.

 

 

Once you answer those questions, you’ll get a sense of whether the condo life fits you. If it doesn’t, the wide world of single-family homes awaits. If a condo does match your preferences, though, you can start refining your search. Same as before, you’ll have to consider elements that you wouldn’t have to in a house search, and you’ll have to investigate them on a condo-by-condo basis, as they vary among different buildings:

 

Pets

Some condos prohibit pets, some allow small pets, some allow any pets. This affects you even if you aren’t a pet owner. Do you mind a dog barking next door? What about a cat running across the floor of the unit above you?

 

Flooring

Some buildings require all units to be carpeted in an effort to keep down noise. If you pine for hardwood floors, watch out for restrictions like this. If you dream of peace and quiet, you might seek out these more restrictive regulations (although in some cases, rules like this might exist because the building lacks adequate noise insulation).

 

Investment Security, Renal Restrictions, Building Budget, etc

Condos are far from equal when it comes to their stability as investments. Investors often buy up condos during a housing shortage (like Seattle’s been experiencing the last few years), but when things slow down, condo values tend to sink first, and they usually take longer to recover. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about finding that information on your own. We’ll investigate a condo’s resale certificate, board meeting notes, reserves, any pending lawsuits, future work and assessments, and every other document related to the building. We can guide you through as much as the process as you want, in order to equip you with hands-on knowledge, or we can take care of everything for you. Either way, at the end of the day, we’ll make sure you only buy a condo that’s a solid, worthwhile investment.

 

 

We’re showing two condos this Saturday (March 23) from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Both are excellent investments listing for low prices—one in Queen Anne, the other in Ravenna. The Ravenna one is the holy grail of condos: FHA-approved and a top-floor corner unit.

  • Sarah Donaldson
    Sarah Donaldson
    18:44 18 Jul 19
    Darcie was such a joy to work with. She felt like family during the sale of our house and the search for our new home. We may have found our forever home, but if we ever need a Realtor in future, Darcie from Real Estate Gals will be our first call.
    Brian Heagler
    Brian Heagler
    16:55 02 Jun 19
    I have worked with Johnine and her team for 19 years and have always received personal, knowledgeable and professional service and attention! There is never and pressure and they will guide you away from a property when appropriate, which is always appreciated when a market is hot and the tendency is to move quickly. I trust them and have never been let down!
    Anne Slater
    Anne Slater
    18:03 25 May 19
    Johnine Larsen is fabulous! She listened and came up with ways we could get what we wanted in a house and stay within our limited budget. When we found the house we wanted, she moved super fast to get the house inspected and implemented creative ideas to make our offer appealing. And out of 13 offers, we were selected and got our house. I recommend her to anyone buying a home.
    Amy Burdick
    Amy Burdick
    19:13 24 May 19
    Real Estate Gals made sure we found our perfect house! Then, when we were up against other bidders, Johnine worked tirelessly to ensure we were tops! Her extensive real estate experience combined with exceptional character and integrity provided peace of mind throughout the process. She also made sure we received the right value as a seller and got the transaction done quickly and efficiently. Simply stated: there is nobody better to help you find your dream home.
    Bill Hollman
    Bill Hollman
    22:21 19 May 19
    I'd give Real Estate Gals 6 stars if I could. We have used them multiple times, both in selling and buying homes in Seattle and the surrounding area. I can't say enough about the professionalism, knowledge, and patience they bring to the task of buying a new home, or selling your current residence. And they know the Seattle area so well, they'll offer valuable insights into the pros and cons of any location you may be to considering. Look no further, call Johnine at Real Estate Gals. You will be glad you did!
    Beth Guerra
    Beth Guerra
    01:14 18 May 19
    Johnine was a breath of fresh air in the real estate market. She listened intently to our wishes and goals, and was tireless in her search for our perfect house. She is well versed in both Seattle and the surrounding areas. She made sure all the details were taken care of after the inspection, and made the closing process seamless. She even gifted us with a housewarming present. Nearly 7 years later, we still receive holiday cards and well wishes. I highly recommend Real Estate Gals and will look no further in the future.
    Aidan Key
    Aidan Key
    15:44 17 May 19
    Johnine and the Real Estate Gals brilliantly took us through the home buying process two different times. Their willingness to educate (I was new), hear our home hopes, and support us through the process are a few of the reasons that I highly recommend this team. Speaking of a team, I love their collaborative business model - it meant that we--the home buyers--always had a returned phone call and an ability to look at a house on OUR schedule. Truly felt like they place the customer first!
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