With any big life change, there’s a certain degree of blind faith. Sure, you ask people who have gone through the same experience (see: MyFirstCondo.com), but often these big changes amount to trial by fire. Looking back with the wisdom of a veteran (almost 2 years!) condo owner, there are many things I wish I’d known BEFORE we bought our first condo. Like, the below.
1) Hi, Slush Fund.
The biggest difference between an apartment and a condo, is that you the mortgage holder are responsible for EVERYTHING. If your AC breaks down? That’s a $100 assessment visit, plus the cost it actually takes to fix the air conditioner. That may sound like a once in a couple year expense, but we also noticed that any time in rains, our bedroom window starts leaking. Where as we used to be able to call our landlord…now we have to call up our Chase bank account and hold our breath. As a solve, we’ve started putting $200 month in a joint checking account, mainly for our condo. That way, the $$ hurts less.
2) Your Mortgage can (and will) be sold at any time
Recently, I had to call my credit card company to verify my identity. One of the questions was asking me about my mortgage and which company owned it. I started laughing on the spot – it’s been bought and sold 4 times in 1.5 years. It doesn’t affect the borrowers, but it’s sure been a bit of a mess trying to determine who to pay and when!
3) Escrow accounts are frequently mandatory
Unless you are mega-wealthy, you will likely need to add a monthly tax escrow payment to your budget and sometimes your lender may also require you to have an escrow for your homeowner’s insurance. I thought my stellar credit score would make this an opt-in only measure; clearly, I was responsible enough to get a good loan rate, right? WRONG. Most people with mortgages have to pay for their taxes in advance (and likely overpay) because your lender wants to make sure you’re good for it and won’t end up losing your mortgage over taxes. Which, if the lender were my parent might be cool. Since they’re not, this falls squarely under the #annoying column.
4) Your neighbors matter
On the plus side, there are fewer all-night raggers in condo units because typically those that dwell in condos are older and get crazy hangovers now (Or, maybe that’s just me!). But, whereas with apartment neighbors, who come and go based on their lease, with condo neighbors, there’s a good chance many will be living under the same roof for years on end. This can be great – my neighbors on the whole are lovely and super helpful – but it’s also harder to get over pet peeves because they’re with you for the long hall.
5) Your neighborhood matters
I did not expect to feel the amount of pride I feel in my neighborhood. Sure, I like it – I chose to live here – but I feel a small amount of ownership over it. This makes me want to get involved in things like landscaping our local park and think about joining a local choir.
I should preface this by noting that I’ve been a vagrant since college. A new apartment a year, a new city…I was exploring. Putting down roots was surprisingly easy and volunteering time turned out to be an easy way to make new acquaintances. Or, joining a rec- league. Or, getting a dog (or volunteering to walk your sister’s).
When buying the Condo, I thought I was investing in four walls and what lay between them. It’s neat to have invested in so much more.