“Seventy-four million people in the United States (27% of the population)” live in condominiums, according to Sa El at SimplyInsurance.com. Many of these homeowners downsized because of the heavy maintenance needs of single-family houses.
While there is no such thing as a completely maintenance-free home, condos come mighty close. If you’re tired of keeping up the yard and cleaning out the rain gutters, read on for how to live a maintenance-light lifestyle.
Oh, those homeowner associations
There are roughly 358,000 homeowner associations in the U.S., according to the Community Associations Institute.
While we frequently hear the horror stories about homeowner associations (HOAs), we seldom hear about the perks of living in a community managed by one.
Whether your aim is to buy a townhome, co-op or a condo, life in a common interest development (CID) means that you own not only your home, but also an interest in the common areas (community pool, etc.). You also share in the costs of maintaining the community, typically including the exterior of the buildings.
So, you can have a pool but not have to pay to keep it clean and ensure the chemicals are balanced. You can have irrigated and maintained landscaping without paying a gardener.
Maintenance isn’t actually “free”
While you won’t be doing the maintenance, someone will and that someone needs to get paid. Enter, the HOA monthly dues or fees. “Some studies suggest that you can expect to pay HOA monthly fees between $200 and $300. But the real answer is: It depends,” claims Javier Simon, CEPF®, at SmartAsset.com.
“Some HOA fees can drop to $100 a month and some can climb to more than $6,000,” he concludes.
A rule of thumb is to plan on paying from 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent of the value of your home per year.
Part of that money goes into the HOA’s reserve fund to help pay for big problems, such as roofing or pool repairs. Many associations are underfunded for any number of reasons so if reserves are low and an emergency pops up, you may be assessed an additional fee.
This is why it’s so important to read every word of the HOA documents before purchasing a home in a managed community.
Tricking out a single-family home instead
If you just can’t stand the thought of living in a condo or townhome and have your heart set on buying a single-family home there are ways to ensure that it isn’t a constant maintenance headache.
It will never be maintenance-free, but these tips go a long way toward making a house maintenance-light.
- Fiber-cement siding: House Logic’s John Riha claims that fiber-cement siding is not only “the curb appeal champ,” but it doesn’t age, like wood. It requires re-painting every 15 years and has an average life expectancy of at least 50 years.
- Metal roofing: Tough and maintenance-free, Riha says that most come with a 40- or 50-year warranty. He suggests that you “look for baked-on enamel finishes with rust-proof undercoating.”
- Quartz countertops: Homebuyers haven’t quite caught on yet that quartz is a far better choice than granite for the kitchen countertops. They don’t require sealing, they resist scratching and staining and they last about 30 years.
- Ditch the carpet and opt for hardwood or vinyl plank flooring.
- Replace your current gutters with LeafGuard gutters, recommended at BobVilla.com.
- Go low-maintenance with the landscaping by adding more hardscaping in place of high-maintenance plants. Get ideas online at Gardenista.com.
While none of these “fixes” will allow you to get rid of the lawn mower, they will help avoid some of the more common single-family home maintenance headaches.