Thinking of buying a unit at a condo or co-op? These options tend to be more affordable than freestanding houses. In some areas, they’re the ordinary person’s answer to the challenges of today’s real estate market.
As a unit owner, you’re part of a homeowners’ association (HOA) or co-operative. Both have boards that run the properties. Condo owners often want a say in property management, while co-op owners value this voice in decision-making. So, as to the decision-making process that keeps a property running, you’ll likely want to show up, and interact.
You might like to go to social events and befriend your neighbors, too — but you don’t have to. The decision’s yours. So, before you buy into multi-unit living, you might wonder about just how social the owners are where you’re planning to live.
Read on for some frequently asked questions about living in a multi-unit community.
Is Board Meeting Attendance Expected of the Unit Owners?
Once you become a unit owner, you could want to interact with your fellow unit owners by going to the regular board meetings. The meetings could be in person, on an audio-video platform, or offered in a hybrid form.
Why would you be interested in spending your time going to meetings? Because they end up hashing out the decisions that affect you and your unit, such as:
- Whether trees and foliage on the common property are protected.
- What rules apply to smoking, parking, snow removal, gardening, and noise levels.
- Rules for exterior furnishings, flags, and decorations (within First Amendment limits).
- How failures to follow rules, restrictions and covenants are addressed.
- How the budget is formed and approved.
- How the board sets special assessments and what the association covers for routine or emergency maintenance..
As a unit owner, you’ll influence those decisions and more when you show up at meetings, participate in votes, and join (or even help to form) committees. Of course, some people are more social than others, and might want to plan and participate in activities. That’s up to your own style. It’s possible to focus on your own life and your own unit. Still, at the least, you’ll likely want a say in how the property is managed. And, of course, everyone has to pay their monthly HOA assessments and follow the association’s rules.
Does Actually Living in a Condo or Co-op Change People’s Attitudes About Them?
Condo dwellers may find their attitudes changing over time.
Many buy condo units because buying a condo is cheaper than buying a freestanding home. Some buyers have no interest in getting involved in the property’s social scene. But many of these buyers wind up forging supportive friendships, and see condo living as safer and perhaps more fulfilling than life on a single-unit property.
Some people long to get away from a disorganized or micromanaging board, while other unit owners may find that they never want to give up the convenience and amenities of condo living. Condos often have common amenities like gyms, meeting rooms, walking trails, tennis courts and swimming pools. This can have strong appeal to ordinary buyers who want access to these features without having to commute to them.
Some try to influence the board and fail — but if they wait long enough, the board will turn over. New landscapers get hired, tree committees get formed, and collective values change.
Owners of multi-unit properties may be surprised at the equity-building power of their investments. Because condos tend to run cheaper, and because affordable housing is in such short supply, the demand for condos is strong.
Do People in Condos and Co-Ops Generally Like Their Neighbors?
Most condo owners like their neighbors and are comfortable with their HOAs. But disagreements can arise and fester. Personality clashes can be more pronounced when people share walls!
The condo rules can sometimes lead to questions about fairness in enforcement and the issuance of fines. Owners who have animals can run into friction with owners who don’t. People might disagree over what pets should be allowed, and how they and their owners should behave.
If you decide to buy into a condo or co-op, expect these and other sources of friction to come up at least occasionally.
Still, each property has its own style. Fitting in with the culture can be a strategy to help owners avoid friction.
☛ How is a condo deed different? A condo deed conveys complete ownership of the space within the unit’s walls. At the same time, it gives the buyer joint ownership of the shared property.
How Can I Find Out What People Are Like in a Certain Condo Community Before I Decide to Live There?
One way to get the inside scoop on a population is to simply walk into the office and converse with the property manager. An on-site manager has a wealth of information about most everyone who owns or rents on the property. And the head of the maintenance team can tell you what sort of questions, rule violations, and mistakes people on the property deal with, without mentioning names.
Then, walk around and ask questions. Find out how people feel about life on the property. Ask if noise from other units will seep into yours. And speaking of seeping, find out how the plumbing is shared. Learn about how the actions of others could affect your own peace of mind.
Check out the website and read the HOA’s newsletter, too. It’s typically full of important knowledge: contact information for local repair people. Games, movies, parties and recreation offered by the social committee. Problems and how they were addressed. Thoughts from the chair of the board. Requests from the board to all residents. And so forth.
Social media is another window to the world of a condo property. Check Facebook for a page run (formally or informally) for the condo residents. You’ll typically see everything from comments about hazards needing attention to furniture swaps.
See if you can show up at (or Zoom into) one of the HOA board meetings. It’s one of the best ways to get a feel for the respect between the board and residents that you’ll hope to find.
Ready to Take the Plunge? The Water’s Fine!
Multi-unit properties can actually relieve unit owners of many needs to interact with other people. After all, they take care of the common maintenance, snow removal, and so forth. This may be appealing to busy people or people with limited abilities.
We hope this brief tour of multi-unit living helps put you at ease if you’re wondering what living in close quarters will mean for you. Above all, before you buy in, it’s best to get a sense of the particular property as a unique community. And don’t forget that people move in and out of condo properties regularly. So it’s safe to expect changes over the years.
Lew Sichelman for NewHomeSource.com (Austin, Texas): Living in the HOA – Most Home Owners Like Their Home Owner Association.
And as linked.