The Pros and Cons of Buying a Condo

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Is a condo a good home purchase? That, say most real estate agents, depends on your lifestyle and wish list.

From cost to negotiating with neighbors, here are a few factors to keep in mind when considering whether to purchase a condo.

Condo advantages

As the housing market rebounds, condos are a strong purchase choice, says real estate agent Monte Levin of Coldwell Banker Previews International, especially in the Boston real estate market, where he works.

“The real estate markets in the central neighborhoods of Boston were not as badly affected by the recession as many other areas of the country,” Levin said. “That being said, we have been experiencing very strong demand and low supply, and prices have been moving up steadily.”

Many of the homes in those central Boston neighborhoods — Back Bay, Beacon Hill and South End — are condos. It’s in these largely urban areas of big metros that the resale value of condos is strong, Levin says.

“Empty nesters who are leaving the suburbs for the city to enjoy all that the city has to offer,” are a significant factor, Levin said. “These buyers are usually scaling down from large suburban homes and are trading size for the convenience of a condominium in the city.”

It’s this convenience, says Madison Hildebrand of Coldwell Banker Previews International in Malibu, that appeals to buyers.

“Condos give an opportunity to those looking for a second home or vacation home who are not interested in the maintenance of a single-family home,” said Hildebrand, star of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing.”

“Areas like Marina del Rey, a beach community but located conveniently to the city, are perfect getaways for those traveling from other states or even from abroad.”

More than anything, however, condos also are appealing for their low cost. Even with homeowners association (HOA) fees, a condo can be a great investment for first-time home buyers, both agents agreed.

“Condos can be a great stepping stone for first-time buyers,” Hildebrand said. ”Expenses are shared between condo owners for maintenance of the property.”

Condo disadvantages

If there’s anything that concerns potential homeowners most, it’s the possibility of HOA fees, which vary greatly from building to building, says Hildebrand.

“When purchasing a condo, one must consider the taxes, insurance, mortgage and HOA fees, making sure it fits in their monthly budget,” he said.

The fees are typically non-negotiable and can change at any time, but with these fees comes the convenience of living in a low-maintenance property.

Shared walls and having to deal more closely with neighbors are also drawbacks for some buyers.

“If you like to be in greater control of your ‘destiny’ and don’t want the physical proximity of other people, condo living probably isn’t [for you],” Levin said. “In condo living, one has to negotiate with other condo owners in their association on improvements, added services and condo owner rules.”

Condo or single-family?

Ultimately, says Levin, it’s more about the location and the design of the home than whether it’s a single-family dwelling or condo.

“If you buy well to suit your lifestyle, you should benefit from a sound investment, be it condo or single-family,” he said.

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Erika Riggs, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, unusual properties and home design trends. Read more of her work here.

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