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Francis Rolland's Blog

By Francis Rolland | Agent in Los Altos, CA

Condominium / Townhouse in the Silicon Valley – Any good?

In the Silicon Valley where there is a limited amount of land to build on, a condominium or a townhouse is often a good alternative to a house. In general, for the same amount of money, one gets a larger and newer property in a PUD or CID (Planned unit development – Common interest development) than in a house.
In our local towns (Los Altos, Palo Alto or Mountain View) a lot of the house value is in the land. Consider that an average piece of land ~ 6,500 sq.ft. would easily fetch in Mountain View between $400k and $500k, and this would not be in a prime location. Therefore, when one considers a purchase around $600k to $800k, a PUD is often more appealing to live in.

Some other reasons to prefer a PUD could be safety, or lower maintenance, as various parts of the property are maintained by the HOA (homeowners’ association). For people who travel or work a lot, with little time for yard or house maintenance, a condominium or townhouse can be a good option - also, it is less isolated than a house. Older people may also like the PUD arrangement: less involvement in the maintenance. The “maintenance” is where the “association dues” come into play: depending on the complex the monthly dues can cover some utilities, outside painting, roof, fences or decks, ground maintenance, some insurance, and various amenities included in the complex like: exercise room, pool, spa, kids’ play structure, etc…

It is easy to rate complexes depending on the amount of monthly dues. But it is not that simple. It depends a lot on:
1/ what they cover and
2/ the reserves of the association.   More on this on the following  condominium page  because it would make a very long document on this blog...

Finally, what is the difference? In a condominium one owns only “from the paint on”. The walls belong to the association, and all own a percentage of the whole. In a true townhouse, one owns the land on which it sits, and the building itself. However, it must be noted that in the Bay Area a lot of PUD’s offer a mix of the two, and it is only by the legal definition (on the preliminary title report) that one can be sure of the nature of the unit. Many condominiums are “townhouse style” with two levels, no one above or under, and a 2-car garage.

Let me know if you have any specific questions!...
Thanks for reading! - Francis

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