Why I Invest in Condos & Townhomes Over Single Family Residences [Spoiler: The Numbers Convince Me!]

by | BiggerPockets.com

In the five years I’ve been investing in real estate, I’ve come across a very common misconception: that condominiums and townhomes make poor investments. In general, I’ve never been a fan of blanket statements, and this situation is no different. It entirely depends on your local market, but I’m here to argue that condos and townhomes can in fact make good investments.

Most investors steer clear because of the presence of a homeowners association (HOA) fee that is typically required to be paid every month. That fact alone makes an otherwise voracious investor run screaming for the hills—but why!?

Every homeowner’s association is different, but for the condo I live in, my monthly $210 fee includes:

  • Landscaping
  • Exterior maintenance & repair
  • Garbage removal
  • Water
  • Basic cable
  • Building insurance
  • Roof
  • Pool maintenance

For full transparency, my properties are in Raleigh, North Carolina, which still enjoys a fairly low cost of living. I am going to illustrate exactly WHY I prefer condos/townhomes over single family homes with a side-by-side comparison of a single family home versus a condo in my market.

Just for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to assume both purchases are cash purchases and that I will manage the property myself.


Related: Thinking About Investing in a Condo? Stop! And Read This First…

Condo A

Condo A is a 3-bedroom, 2-bath unit listed for $100,000 and based on local area rents, will rent for $1,200/month (note: I rent mine out by the room, which can yield significantly more, but I’ll leave that out for now, so $1,200 is a very conservative estimate).  

The condo fee is $200/month, which includes water, sewer, trash, and exterior maintenance, including the roof. Property taxes are $1,000 per year, and insurance is $200 per year. I will also choose to set aside $1,000 per year in a repair reserve and factor in $120 per month in vacancy.

Total, I will net $8,360 per year for a 8.36% ROI.

Single Family Home A

SFH A is also 3 bedrooms, 2 baths but is listed for $150,000 and based on local area rents, will rent for $1,200 per month. There is no condo or HOA fee. Property taxes are $1,500 per year, and insurance is $500 per year. But since this is a single family home, I also pay $100/month for a landscaping service, $30/month for trash removal and set aside $2,000 per year for capital expenditures (the biggest of which is the roof). Don’t forget that I also factor in $120 per month for vacancy.  

With SFH A, I will net $7,400 per year for a return of 4.93%.

Obviously, this is just a made up example with made up numbers, but this is about the norm for my area — single family homes don’t usually meet the 1% rule, while the condos/townhomes I see consistently exceed it. 

The bonus that I get with my condos is that I don’t have to coordinate landscaping or exterior maintenance, and if I do notice anything is wrong (i.e. a tree needs trimming or some siding has been knocked off by a storm), all I have to do is call the HOA manager and let them know.  

Related: BP Podcast 118: Condos, Multifamily, and Dealing with Management with Himanshu Jain

This makes managing my own properties that much easier. And as I mentioned earlier, I rent by the room (and I allow short term leases for an additional $25/month) as a way to juice my returns.

You could find that there is a similar phenomenon in your market, or it could be the complete opposite. But I urge you to run the analysis for yourself before sticking with any preconceived notions. Just because a potential property has an HOA fee doesn’t mean you should immediately run away! Make sure you look into what the fee covers and if the HOA is providing sufficient value to justify that cost.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the potential downsides of condos, such as:

  • They make it tougher to get traditional bank financing.
  • Neighbors are in close proximity (more noise).
  • Homeowner’s association financials could be precarious.
  • They typically appreciate at a lower rate than single family homes.

As always, make sure you do your due diligence. Outlined above is just a brief synopsis of why I choose to invest in condos and townhomes over single family homes. It’s working out great for me so far, and if your market is anything like mine, then it may work out for you, too!

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer investors.

Investors: What do YOU think? Do condos make good investments in your area? Why or why not?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Tiffany Alexy

Tiffany Alexy is the Broker/Owner of Alexy Realty Group, a boutique real estate firm located in the Raleigh-Durham, NC metro area. She actively invests in her own buy and hold projects. With several financial certifications under her belt, Tiffany specializes in helping individuals understand how real estate can fit into their investment portfolio. In her spare time, Tiffany loves to ride horses and travel.


