It may seem like an obvious choice. You no longer use several rooms in your home. Exterior maintenance of your home is a chore you are either unwilling or unable to do. You only live in Central Ohio half the year. It’s time to shop for a condominium. Maybe. Maybe not.
Let’s first understand what a condo is. The word condominium is less a description of a type of housing as it is a legal definition of ownership. The condominium building structure is divided into several units that are each separately owned, surrounded by common areas that are jointly owned. In simple terms — you own and maintain “walls in,” the interior of your unit; the Condominium Association owns and maintains “walls out,” the exterior of the unit.
There are benefits to this shared ownership: an elected Board guided by homeowner vote hires out the maintenance of these exterior and common areas. Your lawn is mowed, your mulch is put down, your roof is replaced all on a schedule determined by the Board and paid for by monthly dues. You can travel to Europe for two weeks or go to Florida for four months without have to worry about the care of your property. Two inches of snow? You can enjoy your coffee while snow blowers whir outside your window. Many communities feature members-only pools, fitness centers and clubhouses.
There are also restrictions to this communal ownership. Condominiums come with a list of rules called “by-laws” which dictate the “do’s and don’ts” of your jointly owned property and common space. Want to put an Ohio State Flag out on game day? It might be allowed ON game day — but must come down by Sunday. Forget and leave your garage door open when you leave for work? You may come home to a notice of a fine for breaking the ‘no garage doors open’ rule. The purpose of these rules is to maintain the value, aesthetics and uniformity of the property but can be stifling to a free spirit or the homeowner accustomed to imminent domain of his/her domain.
Anita Smith is the Principal Broker for EPCON Communities, the #1 condominium developer in Central Ohio since 1986. The name EPCON is synonymous with condominiums and Anita has watched the development of the condo product for over two decades. The earliest EPCON condos, says Anita, had “very few bells and whistles.” They were glorified apartments: two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1 car garage, no basement. “The 1980s condo buyer was simply looking for no maintenance and we offered that for $60,000” says Anita.
My, what two decades has done to the industry! The condominiums of 2020 are, to use an ad agency phrase, not your Mother’s condo. And, says Anita, they are no longer just for your mother. “We are seeing more, and younger people choose condos as a lifestyle, not just the next move for a downsizer,” she says. Each year EPCON polls their sales representatives with the questions “What were your customers asking for that we don’t offer. Why didn’t potential buyers buy?” Through that constant evaluation of customer needs today’s EPCON condominium bears resemblance to their 1980 forebears only in name. “Expectation has changed,” says Anita. “Younger, more affluent and educated Buyers are coming in and saying ‘this is what I have in my 4000 square foot home. I want the same thing in my 2000 square foot condo.’ “Today’s condominiums are free-standing, offer basements, storage, large garages, gourmet kitchens, fenced in courtyards, outdoor living areas, and even pet grass for Fido. Price? The $60,000 that bought the 1986 condo is now the down payment on these luxury units that easily run $450,000 and more.
Is it for you? After over twenty years of selling condos (and living in one herself), Anita says education is the key. “It’s not a single-family home and it’s not for everybody.” My own experience as a Realtor emphasizes this: if you know what you’re buying before you buy and that’s why you’re buying it — you’ll be happy. If you don’t research condo living or you think you’ll buck the bureaucracy — you’ll likely be unhappy.
Next week in House Call we’ll get specific: how do you decide if condo living is for you?
This blog is written by Kathy Chiero. The Kathy Chiero Group, Keller Williams Greater Cleveland is the proud sponsor of DownSize Cleveland and Central Ohio’s top real estate team for the over-55 homeowner. Find us at www.OurOhioHome.com