What’s in a Condo? The In-Between Style of Home That Might Be the Right Fit for You

by John Trupin

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits. Here’s some background information to help you decide whether purchasing a condo is a good match for you.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.  If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds upkeep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Part of it depends on your lifestyle. Condominium living may not be optimum for large families with active kids. The other factor is personal style. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that the majority of homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear the sound of your neighbors.

Space: With the exception of very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amout of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. Laws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive. If you long to paint your front door red or decorate your deck with tiki lanterns, condominium living might not be for you.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect beachfront getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

Where would you like to live?

Some people love the excitement and sophistication of urban living. Others dream of skiing every weekend. Whether it’s the sound of the surf or the lure of the golf course, a condominium home affords you the ability to live a carefree lifestyle in virtually any setting.

What amenities are most important to you?

The variety of condominium amenities increases each year. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Parking can be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

 

Posted on December 20, 2018 at 2:42 pm
Tania Harmon | Category: Buying, Real Estate Trends

What Can We Expect From The 2018 Housing Market?

by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

 

It’s the time of the year when I look deep into my crystal ball to see what’s on the horizon for the upcoming year. As we are all aware, 2017 has been a stellar year for housing across the country, but can we expect that to continue in 2018?

Here are my thoughts:

 

Millennial Home Buyers

Last year, I predicted that the big story for 2017 would be millennial home buyers and it appears I was a little too bullish. To date, first-time buyers have made up 34% of all home purchases this year – still below the 40% that is expected in a normalized market.  Although they are buying, it is not across all regions of the country, but rather in less expensive markets such as North Dakota, Ohio, and Maryland.

For the coming year, I believe the number of millennial buyers will expand further and be one of the biggest influencers in the U.S. housing market. I also believe that they will begin buying in more expensive markets. That’s because millennials are getting older and further into their careers, enabling them to save more money and raise their credit profiles.

 

Existing Home Sales

As far as existing home sales are concerned, in 2018 we should expect a reasonable increase of 3.7% – or 5.62 million housing units. In many areas, demand will continue to exceed supply, but a slight increase in inventory will help take some heat off the market. Because of this, home prices are likely to rise but by a more modest 4.4%.

 

New Home Sales

New home sales in 2018 should rise by around 8% to 655,000 units, with prices increasing by 4.1%. While housing starts – and therefore sales – will rise next year, they will still remain well below the long-term average due to escalating land, labor, materials, and regulatory costs. I do hold out hope that home builders will be able to help meet the high demand we’re expecting from first-time buyers, but in many markets it’s very difficult for them to do so due to rising construction costs.

 

Interest Rates

Interest rates continue to baffle forecasters. The anticipated rise that many of us have been predicting for several years has yet to materialize. As it stands right now, my forecast for 2018 is for interest rates to rise modestly to an average of 4.4% for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage – still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.

 

Tax Reform

Something that has the potential to have a major impact on housing are the current proposals relative to tax reform. As I write this, we know that both the House and Senate propose doubling the standard deduction, and the House plans to lower the mortgage interest deduction from $1,000,000 to $500,000. If passed, the mortgage deduction would no longer have value for home owners who would likely opt to take the standard deduction.

If either of the current proposals is adopted into law, the potential reduction in mortgage-related tax savings means the after-tax cost of home ownership will increase for most home owners. Additionally, both the House and Senate bills also end tax benefits for interest on second homes, and this could have a devastating effect in areas with higher concentrations of second homes.

The capping of the deduction for state and local property taxes (SALT) at $10,000 will also negatively impact states with high property taxes, such as California, Connecticut, and New York. Furthermore, proposed changes to the capital gains exemption on profits from the sale of a home (requiring five years of continuous residence as compared to the current two) could impact approximately 750,000 home sellers a year and slow the growth of home ownership.

Something else to consider is that all of the aforementioned changes will only affect new home purchases, which I fear might become a deterrent for current home owners to sell. Given the severe shortage of homes for sale in a number of markets across the country, this could serve to exacerbate an already-persistent problem.

 

Housing Bubble

I continue to be concerned about housing affordability. Home prices have been rising across much of the country at unsustainable rates, and although I still contend that we are not in “bubble” territory, it does represent a substantial impediment to the long-term health of the housing market. But if home price growth begins to taper, as I predict it will in 2018, that should provide some relief in many markets where there are concerns about a housing bubble.

In summary, along with slowing home price growth, there should be a modest improvement in the number of homes for sale in 2018, and the total home sales will be higher than 2017. First-time buyers will continue to play a substantial role in the nation’s housing market, but their influence may be limited depending on where the government lands on tax reform.