  1. Deryk Harper

    Hi Tiffany,
    You are right. Markets are different in different areas. Here are the main reasons we avoid condos/townhomes in our Alpharetta, GA market:

    HOA usually restricts leasing of units to somewhere between 15% and 30% of total units in community. Most all of our communities are at, or over, that cap so investors can’t buy. Waiting list times vary from months to years to get a new leasing permit. Current permits also DO NOT transfer with sale of property.

    HOA Fees tend to scale up over time as community ages.

    HOA also restricts lease term to one year…sometimes they allow 6 month lease.

    HOA does not allow subleasing, leasing out rooms etc.

    Many HOAs are now charging annual leasing fees. Most HOA Boards can sneak this past homeowner’s WITHOUT a majority vote. We are now seeing annual lease fees from $50 to as high as $500.

    Some HOAs are even requiring us to go through a strict leasing approval process like submitting applicant credit info ( I actually think they are legally overstepping their bounds here ) , requiring actual lease to be submitted for approval before signing, entering property management info and tenant info into their lease management system etc.

    Sounds like you have found a more favorable environment for your situation and it works for you. Best advice is to check the market you want to operate in and see if the rules/numbers work in your favor in that market. Keep in mind HOAs have a lot of power to enact change that could negatively affect your cashflow.

    Nice article overall. Thanks for the contribution.

    • Nicolas Chambers

      Great article and perspective Tiffany! Really happy it’s working well for you!

      When I personally looked into investing in condos and townhomes I came across very similar red flags/ cautions that Deryk illustrated above. Combine that with a couple friends of mine whose primary residence is a condo/ townhouse and have been notified in the past by the HOA of building improvements (new siding and windows) that will require a portion to be paid out of owner’s pocket. This was due to the HOA not having a large enough reserve to cover the full cost of the update. One friend in particular had to come up with $25k in three months. On top of that, the HOA increased after the update was complete to quickly replenish their reserve and plan for maintenance costs to rise in the future.

      For these reason I steer away.

      • Tiffany Alexy

        Nicolas, thanks for commenting! Special assessments like you mention are definitely another potential downside. That’s why it’s super important to do your due diligence on the HOA financials before purchasing… but even then there’s no guarantee that they will never have a special assessment in the future!

    • John Smith

      I made an account just to reply, I know this article/post is old.

      Your market definitely sounds like one where condos are not good investments, but I wanted to pose a counter argument for anyone who finds this article in the future.

      First and foremost the reason I like condo investing Is for the following:

      In my area (Washington DC area) a unit I recently purchased had an $800 condo fee. This might sound like a lot, but let’s look at what it covers.

      1) 4 Tennis Courts
      2) Olympic Size Pool & Kid Pool
      3) Basket Ball Court
      4) Car Wash Area
      5) Unlimited Free Parking (Very big perk in this area)
      6) ALL Electricity
      7) ALL Water
      8) ALL Sewage
      9) ALL Trash removal
      10) 24 hour security
      11) Front Desk Package Service
      12) Gym
      13) Two low cost rentable party rooms
      14) Two card rooms
      15) All roof repairs if needed
      16) ALL HVAC repairs + replacements (Commercial grade building, over 150 units)
      17) ALL hot water heater repairs + replacements
      18) Master Insurance Policy
      19) Very nice grounds keeping including seasonal gardens
      20) Interior maintenance including elevators
      21) Locker rooms + Showers for pool area
      22) Several Grill & Picnic Area’s

      I was not trying to list everything I could think of, rather these are all real costs a homeowner has to bear. Over the course of 15 years this condo fee (assuming it stays flat which it has for the last 5 years) amounts to $144,000. To some people this may sound expensive, but over that same timeframe the average homeowner will replace the HVAC system, roof, hot water heater, and potentially their home siding. In aggregate on a SFH in this market that would cost around 25K-45K (depending of siding is replaced). That alone takes a massive chunk out of this number. The high-rise is all brick and does not have siding to be replaced. Additionally, parking can be a couple hundred bucks a month alone, or non-existent forcing people to sell their vehicle or park it far away from where they live. If you remove even the cheapest parking fee ($100/month) out of the condo fee that removes another $18K from that number over 15 years. Were now looking at a number around 91K. If you subtract out a rough estimate of $200 a month for water, sewage, trash, electricity, & gas, then the number comes down to 55K. So at the end of the day, if you exclude these accrued costs, the monthly HOA fee is more realistically like $305/month and that covers all of those amenities. Those 14 amenities are easily worth the money because it’s no headache and increases the rentability of a property.

