Buying a house versus condo or townhome

ADDED ON June 1, 2012 0 COMMENTS

House or condoLos Angeles home buyers are likely to weigh options with regard to what “type” of property they want to live in.  For many home buyers, this is most likely a function of balancing what they can afford with their “wish list” for the property – house size, number of bedrooms, location, etc.

In searching for a Los Angeles home, many home buyers only consider a single family residence.  However, for some home buyers, buying a condominium or townhome is a perfect fit for their budget, lifestyle and desired amenities.   When looking for a condominium or townhome, you might also hear the term “Planned Unit Development” (PUD).

When considering a Los Angeles home purchase, many home buyers find that they do not get the size of house nor the size of yard that they were hoping for in their desired location.  Less space in a single family residence (house) may lead a home buyer to explore the condominium-townhome market. 

Let’s take a look at the benefits and challenges that condominium-townhouse life introduces to home ownership.

When buying a condo or townhome in Los Angeles, you should consider the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) dues. The HOA dues are collected to share in certain costs of the Association.  You will want to find out what the HOA dues covers (i.e., trash? outside maintenance? what else?), how often the dues are paid (i.e., monthly, annually?) and what expenses are not covered by the HOA dues (for example, insurance on your contents).   What are the cash reserves of the Association, and how do they pay for major repairs or improvements? 

In addition, you should find out how the HOA is managed/governed – is it “self managed” or is there a management company that oversees the HOA.

Further, you will want to know about any restrictions on the property such as pet limitations, or do they allow you to rent the property, etc.

For this reason it is extremely important that you review all Homeowners Association documents, such as bylaws, as part of your condominium, townhome or planned community purchase.   Also take a look at the past year’s HOA newsletters or bulletins to find out what issues have been of concern to the HOA or currently in discussion or consideration.  Talk with members of the HOA Board or management company.  Ask questions!  Are there any special HOA assessments planned or under consideration?  What is the history of the HOA dues and are any increases planned?  Are there any large expenditures on the horizon for the HOA?  In short – find out as much as you can!  You are considering becoming a part of this group – you should know all about it!*

When considering the question “Should I buy a house or a condominium or townhouse?”, here are some questions you may wish ask yourself.  They will help you to determine what type of property you value most – a single family home or a condo-townhome-planned community:

  • Availability – What type of housing is available in your preferred location in your price range?
  • Neighbors – Would you prefer them to share your walls or do you want or need more separation?  Would you prefer more privacy than condo life can offer?
  • Control – Do you like to share control over home matters or do you prefer to be the final authority?  Do you care if you need to ask permission before making a change to your property?
  • Laundry – Do you like your laundry to be private, or is a community laundry room acceptable?  Some condos-townhomes have individual laundry facilities within the unit, while others have a shared laundry room (and usually charge money to use the machines).
  • Other Amenities – Some condo-townhome developments have a pool, spa, workout-exercise room, recreation room or other amenity that you would not otherwise get in a single family home purchase for the same amount of money.
  • Parking – Is shared parking acceptable, or are you only interested in a private garage?  Some community developments offer private parking garages.
  • Security – Is the house or condo-townhome in a security or gated community – with or without a guard?
  • Upkeep – Do you like the idea of a yard and the upkeep that a yard entails?  Many times the homeowners association maintains the front yard and/or planned community landscaping.  Yard maintenance handled by an association can be a prime benefit for many condo owners.
  • Price and finances – Can you afford a single family house in your desired Los Angeles location?   There are many Los Angeles suburbs offering a wide range of prices.  If there are homeowner association fees, are they reasonable?
  • Value – Historically the single family home enjoys an easier resale and historically greater value.  This is unique to each area and we advise you to investigate this for the area and property you are considering.

Whichever type of Los Angeles home you decide to pursue, asking these questions will help you feel secure in the knowledge that your new home is suited to you and your specific needs.   Happy house hunting!

If you would like help in buying a home in Los Angeles, or buying a townhome, condo or other planned community unit, please feel free to contact Fran and Rowena at (818) 952-0077.  We can help you with the “house versus condo-townhouse” decision.

Would you like to know more about buying a home in Los Angeles?  Read our other articles about home buying.


*This is not meant to be a complete list of considerations when purchasing a condominium, townhouse or in a planned community, but rather a list to help you start thinking about issues involved with such a purchase.

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