Is This Your Situation: Buying a Retirement Condo?
It's common for people nearing retirement to think about a move. Maybe the house in which you raised your family is too big now that the kids have moved out. Maybe you chose your house because it was an easy drive from your workplace or because it was near other jobs in your field. Maybe the schools and parks were just what you wanted your kids exposed to. In any case, retirement is a big change, and the things you want in a home afterward will be a far cry from the things you wanted before.
A popular choice for retirees is the condominium. Condominium is a Latin word meaning "co-ownership." It is called that because, when you purchase a condo from a holding company, the company retains the rights to the land your condo sits on. For example, if you buy an apartment in a high-rise, the condo association will retain the right to the building and its grounds.
For retirees, the major advantage of a condo is the lack of maintenance. As in an apartment, maintenance of the grounds is the responsibility of the building owner, so it's never your job to rake leaves or shovel snow. Major building improvements, like to the plumbing, electricity and roof, are also out of your hands. Ditto any day-to-day obligations that take place outside any one apartment, such as cleaning the hallways and disposing of trash.
You'll usually have to pay a monthly fee that goes towards the cost of doing all those jobs. Exactly how high those fees will run depends on several factors, chiefly, the age and repair of the building. But the fees are usually lower than the rent on a comparable apartment in the area. You're also responsible for the upkeep of any appliances or fixtures that are in your unit.
Retirees also appreciate what younger homeowners think of as condos' big disadvantage: their size. Most condos are a single story and compact. You might have to sell some furniture before you move in, but you'll never spend an entire Saturday cleaning again. Similarly, the fact that the condo association has the right to make rules governing the whole building can be a plus or a minus, depending on the rules. Make sure you check them ahead of time — you don't want to waste time applying for a place in a no-pets building if you've got pets.
If you're thinking of spending your retirement in a condo, contact a real estate agent to hear more about the advantages and disadvantages of condo life.