      If the property in a particular market has a crazy condo fee, but no amenities and nothing covered that is a largely different story. Also, realistically speaking the condo fee would increase overtime, but so does home ownership. As inflation occurs, the cost to repair and replace also increases. As minimum wage increases so does the cost of a roofer to repair a roof, or someone to repair an HVAC, etc.

      Finally, it is important to point out that unit owners can be on the HOA. I am on the HOA of a unit as an owner and I rent it out. In markets that are more competitive than Alpharetta the HOA’s are probably more relaxed. In my market most HOA’s have no rules on renting because most of the properties are investment properties and most of the people on the HOA have overwritten the rules because they themselves are the investors. Lease terms aren’t an issue, and even if they were 1 year is standard.

      On the other hand, I know of another market more similar to yours where HOA fees are in the low 200’s but literally covers the bare basics. I can’t fathom how the HOA fee’s are that high and cover so little.

  2. Ayodeji Kuponiyi

    That’s an interesting perspective on condos and town-homes, I’ve noticed that my generation (millennials) are leaning towards town-homes over a stand alone family due to conveniences HOA provides as we the flexibility in regards to renting a town-home.

  3. Sharon J. Thomas

    Thanks for the insight everyone. It really gives me some homework to do if I’m going to consider condos/townhomes especially with me residing in Georgia myself.

    Question: Being a newbie is it better to stick closer to home verses venturing out side the home state? I would prefer to stay inside my home state since I’m just starting out…any suggestions or ideas for this newbie?

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Sharon, thanks for the comment. If investing makes sense in your market, then yes it makes sense to start with the market you know. However, I know of many investors who reside in California who invest on the East coast because the return they can get here is so much better than properties in California. So it really just depends on the area and your goals. There are a lot of people who invest out of state with success. I personally haven’t felt a need to, but it is something I think about often.

  4. Kendra Gedeon

    Great post! Thank you Tiffany. Like @Ayodeji Kuponiyi, my generation “the millennials” are much more into flexible housing that is non-conventional but still spacious and suits their needs. I just recently purchased our first home and it is s town house, I love it! As a new investor I am looking to invest in multifamily housing. How are you currently financing your purchases?

    • Frank Boet

      Kendra, I keep hearing that millennials are not “investing”, rather they are concentrating on paying off debt. They rather rent than buy. That is why rental services like Uber, Lift AirBnB , and car leasing are popular. I think condos are a smart investment. They are also cheaper to buy than SFH.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Maayan, I’m in the Raleigh-Durham market. I’ve found that the rent differential is not that substantial between single family homes and condos, yet the price point is vastly different… (ie a 3 bedroom single family home rents for about the same as a 3 bedroom condo, yet typically are half the price). I just do what makes sense numbers-wise.

  5. John Troise

    Hi Tiffany,

    Great post….which leads me to something I’ve been toying with for years. What is your opinion of investing in a condo in a vacation area, such as Orlando. There are several condo and townhouse communities very close to Disney. I am sure the traffic is there, but some of these communities have like $300+ monthly fees, then there is cleaning every time a new renter comes in and additional management fees.
    Not sure if this would be a wise investment. Your thoughts?

    • Tiffany Alexy

      John, I’ve thought about this model a lot and it’s something I know some investors do. Because of the higher turnover costs, the cash flow has to be exceptional for this to make sense. But I’d definitely study the market and see if there is a demand for that. I’m not very familiar with the Orlando market – how long is the busy season, and how is long is the off season?

