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    The Condo Life is Perfect for Some

    A day doesn’t go by that that a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional doesn’t get questions from their clients about condominium ownership.

    Condominium homes, also called condos,  are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. Anyone interested in a condominium as an alternative to a traditional single-family home should consider a condominium’s unique issues before buying. Buying a condominium offers many unique benefits as well.

    Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up Saturdays mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away traveling on business or for pleasure.

    A condominium is a viable alternative for any Myrtle Beach real estate buyer looking for a primary home or second home. Some recent changes in condominium mortgage finance have made buying one easier than ever.

    Condominium basics: what is a Condo?

    What is a condominium? If you ask most people to explain, they’ll tell you, “It’s like an apartment or townhouse, but you own it.” Or, “It’s like a home, but without a yard.” While both descriptions are mostly true, there’s a lot more to a condominium than just the condo versus apartment question, especially for homebuyers prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a permanent place to live.

    A condominium is a private residence owned by an individual homeowner or family in a building or community with multiple units or townhouses. Although they are usually part of a larger high-rise building, “detached condominiums” also exist.

    With condominiums, homeowners own everything in their unit on the inside of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the land, landscaping, lobby, halls, common decks, parking areas, and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the housing complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscaping, grounds up-keep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

    What all condos have in common is that all the units share common areas – such as yards, garages, tennis courts, swimming pools, rec rooms, or gyms – with other units. The individual condominium owners are not individually responsible for common area maintenance, making building upkeep that much easier.

    For this convenience, individual unit owners pay dues to the board – typically made up of elected condominium owners – who handle the hiring of landscapers, pool cleaners, and any other professionals for anything that must be remedied, from faulty elevators to squirrel attic infestations.  Generally, the HOA is responsible for leaky pipes and plumbing and/or roof repairs. If it’s outside a unit’s walls, it’s the board’s responsibility to fix it.

    The owners of the individual units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is usually run by a volunteer Board of Directors who manages the day to day operations and maintenance of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety of its members, and protect and maintain the value of the owner’s investment. The condominium association decides whether pets are allowed in the building and the hours the condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms will be open. Should a major expense occur, the association can charge a special assessment and all owners are responsible for paying their fair share.

    To Buy or Not to Buy. Here’s how to decide

    Most folks interested in Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand real estate easily understand why condominiums are ideal for people who want to own a piece of real estate but don’t want to worry about yard work and maintenance. The condos versus apartments choice is usually an easy choice for retirees, young adults without kids, or anyone who would prefer to own property in Myrtle Beach where the cost of detached, single-family homes on the water is just too far out of reach for most folks. Some potential condominium owners might be interested in an amenity package. There’s also more of a community to be found in a condominium development compared with an apartment building or a single-family, detached subdivision.

    “Mortgage interest rates in today’s market are extremely low. Most individuals able to afford a $2,500-a-month apartment or townhouse could easily afford a mortgage of $500,000. Monthly payments would be similar if not the same,” points out Realtor® Steve Alston. “Depending on the area and whether or not the buyer was Myrtle Beach real estate savvy, the unit would appreciate during the length of ownership. In a rental, there is no opportunity for a return on investment. It’s essentially throwing money away.”

    Anyone interested in buying a condominium should investigate the condominium association rules (called covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs) and any additional extra costs such as HOA fees or association fees. They should also be sure to check out the use restrictions of each amenity before committing to a purchase.

    The Pros and Cons of the Condominium Lifestyle

    There are many benefits to the condominium lifestyle, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Whether the condominium lifestyle works for a homeowner depends on the owner’s current lifestyle as well as the homeowner’s planned and anticipated future lifestyle. By necessity, condominium associations have a number (sometimes many) standardized rules. Sometimes the association rules can be very restrictive. A potential condominium owner should decide whether these regulations are something that they can (quite literally) live with. Here are a few factors that every potential condominium homeowner should consider if they are considering condominium living.

    Convenience: People who live in condominiums and love it always talk about the convenience. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, building upkeep, and security. Condominium homes in the Myrtle Beach area are often centrally located in areas where restaurants, groceries, entertainment, and the beach are just a short walk away. Steve Alston, a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Realtor, has a client who is an active single woman living in a condominium in North Myrtle Beach. Steve’s client says she often goes for more than a week without starting her car.

    Luxury amenities: Many condominiums offer a wide variety of amenities that most homeowners couldn’t afford on their own. Steve’s client’s condominium offers a fitness center, a clubhouse, roof-top sundecks, and a swimming pool. The Lobby of her condominium building rivals some of Myrtle Beach’s four-star hotels, making a great impression on her visitors.

    Privacy: Since any condominium shares common walls and floors with the units of other condominium owners, there is a less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, residents may still occasionally hear your neighbors. In actuality, the noise isn’t much more than living in a single-family subdivision with the neighbor’s kids playing across the backyard fence or the neighbor’s teenager driving his souped-up hot rod down the street at night or the neighbor cutting his grass at 8:00 in the morning. Condominiums don’t have more noise, only different noise.

