Buying Your First Home: Condo, House or Townhome?

First and foremost, congratulations on becoming part of the home buying experience! It’s going to be a lot of work, but most of it will be fun, I promise. When I started looking to purchase my first place, there were some factors that I took into consideration to determine what type of property was best for me.

Does the location fit the lifestyle that I have?

I’m used to living in a bustling city atmosphere so I knew that I wanted to have a similar lifestyle in my new town. Walking to restaurants and shopping was important. Being near neighbors was top on my list as well. So for me, buying a house wasn’t ideal for the town in which I was searching. Condos and townhomes were more appealing.

Are there any maintenance costs?

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This will vary depending on what type of property you are seeking out. Condos will have a HOA (Homeowners Association), as will most townhomes. Single-family houses often won’t have a HOA unless you buy in a development with added amenities, like a clubhouse or recreation center. For me, finding a property that had a HOA with amenities included took top priority. Living in a warm climate, I searched for a place that included AC in the HOA. Believe it or not, those places do exist.

On average, maintenance costs can be as low as a few hundred dollars but that can escalate upwards of over a thousand dollars depending on how luxurious of a home lifestyle you prefer. A condo or a townhome may be a better fit for a first time homebuyer because association fees often cover maintenance and repairs.

Are you a rule breaker?

Another factor to consider when buying a home: do I want to be told what to do? In a townhome or condo setting, you will be told various things: where to park, whether or not you can have pets, what times are you allowed to barbecue, etc. Also, in these settings you will have shared-wall neighbors. Something to consider that I didn’t when I first bought my place, are the shared walls concrete? Trust me, you want concrete walls. If the property is a newer build, concrete isn’t always used. So make sure to let your real estate agent know you aren’t overly fond of hearing your neighbor and his overpowering singing voice.

What are some last little things to consider?

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Association fees often deter homebuyers from going forward in the “I want that” property search. There has been a growing trend of property sellers including the payment of the association fees with the sale. But keep in mind, not all sellers will do this. So maybe try negotiating during the property purchase.

Homeowner’s insurance is key. For the first year, I strongly suggest that you invest in purchasing homeowner’s insurance for anything that may go wrong after purchasing the property once the sellers are no longer liable. To give you an idea, for a condo, on average the cost for a years worth of insurance will run about $500.

If you have the means for a quick closing, either you’re buying in cash (if so, kudos to you) or you have flexibility on when you can move, these are factors that are highly desirable from sellers.

And last, remember you’re buying a property that you want to live in. Take your time. Visit the property at various times of day. Stay in the property overnight if you can. Check out the neighborhood and chat with some of the people who live in the area. Above all else, enjoy the journey in buying your first home.