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To buy a house or Condo?

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017 at 11:39am Shell Admin Cayman Islands

Trying to decide to buy a home or a condo? What are the main differences?

In Cayman, we call apartments something that you can rent and usually the whole complex is owned by one owner and one title.

You can also rent a condo or villa, which is like an apartment but the complex most likely has a lot of different owners, some live in owners other owners purchase for investment and rent it out long term or short term.

Everyone says location, location, location is the key to real estate, that is true and the second primary issue for a buyer is should you buy a condominium with shared communal property or a home with your garden, you would own the house and all the land on that parcel title. However, condo ownership is inside the property only, and you share a portion of the land where the condo sits along with common area such as a garden, pool, parking lot.

Homeowners purchase the house and the land underneath, whereas condo ownership includes only the living space inside of the condo unit and a portion of the common area of the condo building. Typically, a home costs more than a condo depending on the area.

Buying it depends on your lifestyle and how your family lives.

House Pros: The number one reason why people buy a home is they want privacy and don't want to be bossed around and follow stupid rules such as constructions or remodels. Some rules are there for everyone benefit, and others just don't make sense. With a home, you have extra space that families like and you can also have a dog or a cat. In a house, there is a lot more storage space in closets, attics and you can have a garage. Another reason people like to buy a home is they think they can avoid paying strata fees. However, that is not true, you still have to pay all the same expenses, but you will have complete control over how you spend your money.

House Cons: Some negatives of owning a house is that you are 100% responsible for all the upkeep and maintenance. If you are doing your maintenance, you will have to buy tools and equipment that you would not usually need. Another con to purchasing a home is the utility bills are generally more expensive because there is square footage of a house and also you do not share the cost of common area lighting, water, landscaping costs. For example, Logic Cayman and Flow Cayman, C3 Cayman all offer bulk packages to condo complex making it less expensive. Another con is you have to worry about security if it is your second home, is the pool overflowing or the water evaporate? Has the pool guy come to clean it? Or have the landscapers picked up the dead palm trees? If you buy a vacation home in Cayman, then it won't be your principal residence, and it is easy just to lock up a condo and have the security. However, a there are security cameras, and the new doorbell called Ring so you can see who is at your front door if you are sitting at your home in Boca Raton, Florida or Hong Kong.

Condo Pros: Many couples enjoy condo living because it offers more freedom. In the Cayman Islands, we have what is called Strata fees in the United States they call them HOA or homeowners association fees. One can lock up and leave and not have to worry about finding house sitters to take care of the home. Some condos have resort-like amenities, like pools, gyms, bowling alleys, games rooms, movie theatre rooms that would just be too expensive to have in a house.

Condo Cons: One downside to condo life is the Strata Fees, which you must pay after you pay your mortgage. You have no control over how the strata Ex Co (that is the Executive Committee that everyone gets to vote on the board every year. The decide how to spend your money, what improvements that are needed and what are wished for. Those fees can get expensive. Sometimes all owners agree, and often there are disagreements about how the money is spent. If you are buying into a condo scheme, make sure you as your CIREBA Agent in Cayman to share with you the last two years of AGM, (Annual General Meeting Minutes), so you will understand what strata Ex Co is doing or not do. Also, review the P&L and Balance Sheet of the Strata Corporation and ask questions about any line item you do not understand. Also, very important is to read the Strata By-Laws for that complex they are all a little different, and some are old and have not been changed with times. For example, most condos do not allow pets even, Service Dogs, which is a potential rights abuse in Grand Cayman. There is one condo complex that did not allow tile or hardwood flooring in bedrooms, and there was no mention of soundproofing I guess that didn't exist in 1980! Make sure to read the Rules and Regulations of the property you wish to purchase; those are the general rules that the ExCo have made up and are guidelines unless they are written in the strata bylaws and passed by a 2/3 majority (check each strata bylaws) and voted on they are just requests.

Heidi Kiss, Broker, License Partner and Advisor

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