This makes me think of The Man of La Mancha - The Impossible Dream. While condo dwelling is highly unlikely to be as unpalatable as living in Don Quixote's dungeon, it may not live up to the expectations of the carefree living the Boomer is hoping to obtain.
When retirement finally arrives, many Boomers have plans to spend time traveling, reading, relaxing by a pool, maybe fishing and spending weeks every year at a cottage. Having the big suburban home AND having the freedom to live the nomadic life may not be compatible objectives. This is when the Boomer starts dreaming of moving to a condo. Boomers were brought up to be owners. Condos are a type if shared ownership. Just remember, condos were not likely in existence when the Boomer was an apartment renter and just starting out on his or her own. Some things are going to be a surprise.
In life, there are always trade-offs and compromises. The attraction of a condo is to have the freedom to close your door and take off for months without worrying about your home, to never have to mow the lawn or water the flowers, to have the exterior of your home maintained and to share in the costs of the common parts of the property. The downside is:
- You do not have complete control on the costs. The condo board and members (of which each owner is a member) vote on the expenditures. So, if you decide you no longer will be using the pool and you know that it cost a lot of money to insure and maintain, you do not have the sole right to close the pool. When the roof needs immediate replacing, SURPRISE, unless there is an adequate reserve fund, you too will be have to pay for the roof through a special assessment.
- You do not get to pick your neighbours. What happens if they are loud or play the drums, or have parties every Friday night, or cook weird smelling food? Those neighbours are owners like you so the dispute is between the two (there is no landlord to impose rules and resolve issues).
- You do not make all the rules. Some condos won't allow pets or smoking or Christmas lights or hardwood floors or renovation work after 4:00PM or...... etc etc. Those rules are written in the by-laws. Check those rules before buying BUT also be prepared for new rules to be voted in at the Annual General Meeting.
- You do not have a landlord to check your unit when you are away. In fact, there is no one to let you in if you have lost your keys. Who is the property manager? Can you get ahold of them at 1:00AM when you are locked out? Do you have friends who will look in your unit while you are away? Check your insurance, a vacated unit still needs to be checked to keep the insurance active.
- You do not have control over the common elements. If family and friends come to visit, where are they going to park? You only have so many assigned / purchased parking spots and the visitor parking will, in all likelihood, have limitations of who can park and for how long. Hate the decorating in the lobby? This is not something you can take over. Want more outdoor seating? Take it to the Board.
- You cannot control the value of the condo. Not only are condos subject to market forces but the value of your building or complex is going to be based on the condition of the property - inside the unit (which you control) and outside (which the owners control). Buyers are going to look at special assessments, the engineering reports and the condition of the roof, windows, HVAC, etc. These have not all been within our control.
After living in a suburban home with the independence of total ownership, condo living trades some of this for additional freedoms and peace of mind for not having to be personally responsible for the property.
Don't tilt at the windmills. Make sure that you see the windmill and not your dreams
Photo credit: Windmill