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Townhouses & Condos: Modern Communal Living

Although there are luxury exceptions, townhouses and condos are often most attractive to buyers who don’t need a lot of space and don’t expect to spend too much for it.  But there is more to it than that.

Gregory Parker an agent affiliated with Coldwell Banker Preferred tells his clients to begin with the obvious.  “What you’re doing with a condo or a townhouse is buying into a community with all its rules and regulations,” says the Blue Bell-based agent.  “If you have your heart set on painting your front door pink, the association may have some problems with that – unless everyone’s door is pink.”

So as with most things in life, there are tradeoffs to buying condos and townhouses.  If you are a fierce individualist, being part of what is essentially a powerful local government may be too restrictive for you.  On the other hand, if you could get used to having someone else taking care of your home maintenance, snow removal and lawn mowing, you may be delighted to give up the freedoms of living in a detached, single-family residence.

From his Philadelphia Old City location, Coldwell Banker Preferred agent Chris Mattioli deals with a different type of townhouse that is a “tweener” – an urban row house.  “With a row house, you don’t have to deal with a HOA – home owners’ association,” Mattioli says, although you do have neighbors to deal with on the other side of your wall. To some, that may be a constant annoyance, while other people enjoy the closeness of neighbors with something tangible in common.

Conventional lenders, however, are not always as fond of condos and townhouses as they are single-family homes.  “Financing can be more difficult to get with some condos,” Mattioli concedes, “depending on whether they are all owner occupied or whether some are rentals.”  As a result, you may not always be able to get financing from conventional lenders.  “It may be a great building and a great location,” Mattioli says, but the financial well-being of the owner may be shaky.  Buyers may want to request a formal condo questionnaire.

Whatever the purchase, Parker suggests checking out what financial reserves the HOA has set aside for such things as road maintenance and new roofing.  Typically, professional management companies are hired to execute routine services, but special projects still to be paid for through the association.

Which gets us back to examining the rules of your possible new community.  Are you comfortable with the fee structure and what it gets you?  Can you live with the regulations, including those concerning pets?  Are you happy with how the common areas or grounds will be maintained and how they can be used?

Finally, will you be able to re-sell your new home, whether or not that is in your immediate plans?  Beyond the question of a new buyer being able to arrange financing, Parker says, “In spite of the large number of townhouse and condo communities, they may not have the mass appeal as detached dwellings.  They are not for everyone.”

To help you find a condo or townhouse that suits your needs, find a Coldwell Banker Preferred agent in your neighborhood by logging on at cbpref.com.