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Old 08-12-2011, 08:12 AM
Location: Burbs near Philly
191 posts, read 847,568 times
Reputation: 109


Hi all! I need some advice. I'm torn between putting in an offer between two townhouse style condos I'm looking to buy. Sorry in advance for the lengthy post!

About me:
- I'm single, 24, going to live alone or maybe with a potential roommate in the future.
- I have time to do renovations such as painting/updating lighting, but I've never done it so there will be a learning curve.

Condo similarities:
- Both are townhome-style (I only share common side walls, not floors)
- Both are in the same condo community & share the same HOA
- Both have electric heat/AC
- Both have had roof repairs by the condo association within the past 7 years (covered by HOA fee)
- Both condos are 35 years old

Condo #1 - bigger, but not renovated
Condo #1 was very obviously owned by an older couple. It doesn't look like they've changed the carpets, kitchen, walls, etc. since the condos were built. It's the steriotypical senior's home. Think purple carpets, stark-white walls, floral wallpaper, very dated kitchen.
- 1900 sq. feet
- 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths
- Asking $150k
- Pro: Washer, dryer, fridge, and stove included in price (they're dated, but functioning)
- Pro: Fully finished basement with a walk out back porch (the home is on a hill)
- Pro: Private balcony on the 1st floor level w/retractable awning
- Con: Carpets would have to be replaced throughout the house (not the basement since it's tile)
- Con: Walls are dirty & need paint
- Con: flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms I'd like to redo as it's old and ugly
- Con: Wall fixtures such as lighting are super dated and I'd like to replace these as well
- Con: Home is located nearest to the road & faces the road so you can hear passing traffic

Condo #2 - smaller, but renovated
Condo #2 is owned by a family who are in their late 20s, early 30s. The house is immaculate inside and beautifully decorated. Carpets are new and pristine, updated kitchen, walls are neutrally decorated and beautiful.
- 1400 sq. feet
- 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths
- Asking $165k
- Con: Washer/dryer/fridge not included. Stove included.
- Con: No basement. Storage is kind of lacking. There are no walk in closets for storage of boxes/holiday decor, etc. Just regular-sized closets.
- Con: Back porch view is just a parking lot and another building behind me. So the back yard is not at all private.
- Pro: Walls immaculate. Floors are classy stone tile. Carpets are new. Marble kitchen countertops.
- Pro: It's move in ready. I'd have zero work to do in this place.

Any thoughts on debating between these two condos? Which one would you pick?

Last edited by soraji; 08-12-2011 at 09:15 AM..
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Old 08-12-2011, 08:52 AM
Location: Newton, MA
324 posts, read 944,201 times
Reputation: 272
I can see why you're torn.

#1 would be a better investment IF you were up to the task of all those fixes. Some things are easy: painting (DIY) and carpet replacement (hire someone) are super simple. But, some of those things you mentioned are pretty major jobs. Flooring in the bathrooms and kitchen is no easy task. All those things add up. Check out how much new light fixtures cost, for example. Do you have spare 20-30K lying around? If so, maybe #1 would be an option.

I think in your situation, I'd probably go with #2, because any home is going to require work even if it's in pristine shape. You can paint your colors, add closet organizers, etc. How much storage do you really need? How many boxes of holiday decor do you really have? Also, if you want the appliances, you can ask for them in your offer. If they say no, you can use that to negotiate a lower price. With condo #1 you'd end up replacing all the appliances anyway.

Good luck!
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Old 08-12-2011, 08:57 AM
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
1,271 posts, read 4,684,140 times
Reputation: 1127
I personally would go with the larger unit if the changes are only cosmetic and maybe eventually replacing appliances and not structural issues. You already know with the smaller unit you will need to do appliances at the get go. Plus while the small unit may have the pretties, you could do the larger unit exactly to your taste. Storage and outdoor space would be big for me.

Also looks can be deceiving. While the smaller unit may show better, they may be low end upgrades.

Just my opinion. You are the one who has to make it your home. Good luck on whichever new place you choose.
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:21 AM
Location: Danbury CT covering all of Fairfield County
2,293 posts, read 6,087,463 times
Reputation: 1109
Go for the bigger unit & have your agent pull comps to see if the unit that needs updating priced according. Try to negoiate money toward closing costs so you can have funds cash available for improvement.
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Old 08-12-2011, 12:25 PM
Location: Simmering in DFW
6,948 posts, read 19,797,434 times
Reputation: 7211
I would keep shopping. Neither sounds exactly right for you. Why are you interested in this specific community....
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:20 PM
Location: Morrisville
1,168 posts, read 2,179,619 times
Reputation: 1114
You should make this a poll and YOU MUST abide by the reccomendations of anonymous strangers that have never seen the properties in question.

I keed I keed.

I would go with option #1 and take the $15k to use for renovations.

Answer me this though....HONESTLY....Are you REALLY going to make your decision based on what people say in this thread OR have you already made up your mind you're just trying to see if it's the right one?
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:37 PM
Location: Barrington
48,388 posts, read 35,185,136 times
Reputation: 15948
I would punt on both until I had a thorough understanding of the association's financial picture. Have they had a reserve study done? What percentage are they funded?

Everything eventually wears out and must be replaced. It's predictable and yet so many associations are underfunded meaning that when the time comes, there's going to be a special assessment.

If the only common element were a fence that's 12 years old with an estimated remaining useful life of say 3 years and it's going to cost $50K to replace it, well by golly, there should be at least $40K in reserves, right now and a plan to accrue the rest over the next 3 years.
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Old 08-12-2011, 03:04 PM
64 posts, read 172,891 times
Reputation: 48
I can see why you're torn. If you buy #1, will you have enough cash to do some immediate improvements - like new carpeting? Although, for probably about the price of buying a new appliances for #2, you could re-carpet #1.

At 24, it is probably hard to know how long you'll stay in you're new place. #1 could be a fun project, if you think you'll be there for awhile and you really do have the time and inclination to peel wallpaper, paint walls, change fixtures. (I'd leave flooring a larger projects to the experts.) Although when I bought my first place at about age 29, I realized pretty quickly I didn't want a fixer-up (even if was all cosmetic). I think emotionally I couldn't connect the fixer-upers and wanted something "shiney" for my first purchase. That worked out well though because I ended up falling in love and getting married about 2 years later and sold the place. Luckily, because it was pretty "shiney" it was easy to sell (and the market was great back then).
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:51 AM
2,879 posts, read 6,920,119 times
Reputation: 1172
#1--easy choice.
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Old 08-13-2011, 12:47 PM
5,702 posts, read 16,486,944 times
Reputation: 8583
My concern with #1 would be the proximity to the road. My concern with #2 is the lack of a basement if other condos on the development have them. Have your agent pull recent comps to see if #2 is over priced because it has cosmetic updates.
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