Hello Brad and thanks for your post.,
In the $350,000 price range and based on your desire to have a home that does not require major renovations, in the areas in which you're most interested, you will need to concentrate on homes within either condominium communities or planned developments (attached housing). I am reluctant to use the term "townhouse" because it actually refers to an architectural style akin to what is also called a "row house" on the East Coast, but it says nothing about the type of ownership you would actually buy. In short, when you purchase a condominium, you are purchasing (usually) a "box of air" bounded by the perimeter walls of the building. You own everything inside that "box of air," and the homeowners association owns the building, the land, and the common area grounds. This is why the condominium fees are often so much higher than when the home is located in a planned development. A planned development is a community where the homeowner owns the building, the land or "lot" for that property, and all the items inside the building. The homeowners association may paint or reroof the buildings to keep the appearance uniform, but the homeowner must maintain all of the other components. Because the homeowners association doesn't own the building, the monthly assessments can be a lot lower. Townhomes can be either a condominium or a planned development--your agent should know the difference and be able to explain this to you in greater detail, if not, find someone who can because knowing what you own and how it will affect you and your wallet is essential even before you purchase a property.
Regarding returns on your investment, there are many factors that will influence how valuable a home might be in the future, not the least of which will include: 1) HOA dues and the HOA's overall financial health; 2) the location of the property; 3) school district and school performance; 4) condition of the property, upkeep and improvement; 5) number of foreclosures in the community and if there is any litigation; and 6) economic recovery. On the average, however, know that condominiums (first), planned developments (second) and single family detached homes NOT in a common interest development (third) will decrease and increase in value iin the order in which I've just noted. The greatest fluctuations in pricing will occur on homes with a lower price point, and the fastest recovery in pricing will come to the same group.
As for finding a good home, work with a great Realtor to assist you in your search. Remember to find someone who knows the difference between planned developments and condominiums and who can help you determine the overall investment quality of your home.
Area Pro Realty