Purchasing home or condo/townhouse? whats better? Any experiences?

Im a single mother of two. Im looking to buy a home one day but cant decide on a condo, townhouse, or a home. Im very busy and active and i do not like to do any type of maintenance or cut grass b/c im so busy and im not mechanically inclined! Ive heard buying a condo or townhouse is great b/c you pay a monthly fee and you dont have to worry about fixing anything or gardening. I know of some really nice condos that are close to a park and school in a quiet area.

Can you please tell me what i should be looking for when buying? What are the downfalls to buying a condo/townhouse vs a home? Also, do you still have to pay property taxes on a condo or townhouse? If so, are taxes cheaper? how can i protect myself from haivng monthly fees raised if buying a condo or townhouse? How do i know it will be quiet if buying a condo or townhouse.

How do i know im getting a good condo or townhouse? Do i ask the neighbours or knock on doors closeby to find out? They always say to talk to the neighbours about the place.

Your experiences and suggestions would be great!! I am gearing towards a condo or a townhouse. A house would be great but im scared to repair or do maintenance being I have no man or husband, Im active, work fulltime and have two busy kids and limited income


I'm sure that different people have strong opinions either way, and it's kind of a personal choice depending on your own, individual tastes. But here are some things to think about in making your decision. If you don't like to do maintenance, a condo or townhome community might make sense. The most important thing is to read the governing documents. The Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (sometimes called the CC&Rs, or the Master Deed) spells out which items the Homeowners Association (HOA) takes care of and which items you will be responsible for. You should note that most HOAs don't do maintenance inside the unit, so you'll still be responsible for things like leaky faucets.

There is no guaranteed way to know if the monthly fees will go up, but one thing you can look at is the HOAs reserve account. A well run HOA will have a healthy reserve account for the big ticket items they are responsible for. It works like this: If the HOA is responsible for replacing the roofs, for example, and the roofs have an expected 20 year life span, then the HOA should be putting an amount aside each year, so that at the end of the 20 years they'll have enough in reserves to cover the expense. Your realtor should be able to help you figure some of that out. If the roofs need replacing and the HOA has not properly reserved for that expense, Owners might be asked to pay a Special Assessment, which can be many thousands of dollars. One other tip, you can buy insurance coverage, as an Owner that will pay for certain, unexpected Special Assessments. That insurance is fairly inexpensive and can be added to your homeowners insurance policy.

You still have to pay taxes on a townhome or condo, in most states. And you will still need to have homeowners insurance, although many HOAs will insure the building itself. That leaves you with the cost of insuring the contents, furniture, etc. I would also check the delinquency levels, and the number of foreclosures in the HOA. Again, your realtor may be able to help you here. If there are lots of owners in the HOA who can't pay their monthly dues, or a lot of empty units due to foreclosures, the remaining owners may be asked to pick up the slack with a dues increase.

Check to see if the HOA has a website. You might be able to get a flavor for the “culture” of the Association by seeing if they have community events, etc. or whether there are lots of complaints, problems, etc. It's not a bad idea to attend one of the HOA meetings, if that's possible, too. Again, just to see what the culture is like.

Living in an HOA has its benefits, but can have problems as well. In an HOA you give up some of your independence in exchange for some measure of control over your neighbors. That means that if you have noisy neighbors that the HOA may be of some help in resolving the problem, but it also means that your neighbors may complain to the HOA about you! The most important thing is to read the documents before you buy, so that you have some idea of what the HOA allows and doesn't allow, and you have a clear idea of your rights and responsibilities before you buy.

Good Luck!