According to a recent study, single women now make up about 47 percent of the condominium market. Why are condos so popular with women?

Try security, convenience, and near-maintenance free living.

For single women living alone, many condominiums offer such security features as round-the-clock doormen, a live-in engineer (or two, if there are several condo buildings on the property), and either attached, enclosed, or gated parking.

The convenience factor is important as well. In many condo developments, someone is there to receive packages, dry cleaning, and other deliveries. Larger condominium properties may offer a small grocery store, dry cleaners, car washing, and other services that make life a little easier for working women.

Single family homes require ongoing maintenance. Your house may need painting every three to five years, and weekly yard work. If you live in a snowy climate, there’s winter work as well.

While you’re financially responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a condominium’s common area, typically condo associations oversee the day-to-day management of the property. So if the roof leaks, individual condo owners aren’t called upon to find someone to fix it. (Of course, if you want to volunteer for the maintenance committee, you’ll probably be welcome.)

But if you’ve never lived in a condominium (or co-op) before, protect yourself by checking out these items before you make your offer:

Building rules and regulations. Most condos have a long list of association rules and regulations by which you’ll have to agree to abide if you purchase in the building. These rules may limit the number, type, and weight of pets; how many visitors you can have at any one time; how often – and for how long – you can rent out your unit (if at all); when and how you can reserve the patio, sundeck, party room, or building barbeque grill; when you can have work done in your unit; and, what day you can close and move into your unit. Ask the listing broker for the complete set of building rules and regulations.

Noisy – and nosy – neighbors. If you’re going to live happily in a condominium, you’ll need to like aggregate living – that is, having neighbors above, below and on the sides. Neighbors can be noisy, so it’s best to visit the unit you like at various times of the day and evening to assess the noise factor. Make sure you find out who will be living above and below, and which of your walls would adjoin which of your neighbor’s rooms. While it’s unlikely your neighbors will have their ears pressed up against those adjoining walls, expect some building gossip to filter your way as your meet and get to know your neighbors. If the idea that people you don’t know will be talking about you, you may wish to rethink your condo plans.

Minutes and budgets. Ask to see the past two years worth of condo board meeting minutes, as well as the last two years’ of budgets and the current year’s projected budget. Read the minutes carefully to find out whether there are any large-scale improvement projects that the building is planning, and how much those might cost. You should also look for signs that a special assessment (a fee levied above and beyond your monthly assessment) is in the works. Is the building fiscally responsible? Take a look at the line-item budget and whether or not the building is able to accurately project its annual maintenance costs.

Mortgages and assessments. Typically, a condominium will levy a monthly assessment to pay for common area elements, such as the lobby, parking lot, security, and any building employees, such as doormen, parking lot attendants or building engineers. What many first-time condo buyers don’t realize is that the amount of your monthly assessment has a direct impact on how much you can afford to spend on your mortgage. For example, if your lender said you could spend $1,000 per month on your mortgage, homeowner’s insurance premium and real estate taxes, and the monthly assessment of the condo you want to buy is $150, you’ll only be able to spend $850 on your mortgage, taxes and insurance. In other words, the amount of the assessment is subtracted from the total amount you can spend on your mortgage, taxes and insurance.

Price appreciation. Generally, condominiums appreciate less quickly than single family homes. But that national information doesn’t mean as much on the local level. For example, if you look in a neighborhood in which there are only condominiums, your condo should appreciate at the neighborhood rate. Some neighborhoods that are made up mostly of condos have shown some of the strongest price appreciation over the past five years.

Know your neighborhood. Condominiums tend to be located in urban areas where either young, working families or empty-nester couples reside. Make sure you know your neighborhood inside and out before you make an offer on a condominium. Because as hard as it is to move a house from its location, it sure is easier than trying to move a 50-unit condo building.

Published: Nov 5, 2001