Posted on December 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm
Tania Harmon | Category: Buying, Real Estate Trends, Selling Your Home | Tagged , ,

Seven Trends That Will Define the Home of the Future

by Tara Sharp

 

As sophisticated as homes are today, experts predict they’ll be far more so in the not-too-distant future— especially when it comes to their use of technology. Included are seven evolutionary trends that many expect to define the home of the future.

 

#1: Faster home-construction

Today, it takes somewhere between 18 months and two years to design and build your custom dream home. In the foreseeable future, experts predict that timeline will be slashed to six to nine months.

Architects will use immersion technology to not only develop plans faster, but also enable you to “walk” through a three-dimensional representation of the house and experience what it will be like to live there. Changes to the layout could be incorporated with a few clicks of the keyboard and mouse.

And, instead of delivering raw materials to the construction site and having workers cut and assemble them to match the plans, about 70 percent of the cutting and assembling work will take place in a precision-controlled factory environment. Once the foundation is ready, the pre-constructed walls, floors and roof will be delivered in “folded” sections, complete with windows, doors, fixtures, and even appliances, already installed.

 

#2: Alternative building materials and techniques

One of the big breakthroughs in home construction coming in the near future will be the use of steel framing in place of lumber.

Steel is not only stronger (able to withstand a 100-pound snow load, 110 mile per hour winds and significant earthquakes), it’s also far more eco-friendly than most people think (manufactured from up to 77 percent recycled materials) and much less wasteful (typical lumber framing generates 20 percent waste, while steel framing generates just two percent).

Other innovative home-building materials moving towards the mainstream include:

  • Wall insulation made of mushroom roots (it grows inside the air cavity, forming an air-tight seal).
  • Panels made of hemp and lime.
  • Windows made from recycled wood fiber and glass.
  • Recycled-glass floor and counter tiles.
  • Reclaimed wood (beams and flooring re-milled and repurposed).

 

#3: Smaller homes with inventive layouts

The optimum home size for many Americans has been shrinking, and experts predict it will shrink more in the future. But it will feel bigger than it is because the layout will be so practical.

The driving forces behind the small-house movement (millennials purchasing their first home and baby boomers looking to downsize) aren’t interested in formal dining rooms, home offices, guest quarters and other spaces that have only one use and are only occasionally occupied. And they certainly aren’t interested in formal entries, high ceilings and three-car garages. They want an informal house layout, with flexible, adaptable spaces that can be used every day in one way or another.

Many of these homes will also feature a second master bedroom, so parents, children and grandparents can all comfortably live under one roof.

 

#4: Walkable neighborhoods

Even today, homebuyers are willing to give up some of their wants for a new house in order to get a location that’s within walking distance to stores, restaurants and other amenities. In the future, that trend is expected to only grow stronger.

 

#5: The net-zero house

For some time now, homeowners and homebuilders have both been striving to make the structures where we live more energy-efficient (green housing projects accounted for 20% of all newly built homes in 2012). But in the future, the new goal with be a net-zero home: A home that uses between 60 to 70 percent less energy than a conventional home, with the balance of its energy needs supplied by renewable technologies (solar, wind, etc.).

Essentially, these are homes that sustain themselves. While they do consume energy produced by the local utility, they also produce energy of their own, which can be sold back to the utility through a “net metering” program, offsetting the energy purchased.

 

#6 High-tech features

The technology revolution that’s transformed our phones, computers and TVs is going to push further into our homes in the not-too-distant future.

Examples include:

  • Compact robots (similar to the Roomba vacuum) that will clean windows and more.
  • Video feeds inside the oven that will allow you to use your phone to check on what’s cooking.
  • Faucet sensors that detect bacteria in food.
  • Blinds that will automatically open and close depending on the time of day, your habits and the amount of sun streaming through the windows.
  • Refrigerators that will monitor quantities, track expiration dates, provide recipes, display family photos, access the Web, play music, and more.
  • Washers and dryers that can be operated remotely.
  • Appliances that will recognize your spoken commands.
  • Heating and cooling systems that automatically adapt to your movements and can predict your wants.

 

#7: A higher level of security

In the future, home will continue to be a place where we want to feel safe and secure. To accomplish that, you can expect:

  • Sensors that can alert you to water and gas leaks.
  • Facial recognition technology that can automatically determine whether someone on your property is a friend or foe.
  • A smart recognition system that will open the garage door, turn off the security system, unlock the doors and turn on the interior lights when it senses your car approaching.
  • The capability to create the illusion that you’re home and moving about the property when you’re actually someplace else.

 

This is no pipe dream

Many of these products, processes and strategies are already in use. Some are still being tested. And others are only in the incubator stage. But in the not-too-distant future, experts believe they’ll all be available to homeowners across the country.

 

Posted on August 16, 2017 at 11:35 pm
Tania Harmon | Category: Buying, Real Estate Trends, Selling Your Home | Tagged