apartment vs. condo living

A couple of weeks ago, and I'm still not entirely clear about how it happened, I began email correspondence with a realtor who was sending me condo listings. Mike and I walked through an open house just to check it out when we were going by and saw the sign, and before I was really sure what happened we were condo shopping. I haven't committed to any realtor, we haven't even had a single conversation with a loan officer or any such person. We spent the better part of Sunday looking at places, wandering through Jersey City and Hoboken, going to the open houses. We may do the same thing in Brooklyn or Queens next Sunday, if we decide to keep looking.

I guess the main issues are that we're sick of throwing away rent money without getting anything back, and we're sick of big complex living. Our lease is up in a couple of months and we're trying to decide whether to renew it or not. We'd like to move to a brownstone, row house, duplex, something along those lines. Something more independent and more private. Maybe, if we're lucky, with a cute little fenced in backyard.

I really like our apartment. I don't like the big building complex, but I like our apartment. Aside from the monthly rent and utilities, we don't have to come up with huge amounts of money for things like a down payment. We don't have to move. If the economy continues southward and we lose our jobs we're not stuck with a mortgage. It's comfortable.

But right now is a great time to buy if we could do it. Property values and list prices have been falling. The sticker shock of the absolutely unreal price of homes around here is starting to wear off after looking at the numbers so many times. It would be so great to have something that is ours.

Obviously I am torn. So this is where you come in. Give me your best advice. I'll even take all the assvice you have to offer. Tell me everything you know. What's good and bad about owning? Renting? What should we know before we decide whether to dive deeper into this search? No matter how big or small an issue or something we should know in the home search or in the decision whether to do it, let's have it.

Thanks in advance. And Happy St. Patrick's Day!


maresi said...

One thing to consider is that our utilities went WAY up living in a house as compared to our apt. A/C, heat, etc all increase when you don't share walls with other people. But if you guys can swing it with a down payment, and then moving costs, with extra built in for stuff that goes wrong (and things WILL break) - and can get a good safe mortgage that's not going to wreck you, go for it. If we were in the town we planned on settling in, I'd buy a house tomorrow.

Amy said...

Anything we buy here will still share walls with other people. Though we are leaning toward brownstones and duplexes, rather than a condo in a big building, we'll still have upstairs and/or downstairs neighbors, and a building on each side sharing the wall. But it might still have more exposure to the elements than where we are now, so that's a good point.

Also forgot to mention the monthly maintenance fees you have to pay on top of the mortgage and taxes here. Seems to range from $300 - $1000 per month, depending on the building. That would probably cover any building/exterior repairs, but not any inside our apartment.

Katherine said...

Is Mike a handy guy? Remember the water heater problem - that would be your mess to deal with if you owned. But is sure is nice to have your own place that you can do what you want, and also to feel like you aren't throwing money away each month. You should move to Indiana - you could buy a mansion for what you probably are paying now, and then you could visit Julia any time!!!

Fizzgig said...

as a single gal, i looked for condos extensively. My problem is, i couldnt afford anything nice on my own. Nothing bigger than what i rent, I live in a fourplex, and have a garage, washer/dryer, two floors, and a nice yard. I'd want something I own to at least match that.

The condo fees got me, and the fact that I couldnt plant in the flower beds in the lawn that my owned condo would live on.

But the thrill of home ownership? priceless!!!

Thais said...

GOOD:-- We went for an FHA loan, got a low locked in rate and our mortgage payment is probably less the rent we would pay for a smaller place we dont own in this area. Our mortgage would be a stretch if one of us lost our jobs, however we oculd manage it on one salary if we cut out any extra and luxuries (and considering we have the tendency to live like gangsters, we have placesi n our budget we could cut)...and you have to live somewhere!
-_ you own it. its equity. it makes your credit good and you arent putting money away each month into something you will never get any equity back from...it also gives you a sense of accomplishment
-- you can do whatever you want to it
-- its kind of a nice hobby---taking care of your house
-- after getting pretty much notihing from my tax return last year, we got an AWESOME check from the government
-- you can own whatever pet you want (taht was important to me)

-- something always breaks---i now own all brand-new appliances --there isnt a super to fix it or a complex to pay for it
-- you will always have a mortgage payment (however, you most likely will always have rent , but you are able ot move to a smaller cheaper place, if need be)
-- maintanence bills ---utilities, taxes, water, plumbing , landscaping, roof repairs etc etc

PS- if oyu need a mortgage guy, ours was really good

Thais said...

oh and PPS- don forget to figure out how you are oging to pay for closing costs---they are RIDICULOUS!!!! we paided something like 11,000 for closing!!!!! somehow some of it got wrapped into our loan, b/c we just didnt have an extra 11,000....also i cried the day we signed the mortgage, becusae i felt like it was the biggest decision of our lives!! but, for us at least, it was one of the best ones

Anonymous said...

Amy - Lots of good advice here - especially having a cash cushion for those unknowns and unexpecteds. Don't skimp on professional inspections. Also you and Mike have a history of making good decisions so keep looking and see what else is available and I look forward to a HAPPY HOUSEWARMING!!!!!

Anonymous said...

OOOOOOOOPSSSSSSSSSSSSS!! I meant to sign that: gg

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