What Specifically Do You Own?

The terms of condominium ownership sometimes are not exactly clear, simply because owners share more common areas (for example, stairs and hallways) than do townhome owners. The rules enforced by high-rise condo associations are sometimes stiffer, perhaps because residents are living in closer quarters, with many more residents per square foot. Condo owners are responsible for the space inside their own walls, which means they can paint them however they wish. They don't enjoy that same privilege on the outside of their homes, however. "Common areas" are generally defined to include shared hallways, parking lots, any exterior walls and the land on which the condominium development sits, as well as any amenities on premises for the enjoyment of residents.

Condominium associations occasionally receive flak for assuming a dictatorship of sorts, governing what residents can and cannot hang in their windows or place out on their balconies. Unfortunately for the homeowner who just wants to express himself, some areas of the resident's condo which are in view of other residents -- including balconies, patios, carports and sometimes even windows -- are designated "limited common spaces," which means that residents are given general self-governance for those areas of their homes, but with restrictions. In a sense, this desigation is positive because it protects you from having your property used by a neighbor without your consent (for example, someone steals your parking spot, or the neighbor's kids begin using your patio).

 

Monthly Association Dues

The monthly dues residents pay to their homeowners' associations can vary greatly. Take, for example, high-rise condominiums, which often charge several hundred dollars for their association fees. It's important to note, however, that some of these high-rises cover all of their residents' utilities, including electricity, in that monthly fee (depending upon the property, however, your tolerance to heat and cold could be tested if you don't have an autonomous thermostat in your unit). High-rises also typically have a 24-hour desk attendant, which offers a positive (but not infalliable) safety feature. Association fees in low-rise condominiums and townhomes tend to be lower, ranging from $175 to $275 on the lower end to $500 or more on the higher end, depending upon the services offered in exchange for those fees.

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