Condominium living is especially appealing to millenials breaking into home ownership as well as baby boomers ready to downsize. Owning a condo is a great way to build equity and benefit of the tax incentives without all of the maintenance and upkeep associated with home ownership.
There are some downsides to owning a condo that you should be aware of in advance. Some homeowners association rules may be an unpleasant surprise for many millennials. For boomers, living in a building or being a part of a community and abiding by the restrictions could be a challenge, particularly after owning a single-family home for many years.
Here are some of the common rules that may come as a surprise to millenials and baby boomers alike:
Your hardwood floors will need to be at least partially covered
Living in close proximity to neighbors isn't for everyone. Millennials likely have a recent experience with communal living, either in a dorm room, a rental building or even back in their parents' home. For boomers who have lived under their own roof for many years, this could be a shock to the system. Imagine what it would be like to live in a building full of hardwood floors and little-to-no carpet to absorb the noise of shoes, pets and children.
For this exact reason, almost every multi-story condominium will require owners to partially cover their hard floors. If you're dreaming of hardwood floors, you'll want to check the homeowners association rules before tearing up any carpeting.
You can't use your parking space for storage
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the parking space that comes with your unit may only be used as such. Even for those (especially millenials) who opt out of owning a vehicle, the parking space rule stands. Yes it may be tempting to turn your space into a storage unit, but it will likely not fly with the condo association. Part of the role of an association is to maintain a neat, orderly aesthetic - parking spaces filled with lawn furniture, garage equipment and the like will not qualify.
There will be noise restrictions
Many condo rules specify that between certain hours occupants must not interfere with other owners' quiet enjoyment. This rule is frequently enforced and is likely music to the ears of a boomer concerned with leaving their private, quiet, single-family home for community living. For a millennial who is still within striking distance of their party years and the noise that comes with it, this is a big consideration.
When you're looking at condos, take note of how the building was constructed. Is there concrete between the floors, or is it all wood? Listen for noises coming from other units and think about how that will affect you - and likewise, how your noise will affect your neighbors.
Your pets might not be welcome
Until they're well into the real estate search, few people realize that many condo buildings have pet restrictions. Restrictions regarding the type and number of pets exist in nearly every condo development.
Year after year, buyers have had to forego great apartments simply because of a pet. Knowing this before you get too involved in the real estate process will help soften the blow when you discover that Fido isn't welcome -- a potential shot to the heart of both the boomer and the millennial. If your pets are part of the family, fear not, there are plenty of associations who do allow for them - you just need to read the rule book carefully to avoid compliance issues.
Renting may not be allowed
Many condo boards have restrictions on the number of rentals allowed in the association. Having too high a percentage of renters makes it harder for new buyers to get a loan, and homeowners believe that owners who are present have more of a vested interest in caring for the building than a tenant, who has much less at stake. Finally, if you've been dreaming of making some extra cash with short-term rentals, you better check the condo's rules and restrictions first, as some will forbid such rentals.
Bottom line: Find out the rule on renting, as well as the current percentage of renters, before you buy.
Know before you go
If you're not ready to give in to some of the restrictions that come with condo ownership, you might want to reconsider. While some homeowners associations are more lenient than others, you should go into a condo purchase with eyes wide open. Rules are made for a reason, and you should expect them to be enforced.
Before making an offer, take the time to thoroughly go through all of the association documents and really think about how they will apply to your lifestyle. It may be hard to turn down a unit you're in love with, but it'll be even harder to deal with the consequences of rule enforcement and tailoring your life to fit.