Advice on buying a little place in a good location.
November 5, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

So I'm thinking of buying a 1 (or maybe 2?) bedroom condo in Washington, DC. Talk to me about the pros and cons of doing this!

I almost certainly can't afford to buy a house in any part of town that I would want to live. I'm looking to buy a 1 bedroom (or if there is a 2 bedroom within my budget) condo most likely in the Capitol Hill Area. I have the following requirements:

Low condo fees, absolute max $300 a month and more like $200.
Walking distance to a metro.
Relatively safe part of the area. I.e. probably Stanton Park or Eastern Market. Outside of the hill, I'm also open to Mt. Vernon Square and its environs.

I've been reading a lot on home buying and the common theme seems to be that condos are god awful investments, especially 1 bedroom apartments.

But that being said I don't get the impression that advice is targeted towards condos in well located urban areas. Do the same rules that apply to condos in general apply to what I am considering?

What pitfalls should I avoid?

What should I be looking for when I'm evaluating buildings and their home owner assocations?

From an investment standpoint should I try to stretch to get a 2 bedroom? (I would probably have to rent out the other room at least during the summer)

I'm leaning towards older buildings because of the lower condo fees and because I don't particularly want to live in super modern condo, but I would seriously consider it if there were convincing financial reasons to do so.
posted by whoaali to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can't help with where to buy, but a couple things this condo owner (in Alexandria, Va.) would like to pass on:
Get a two-bedroom unit if you can; it's much, much harder to sell a one-bedroom than a two.
When it comes to condo fees, does it include utilities? My own condo fee is higher than many, but mine does include all utilities (gas/water/electric/etc.) --- consider that in your budget: would you have to pay the condo fee plus utilities?
posted by easily confused at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2011

Oh yeah: you want a high ratio of owners living there vs. renters/corporation owners, because resident owners tends to result in less destruction (i.e., repair expenses). And a large percentage of commercially-owned units means a large percent of rentals.
posted by easily confused at 2:06 PM on November 5, 2011

Definitely try to get a 2 bedroom near a Metro station if you can, because, even in this market, we get solicitations to sell our two bedroom condo located near two metro stops in Arlington, VA.

If you buy an older condo (we did, and are happy with ours), make sure to check that the condo association has adequate reserve funds for maintenance. You don't want to find yourself facing a hefty special assessment from the condo association sometime if the condo building needs a new roof or some other major structural repairs or replacements.
posted by gudrun at 3:56 PM on November 5, 2011

You should be able to get some sense of the investment value by comparing rent/sales ratio. I live in the area and my impression (though I haven't run the numbers) is that the ratio isn't that out of whack. And prices in the neighborhood have been stable, even over the last 5 years. Of course only buy if you're planning to stay a while, which is what it sounds like from your question.

More importantly, these are the questions you should be asking a half-dozen real estate agents. (And do talk to at least a handful. I went with a highly-recommended agent who didn't particularly impress me. I really wish I has spoke with others.) The answers will inform you about the substance and also help you find a good agent.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:48 PM on November 5, 2011

FWIW, I'm in DC and I've been thinking of getting a condo. Something I keep reminding myself is that there is absolutely no rush to buy. Interest rates will be low for a long time.
posted by kat518 at 7:53 PM on November 6, 2011

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