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The Differences in Owning a Condominium and a Single-Family Home

There are significant real estate legal differences between owning the typical single-family home and owning a condominium. They aren’t necessarily negative or positive for the owner, but a buyer in the market for housing should understand these differences. This way they can decide which type of home best fits their lifestyle and needs.

What Comes With Owning a Condominium?

First, a basic definition of a condominium: A condominium is a dwelling that’s part of a group of housing units. Each homeowner owns their individual space and a share of common areas in the condominium project.

1. There is no land ownership with the unit.

Though units may share walls, it isn’t always the case. However, the homeowner owns only the structure, not any land beneath it. The land in the project is owned in common by all the homeowners.

2. Casualty and liability insurance are separated.

The homeowner insures the interior of their unit, walls, furnishings, and personal possessions. The condominium association insures the exterior of the structures, roofs, and common areas. This insurance is paid for through condominium association dues.

3. Maintenance is separately controlled as well.

The homeowner maintains the interior of their unit, while the association maintains all the exteriors and all common areas. The association maintains landscaping, parking areas, pools, activity buildings, etc. This maintenance is also paid for from homeowner dues to the association which is often managed or overseen by an association management company.

4. All common fees paid through dues assessments.

Taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, some utilities, and any other common area related costs are paid from monthly or quarterly dues paid by homeowners.

5. Dues and other common decisions decided by vote.

Each owner has one vote as a member of the association. When major repairs require unusual expenses, there can be a vote for an extra one-time assessment. Also, due to inflation, regular votes are required to increase dues to cover costs.

6. Owners subject to association rules for their units.

All exterior modifications or enhancements are subject to strict rules, as the association wants to maintain all exterior design and finishes the same for all units. Some interior modifications may also be prohibited by the rules. This is justified by the common interest in maintaining value in the marketplace. So, strange color schemes or moving walls can be against the rules. For those who are interested in maximizing their ROI by renting out their unit, there might even be specific rules against this or at least a percentage of how many association units can be rented out at a given time.

The Pros and Cons of Owning a Condo

The Differences in Owning a Condominium and a Single-Family HomeThe pros of condominium ownership:

  • The owner is relieved of all exterior maintenance, including landscaping.
  • Owners who couldn’t otherwise afford amenities like pools or hot tubs can use common facilities.
  • Homeowners who value a community atmosphere often enjoy the common area meetup aspects of the condominium project.
  • The nature of construction can make a condo a lower investment per square foot than a single-family home.

The cons of condominium ownership:

  • There are rules, and the creative individual can be frustrated when they can’t do things to decorate or modify their home.
  • Though each owner has a vote in the association, the majority rules. At times, onerous fees or dues pass against the wishes of several owners.
  • The dues are required, and the association can place a lien on the unit for back dues.

All considered, whether to buy a home or a condo is very much a personal decision. Now that the differences are clear, that decision should be an easier one to make.

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