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Condo Dreamin'

February 13th, 2011 at 06:33 am

On Saturday morning I woke up dreaming about real estate, and that's how i ended up spending all morning browsing online condos for sale. I keep coming back to this one particular complex for people ages 55+. (I'm just 51 now, so would have to wait a few years.)

I discovered that you can buy a perfectly nice 2 bedroom condo in this complex for $225 to $250K, and that's with a completely remodeled kitchen. I do believe I could sell my house for $325K or so and would do very well to go for one of these units. What I liked about them was they were just the right size, 1400 square feet.

I want a small size so my heating, cooling costs and property taxes are lower. Plus, my environmental leanings and minimalist bent make me feel that's the right thing to do, especially considering that in my current 1650 sf home, I use the dining room as a pass-through only, use the 3rd bedroom for storage and have not one, but two living rooms. So there's a LOT of wasted space here.

Also, nearly every unit in this complex has a very generously-sized deck or patio, extremely private with woodsy views. That's the main reason i like this condo complex so much: it's very private with more outdoor privacy than most condos around here. Having to adjust coming from a very private 1.5 acres, that's important to me, plus I can still do a bit of gardening and feed the birds. The 2-bedrooms come with garage, fireplace, all wood floors and as i said new kitchen and new baths. these particular units were built in 1969, I believe, though most of them elsewhere in the complex were built in the 80s. All the units are one level, which i also like; who knows if the MS could be an issue later in life.

What I don't like about them is that the garages are all detached and not super close, so I could see it being a hassle in rain or snow. And the heat is electric, and rates are rather high in my state. Also, becus this condo complex is like a small village (close to 2600 units on a lot of land) and very woodsy, there's monthly condo charges plus a separate District quarterly tax.

Then I figured, what the heck, I know I'd be fine in a 1400 sf 2 bedroom, so let's see what the highest priced one-bedroom unit in the complex looks like. Well, that one also went for $225K and was the former residence of some well-known designer. It was quite interesting to look at: the fireplace had a dramatic copper hood that reached the ceiling, all the ceilings throughout the unit were done in wood beadboard, the kichen is great and everything was peachy keen. It was just 910 sf in size, but I would seriously consider it if it were not for the very stingy sized deck, barely enough room to stand on.


Very unassuming from the outside...


The Living Room


Another view


The kitchen

I love this unit, but truth be told, I think it'd be a very tight fit. Becus here in my current home, I also have a basement and full, walk-up attic I use for storage; most of these units don't have a basement, so the only storage outside of closets would be the 1-car garage which probably wouldn't hold much. Ah, well, it's fun to dream.

7 Responses to “Condo Dreamin'”

  1. MonkeyMama Says:

    We have the same plan - to downsize in retirement.

    Anyway, we initially bought a condo because it was all we could afford (and was far more cost efficient than renting. Plus, we like to stay in one place). I did not expect we would enjoy it so much. It really is not near the maintenance and stress that owning an actual house is. Plus, we had absolutely no yard to maintain, etc. (We may consider a tiny yard - townhome situation). We never heard our neighbors, and the HOA was very nice, so it was a pleasant experience. IT was just perfect in a very BUSY time when all we did was work. The low maintenance appeals to us in retirement.

    It all depends. Our condo was half the size of our current home, but the utilities were very comparable. Electric heat (what is up with that?) and not as energy efficient since it was a much older building. The HOA dues were $250/month when we lived there for 2 years, but today they are $400 per month. (Our HOA dues at our home have gone down the last 10 years, in comparison. $80 to $70 - something like that. Condo HOA obviously included a lot more - outside of building, a nice recreation complex, and some utilities).

    There has been a lot of horror stories in the forums lately. Make extra certain that the HOA is fiscally sound and has adequate reserves for maintenance. I think I would stay away from newer construction. They just haven't been able to collect the dues to build reserves or keep on top of maintenance (foreclosures, etc.). Obviously, the pictures you posted did not look like brand new construction, so that might be a plus. I know next time we condo shop I will be reading audited financials very carefully.

    Anyway, those condos are beautiful!

  2. patientsaver Says:

    "Make extra certain that the HOA is fiscally sound and has adequate reserves for maintenance."

    MM, how exactly would you do that?

    The HOA fees at this complex range from $405 to $510. They have a big infrastructure, meaning, 1,000 acres with roads, large ponds, very woodsy which needs mowing and shrub pruning (ie, labor), a golf course, fitness room, and lots of programs for residents.

  3. Ima saver Says:

    It is beautiful looking on the inside!

  4. MonkeyMama Says:

    Look at their financials, and talk to people who live there. That's all you can do. (The financials have LOTS of information).

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    Also, if you are not buying for a few more years, keep an eye on the dues - see how much they increase. Financials will give you a clue how much they increased in past years. You want to know if dues tend to go up 10% per year, or if they have been rather stagnant. Of course, stagnant isn't good if they aren't saving adequately for future repairs. But, if they go up a lot every year, you would want to plan for that.

  6. patientsaver Says:

    Not to sound dense, but i have never lived in a condo before....is there another word for "the financials?" so i know what i'm talking about when i ask for the paperwork?

  7. MonkeyMama Says:

    Audited financial statements.

    Read all the CCRS too - is that they are called? covenants, conditions and restrictions. See what kind of weird rules you have to comply with to live there. Wink

    When you are looking at a condo you would generally ask for these - financial statemetns and CCRs. Would be expected.

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