    Space: Except for very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well. Steve Alston’s client says she had to make some tough decisions when she downsized but in the end, she says she’s a lot happier having simplified her life.

    Autonomy: Condominium owners are required to follow all the rules of their condominium’s homeowners’ association whether they like them or not. That means giving up a certain amount of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. HOA bylaws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive.

    Things to Consider When Buying

    Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits the buyer’s lifestyle. Here are a few considerations to determine whether a condominium is the best choice.

     How Will It Be Used? 

     Will a condominium be the homebuyer’s primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect getaway. A Georgetown doctor owns two one-bedroom condominiums in North Myrtle Beach. One is a rental unit and the other is his personal refuge from his hectic life. Also, condominium buyers should consider how a lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If the condominium buyer is close to retirement, they may want the option of turning a larger vacation condominium into a permanent retirement home.

    The Most Important Amenities

    Amenities vary from location to location. With all the options available, when most condominium buyers decide what they want they are nearly assured of finding it. Many Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand resort condominiums have a tempting array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

    Unique Needs

    For Myrtle Beach homebuyers who own a pet or want a pet, some associations don’t allow them, and others have limitations on breed and size. Most buildings have a rental cap, so it’s critical to know how the cap works if the unit is being bought as an investment. A rental cap is a limit on the number or percentage of units within a condominium community that can be leased to tenants by the owners at any given time. Not every HOA needs or wants a rental cap. But in some cases, limiting the number of units that can be rented can have significant impact on the community.  Parking can also be an issue, so it’s important to understand how many spaces are assigned to each unit.

    Cost

    Condominium homes typically cost less than free-standing single-family houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. But since condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations like beachfront and Intracoastal Waterway front, and since sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

    And Buying a Condominium Just Got Easier

    This fall, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued revisions to its condominium lending rules. In 2009 HUD began predicating FHA condominium loans on the approval of the entire project meeting certain minimum guidelines. The HUD rules were made a bit more flexible in 2012.  In 2018, they were modified again.

    The most significant change is that individual unit buyers will be able to obtain Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans even if the homeowners association is not HUD-approved. In non-HUD-approved HOAs, up to 20 percent of its members could qualify individually for FHA loans if the HOA meets certain criteria.

    The new rules are also more flexible with an association’s renewal process. Approved associations will now renew every three years instead of the current two-year cycle. That means renewals will be simpler, allowing associations to update the information on file rather than submit a full reapplication.

    Particularly important for Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand condominiums, the new regulations make owner-occupancy requirements more flexible.  HUD rules will allow the granting of special exceptions from the normal minimum of at least 50 percent owner-occupied condominiums to as low as 30 percent. Homes occupied part-time by their owners will be counted as “owner-occupied,” allowing for more flexible mortgage terms and lower rates.

    While the general HUD rule is that a maximum of 25 percent of the floor space in a project can be non-residential units with exceptions granted up to 35 percent, under the new rule HUD can grant special exceptions up to a maximum of 55 percent of the floor space.

    HUD predicts the changes will create eligibility for 20,000 to 60,000 more condominium units annually, but it is unclear how much this will actually impact the HOA housing sector. HUD’s web site https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/condo1.cfm lists about 60 Myrtle Beach condominium associations presently approved for FHA loans.

    Condominiums in Myrtle Beach

    From the northern end of the Grand Strand on the North Carolina border in Little River to about 60 miles south in Pawleys Island, homebuyers can choose from thousands of condominiums. Price is, of course, a consideration and oceanfront and Intracoastal Waterway demand the highest price.

    With the Myrtle Beach being one of America’s most popular vacation resort areas, many condominium buyers invest in condominiums for the rental income that comes with it. Keller Williams The Trembley Group Realtors frequently offer condominiums on the resorts with the most stable homeowner’s associations and ones that are the most popular with vacationers. Contact Keller Williams The Trembley Group for advice before making what could potentially be a costly mistake.

    With more than 100 championship golf courses, the Grand Strand offers condos and townhouses on almost every golf course as well.  Golf course living is peaceful, scenic, and frequently gated and secure. While a golf course condominium may have an occasional rental opportunity, instead of primarily an income-producing investment, golf condominiums are generally used by their owners as a primary residence or secondary vacation home. Prices of most of the golf course condominiums are generally quite reasonable.

    Whether a primary residence, a vacation home, or a rental investment property; Keller Williams The Trembley Group offers condominiums to suit everyone’s needs and taste.

    Finally, once a home seeker has found the ideal property, they should examine the association’s declaration, rules, regulations, and bylaws to make sure they fit their personal needs. The association will provide an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

    An experienced real estate professional is invaluable in this regard. Steve Alston’s client says, “Steve Alston was a good listener and understood exactly what I wanted, what I needed, and what was important to me. Steve understood my priorities. I never would have thought to ask to see the condo association’s meeting minutes from the past year. Reading the minutes gave me an idea of the issues the association is working on. And Steve’s analysis of sales demand and property appreciation of similar units helped me buy my unit with confidence that I was making the very best possible investment.”

     

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