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John Richard Wilson's Blog

By John Richard Wilson | Agent in Charleston, SC

Should I buy a Condo or a Single Family Home?

I am frequently asked the questions, " Is a condo a good investment?" or " What should I look for, a home or a condo?"

The answer is: "It depends"

There are many reasons that a condo may be for you. First, if you would like a second home, or escape from the harsh winters of the Northeast or Mid-West, condos provide a carefree lifestyle, with lots of amenities. You can leave it vacant when you are not using it and be assured that the property would be maintained and with a level of security. Usually the regimes are reasonable when you consider that the exterior building & landscaping maintenance, insurance, amenity use, trash removal, etc. are included. Second, condos are an excellent choice for college students who would otherwise have to rent. In todays market, You can purchase at about (or sometimes even less) what you would have to pay in rent. With a 2 or 3 bedroom unit, you could share expenses with a roommate making it even a more affordable choice. Third, condos are a nice option for contractors or project managers who work in the area  during the week and return home weekends. It is much less expensive than staying in an extended stay hotel. Here again, there is an upside potential when the job is complete. Fourth, young couples just starting out can buy reasonably (say a 2 bedroom condo townhome), build equity and then move up in a couple of years when the market improves.

The typical condo is not a good choice for a family with kids because of the confinement, traffic, closeness and the inability to make changes to the exterior, Recreational opportunities for kids may also be limited. Parking may become an issue as well. Most condos afford parking for two cars per unit. Some have restrictions as to  the parking boats, size of pets, that are very specific. There is less flexibility than with a  detached single family home. 

Possibilities for single family home are limited only by your budget and needs and imagination. You can build in a new homes community, or you can buy an existing home and customize it. You can choose to have lots of land for horses or a garden or simply a smaller lot with a fenced backyard for kids and pets. If you have younger children, schools should be a major consideration in your selection. The average family lives in a home 4-7 yrs, so think in those terms. Research the neighborhood to see if it is improving or declining. Do not buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood because it will be difficult to sell when your needs change and you need to move. Also, before you buy, check out the neighbors because the wrong neighbors can make life miserable for you and also affect the resale.

Buying now is a huge advantage. I do not know another time in recent history where prices and interest rates were low at the same time. Right now, it is like buying on sale with everything discounted 30 percent or more and then getting discounted financing as well. There are also lender owned properties and short-sales available. But short-sales are not for those who need to move quickly as they take 3-8 months to negotiate & close, according which lender holds the mortgage. In negotiating, remember, changes in interest rate percentages have a greater impact on your payment than the same percentage of increase in price.

Consider your needs and choose a good Realtor to help you with your selection. Buyers' agents do not generally charge the buyer, since their commission is paid through a pre-determined sales commission from the sellers proceeds. Your agent has the knowledge and tools to find the best home for you & usually can negotiate a lower price, repairs, closing costs contributions from the seller and other terms in the contract. Trying to negotiate directly with a seller is like going to court with no lawyer.  

For your real estate needs in Charleston, choose me..NOBODY knows Charleston's neighborhoods better than a third generation Charlestonian..

John Richard Wilson, ePro, Certified Relocation Expert,


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