Condominiums: What You Need to Know

By Chip Browne, Real Estate School of South Carolina

Lately, condominiums have become one of the hottest commodities in the South Carolina real estate market. More and more consumers are considering purchasing them for several positive reasons. But, before we discuss their pros and cons, it may be helpful to answer a basic question: Just what is a condominium?

In South Carolina, a condominium often tends to be an apartment type dwelling where the consumer owns the airspace within the unit and has limited control of the wall space. With some exceptions, the owner does not own the structure itself or the tract of land under and surrounding the condominium facility. However, each individual owner shares the common areas and amenities outside the apartment. The extent of usage can vary, depending on each individual condominium project. To maintain and enhance the facility is the responsibility of the condominium "regime" or HOA (Home Owners Association).

There are several positive features of condominium ownership. Initially, simplicity is a word to link to this type of dwelling. Typically, condominiums are one, two or three bedroom units that require far less maintenance than an average free standing home. You don't have to worry about mowing the lawn or painting the building - that's normally taken care of by the HOA or a management company hired by them.

Security is another potential advantage of condominium ownership. Each owner needs a special key or code to enter the main building and then another key (or code) to enter the unit. Further, many condominium home owner associations hire security companies to guard the facility.

Recently in South Carolina, condominiums have begun to appear in a variety of enticing locations. While condominiums have been a part of South Carolina's coast for decades, more and more are now offering spectacular views of our lakes, rivers and city skylines. A trend is emerging whereby many senior citizens and baby boomers are moving back into our cities from suburbs and rural areas to take advantage of dwellings offering convenience, simplicity and even lower costs.

However, there can be some disadvantages for the individual consumer to consider. Condominium ownership involves a degree of compromise. As an owner, you can vote on various changes, improvements and fees linked to the facility. However, once a decision is made by the HOA, it may not please everyone.

Obviously, if you love the wide open spaces, massive lawns and riding lawnmowers, condominium living is not going to appeal to you.

Another caution: regardless of the initial cost of buying or financing a condominium, you will have to pay monthly regime fees for maintenance and, perhaps, an occasional special assessment for an expensive improvement, such as a new roof or atrium.

Before you purchase any condominium, try to contact a few of the current owners to ascertain what they like and don't like. Their revelations may well influence your decision.

Some other factors to consider are cost and location. Some condominiums are better buys than others. Of course, better views cost more. What are your preferences? For example, do you prefer your bedroom to be bathed in morning sun or do you relish a gorgeous sunset? Does the unit offer either? How high do you want your apartment to be? You can have many different vistas depending on the unit's location within the building.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, but now your choices are more varied and exciting. And, as recent developments indicate, the future for condominiums in South Carolina will only get brighter.

By Chip Browne