When you think of buying a home of your own, what do you picture? Many people conjure up the image of a detached, single-family house. There's a yard in front and back, perhaps a fence around the property. That may be a great situation for a lot of folks, but there are other options out there - other types of properties you can call your own. Depending on your situation and goals, you may find something other than a single-family house makes the most sense for you.
You get many of the same benefits from owning a condo as owning a single-family home. You can deduct your mortgage interest and property taxes from your federal income taxes if you itemize, and you increase your personal wealth as you build equity. You also have more control over your future. If you own a condo, there is no landlord to increase your rent or tell you to vacate the property because the owner has decided to occupy it.
When you live in a condo, you avoid some of the maintenance and upkeep issues that come with a house. You'll pay a monthly condo association fee for that convenience, but you won't have to mow the yard, water or replace the plants, paint the exterior, and other tasks associated with owning a single-family house. Your association fee also goes toward repairs and routine maintenance. Remember, this money keeps the property well-maintained and protects the value of your property.
You may also get to enjoy amenities like a pool, clubhouse, or workout room. If a property has extensive upscale amenities that you don't think you'll use, you might prefer to look elsewhere. Condo association fees can vary greatly and generally, the more things to keep up, the higher the fees.
Don't forget that condominiums often share walls. Living in close contact with your neighbors has advantages and drawbacks. If you've ever lived in a condo or apartment, you have a good feel for those. Be realistic with yourself when you decide if a condo is a good choice for you. Also, don't assume that a condo will cost less than a detached house. There are upscale condos and inexpensive houses, just like there are upscale houses and inexpensive condos.
Duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes are another good option. Though some people own small multifamily properties solely for investment purposes, others find it advantageous to purchase a property, live in one of the units, and rent out the others. You may decide you like this arrangement solely for the financial aspects of it, or it may work well if you have a relative or friend that you'd like living close by.
In this scenario, remember that you are not only a homeowner but a landlord as well. That comes with benefits (a monthly rent check, equity that continues to build) and responsibilities (making repairs, finding tenants).
It's also possible to purchase half of a duplex - or one unit of some other multifamily property. You might hear properties of this type referred to as townhomes. Which brings me to an important point: Regardless of what a property is commonly called - condo, co-op, loft apartment, townhome, garden home - it's important to know what legal definitions and documents govern the purchase and ownership of the property. It's equally important to know what those definitions and documents mean when it comes to your continued expenses and the rights of ownership you will enjoy.
Your Realtor can help you find a property that fits your needs and help you understand what is involved in purchasing and owning a home.
Whether you're interested in buying your first home, your next home, or just want to know more about home-ownership in general, I encourage you to check out a couple of great online resources: http://www.texasrealestate.com/ or http://www.har.com/ and for all of your Pearland TX and Northern Brazoria and Galveston County real estate needs, please visit my site at http://www.danfrankrealty.com/. All of these sites offer tons of useful, real estate-related information geared specifically for Texans.
Danny Frank is a local Pearland TX Real Estate expert
This column was published in the 30Nov08 edition of the Galveston County Daily News