Weighing Condo pros and cons. You have to think about what you like and hate about living with other people, sharing spaces, and running an association with strangers.
Q: I read your response to the 66-year old buyer who was considering the purchase of a home. I’m 84 years old. I live in a small (75+ unit) condo development. I love my unit but there are things I don’t like in the board-run community.
My dilemma is whether to simply accept the issues or sell and rent. I have no mortgage. Our monthly condo fees are relatively low. Our association doesn’t have any amenities but does have a small club house. Any thoughts?
A: Thanks for reaching out. Many homeowners find it difficult to deal with the people that run their homeowners associations. However, we think that it’s part of the risk you take living in an association.
Weighing Condo pros and cons: the bad
We understand your frustration with your board-run building. We actually spent five years in the same situation with the first property we bought together many years ago. Ours was a gorgeous co-op on Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago. But the owners who ran the co-op board were petty, had no common sense and treated it like a fiefdom. They made such poor decisions about the management of the property that we eventually decided to sell the unit and choose a single-family home for our next property.
Like you, we loved living in our unit. We didn’t like the interactions with most of our fellow unit owners. When we left, we moved to a small suburban town in the Chicago metropolitan area. At our first town meeting, we looked at each other as we realized that we’d moved from a small co-op association to another that was similar, just larger. People are people.
What we’re trying to say is that you have to balance how much these people interfere with what you do and how you live your life with the annoyance and expense of selling and moving. If they make your life so unbearable, you’ll need to move. On the other hand, if you can avoid dealing with them and stay out of the politics of the building, you might find it better to stay, avoid all of the hassles of packing, moving and finding other living arrangements.
Consider alternatives and options to condos
But at age 84, are you wondering what’s next? Selling your home would give you a significant amount of cash in the bank. Renting would give you the flexibility to make other arrangements. If you need flexibility, renting can help you out. You might also feel more secure financially in case you have a large medical expense. Or, you might be thinking you’d enjoy moving to a community designed for active seniors that offers more amenities, such as classes, exercise opportunities, and social opportunities on site.
Even if your health is quite good now, we suspect asking about the association issues is a red herring, masking some insecurities about what will make you happy if and when that changes.
Could renting be better for you
So, we’ll ask you the question a friend of ours often asks in situations like these: Could you be happier? If the answer is yes, focus on what changes you could make that would improve your situation. You can simply ignore the bad and step back from the people who run your building. You can find a new place to buy or rent that offers you an equally lovely living space with other amenities, or moving closer to friends and family.
Take a look at the big picture, consider your options and then you can decide whether to stay or move. Just recognize that people are people. Any building you live in, whether it’s owner-occupied, a rental property, or a senior lifestyle community, may present issues with neighbors and poor management. All buildings have issues. But you have weigh the condo living pros and cons to decide where the scale tilts.
©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.