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Fact: we live in an expensive part of the US. The housing market in the Boston area is RI.DIC.U.LOUS.
But although buying is expensive around here, so is renting. So when my wonderful in-laws sold their home in the Poconos and split the money between my husband and his two brothers, we decided that (for us) the best way to invest that money was to buy a home.
I was initially firm on buying a single family home. While I never had any major issues renting or sharing walls, I wanted a yard so we could spend time outside as a family. I really wanted my own space.
But as it turned out, we could only afford major fixer uppers in the area we were looking. Bummer.
By today’s standards we are fairly young parents, and although eventually we’d (ok, maybe just me) like to live somewhere where we (I) could have acreage, we (yes, we here) just weren’t ready to go that far from the city where it would be much cheaper (after all, the city is young and hip and has great restaurants and a lot of nightlife to offer!). Ted also works in the heart of Boston, so his commute was something to consider too.
Eventually Ted convinced me to look at condos, and it was like day and night. We could actually afford something nice if we bought a condo (no worrying about knob and tube wiring, asbestos, or lead pipes)!
And here we are now. We’ve had a lot of fun making this place our own and making it feel less “builder grade.” But there are a lot of reasons I wouldn’t recommend buying a condo if you have kids. Here are the main 6 cons of condos when you have kids:
1-) Lack of personal outdoor space
As I mentioned above, I wanted outdoor space with our home. While our complex has a lot of beautifully landscaped green space for us to spend time outside, it’s still a huge hassle. First, to actually get outside, we have to get out of our unit and go down the elevator and out two sets of doors. This isn’t a problem for adults, but I’m normally lucky if Little Grasshopper only gets distracted three times between leaving our unit and actually getting outside. Then once we’re outside, Little Grasshopper much prefers to run into the parking areas and towards the basement garages than to stay on the grass (and he’s fast).
In a nutshell: If you have young children consider whether you are willing to tolerate spending 5-10 minutes to get outside every day and whether you are willing to chase around your child away from others’ belongings at your own home. If the answer is “no” maybe condo living is not a good choice right now.
2-) Shared Walls
I never had a problem sharing walls while I was renting, even with a baby. But there’s a completely different attitude in a condo. We started having issues with our downstairs neighbor complaining about noise even before we moved in when our contractor was fixing and adding a few things for us, but the issues came to a peak while Ted and I were watching the second presidential debate between Trump and Clinton in our living room…
If watching the debate wasn’t stressful enough, our neighbor rang our doorbell and started yelling at Ted about how we were keeping them up. Keeping in mind that they have the same floor plan as us, I found it amazing that they would be so disturbed in their bedroom (remember, we were in our living room) while my son was playing on a TWO INCH pile area rug.
She eventually apologized to my husband and our relationship with them has improved since, but I still can’t get myself to fully trust them.
In a nutshell: Be cautious about your choice! Just because you lived in an apartment with kids without a problem does not mean you won’t have issues in a condo. Most of the people in a condo own the space they live in and they can get possessive about it. Children are energetic and like to run around (which does not necessarily equate to misbehaving), and you may find yourself correcting your well-behaving child just to keep the neighbors from throwing a fit.
3-) Rules, rules, rules
I know that anywhere you live you’ll have to abide by township rules, etc. But when you live in a condo you also have to abide by an additional set of condo rules. Like most sets of rules some of them make sense, some of them are annoying, and sometimes people just get really carried away with them.
Because condos have their own gig, township rules can also be different for condos and can cause real confusion. For example, the original owners of our unit left behind a crappy worn out couch/futon thingy that we couldn’t even give away for free (yea it was that bad). For non-condo residents in our area you can buy a permit to take large items to the transfer station. When I went to the town hall to buy a permit they told me that condo residents are not given this “perk” because the condo associations are responsible for their own trash. Umm, we have a trash shoot….I’m pretty sure the couch isn’t going to fit in it. In the end, my father-in law came over and helped my husband sneak it to a nearby apartment complex dumpster while I stayed back and watched Little Grasshopper.
Similarly, in our town the condo association is responsible for recycling. Our association has decided that-since we live near the transfer station- we are on our own to deal with it. It’s not the end of the world, but every week Ted and I have to work out a plan so that we can load our piles of recycles in to the car while simultaneously making sure Little Grasshopper doesn’t run around the hallways ringing people’s doorbells.
In a nutshell: Ask for a copy of the condo rules before you put in an offer. And read them! If something doesn’t sit right or confuses you then dig deeper. Consider how these rules may affect your lifestyle with kids and if they will make your job as a parent easier or more challenging.
4-) Everything is a vote
I’m all about democracy. But considering how possessive of their space people can be they are not inclined to actually participate in the condo community. This past year we had a board position become available, and according to the rules (see #3, above) we had to have a 51% participation to have a proper election. Well, that never happened; so the condo association had to make the decision on their own.
I really found this mind boggling. The association placed the resumes of the two people running and the ballot in our mailbox. All we had to do was check a box and return it to the community center. It was really quite easy.
In a nutshell: Voting on issues is practically necessary in a condo community, and shouldn’t be a problem if everyone is participating. Try to find out how engaged the community members are and what percentage of residents are renters….the agenda of owners who rent out their units may be different from those who live in their homes (not to mention, getting a mortgage for a community with a high percentage of renters can be difficult…it affects an issue called warrantability).
5-) Lack of storage space
For the record, I think we have good storage space for a condo. In fact, I’m pretty obsessed with our floor plan. But the square footage listed is just the livable square footage when you buy a home. In a condo that’s normally the whole unit, but in a single family home it may not include spaces like an unfinished attic or basement, which are valuable storage spaces for things like holiday decorations and outgrown clothes. We’re lucky that my in-laws allow us a little nook in their attic space for these kinds of things. Otherwise I would have had to sell a whole bunch of things that my son has outgrown but that would be useful when we decide to have baby number two.
In a nutshell: If you have little ones then stuff overload is bound to happen. Ask yourself how you will deal with toys, clothes, etc. that will ultimately overflow your space. Do you know someone who will let you borrow some storage space? Will you rent out a storage unit? Or will you donate/sell items as they are no longer needed? Having an answer to this question is super important if you don’t want to build clutter in your condo!
6-) An Electric Stove
This was not a deal breaker for me, but I know for some people it can be. Most condos (including ours) have electric stoves. If you insist on a gas stove, a condo may not be the best option. While you can switch it out, you’ll have to get permission from the condo association (see #3 again) to have gas line run and you’ll also have to foot the bill. I’m not going to lie, I have considered it. But we know that this isn’t our forever home. Considering the cost and hassle we decided it’s not worth the investment for us.
In a nutshell: This one is easy: decide whether an electric stove bothers you enough to either skip a condo altogether or spend the money to run a gas line. Cooking is an important part of running a family, so having what you want in the kitchen is important.
At the end of the day, would I do it again?
This is a tough question. If we were back in the position of being first-time home owners with the same budget, probably. Living here has been a learning experience and a good introduction to the responsibilities of home ownership.
But for our next home? Nope. A lot of people point to condo living as a great lifestyle because of the amenities and lack of maintenance. This is absolutely true, but I don’t shy away from responsibility. I’d rather have to mow the lawn every week if I get full say in how I run my home.
Of course though, these opinions only reflect my personality and priorities. The issues I mentioned here may not bother you one bit, and the advantages of condo living may suit your family better.
Do you live in a condo or a single-family home? Would you do it again? Why? Comment below!
Already own a home or are in the process of buying one? Check out 5 Challenges to Your Organization System to help you get your home organized and stay organized for good!