      If you’d like to read a real world example, look up Paula Pant’s AirBnB experiment — she blogs at AffordAnything.com. She is an investor in Atlanta and is very transparent with her numbers and what she’s learned through renting one of her units out on AirBnB. Not quite a destination vacation rental like Orlando, but many similarities and she provides a lot of insight.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Marc Jolicoeur

    Tiffany, like you, I love investing in townhomes for the ease of management and maintenance.

    For investors considering this, make sure you do your Due Diligence on the HOA before you make binding offers:
    – HOA monthly fee
    – HOA allows rentals
    – HOA % leased versus owner occupied
    – HOA certified for FHA financing
    – HOA fees for allowing rental
    – HOA rules around leasing, subleasing, lease terms, number and size of pets, number of residents
    – HOA maintenance reserves, reserve studies and any planned CapEx and assessments

    I’ve noticed in HOAs where the % leased gets too high, then nobody can get a normal FHA, Fannie, or Freddie mortgage anymore. This can severely hamper values of each unit when it happens. No first time homebuyers can get in. You can only sell to other investors. Values are now based on rental income. You can lose $20K in depreciation if you are holding when that happens.

    To fix this situation, the HOA board will ban rentals. Your rental approval could be rescinded when the current lease is up which means you could have 100% vacancy until you sell the place, and may have trouble selling. I have not had this horror scenario happen yet with my units I am holding but something every HOA member needs to be monitoring,

  7. Lana Forbes

    @Tiffany …. thank you for the article. I am sure there will be other condos/townhouses whose HOA will be more flexible for us to work with. I am looking at condo for rental now in the Orlando area.

    @Deryk Harper …. I went thru the same deal when I bought and rented out my house in the RESTRICTED and VERY NOSY HOA. When I first moved in, the neighbors were nice; if I didn’t cut my grass for a month, nothing happened. As soon as I mentioned the house was for rental purposes, their tune changed. I had to submit the request to rent out the house, and I needed their approval. If I rented the house without their approval, they would have put a lien against my house. My tenant did not cut the grass for a month due to his traveling to India, HOA sent me a citation. They also wanted to charge $100 per lease. A year later, they sent me another citation to pressure wash and to paint the exterior. I rented the place to the guy for 3 years. After he moved out, I fixed up the place and sold it. No more NOSY HOA.

    @John Troise … when I first moved to Lake Mary FL, I was thinking about doing the same thing, buying and renting out condo in the Disney area. The good thing in Orlando is the theme parks. I learn that you need to buy condo where short term lease is allowed if you want to rent out by weeks, or less than 7 months. There are a few hotels have been converted into vacation condo, and the management will take care of the renting, cleaning for you (for a fee of course). I am still looking into that options, but now I am more into flipping and rental property.

  8. Robert Yoder on


    the misconception with HOA fees is that they are an inordinate cost relative to a home. The only HOA cost that you do not have in a home is the management fee. All of the other HOA charges are actual costs you will incur in a home.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Absolutely true, Robert. HOA fees are not typically ‘extra’ costs but normal costs of owning property. I think investors see that number and get scared thinking it is an extra ‘fee’ when really it is not. And they don’t take into account the price to rent ratio of the home, including the fee. Many times (or at least in my area) that ratio ends up being higher than with a single family home!

    • ron j.

      i have to disagree with your comment. i know people who are paying 400/month hoa fee for a 1 bedroom 700sqft. It is because the hoa management is misusing the money. This article fails to mention that at any moment another person could be voted in and raise the fee by however much as they please. HOA can be a huge gamble when it comes to management and who is in charge of your money.

      • Tiffany Alexy

        Oh, definitely. That’s why I said ‘typically’ – there will always be exceptions. There are definitely risks to investing in condos, and I was trying to keep the article short and digestible… but there are definitely risks (as there is with a lot in life). You just have to decide for yourself if the potential returns make up for that risk.

  9. Michelle Fenn

    I am in NE Ohio market and I have invested in condos. I purchased a condo in a exclusive highrise in a gated community on the shores of Lake Erie. HOA fees in the building ranged from 800.00 to 3,000 per month depending on sq footage, how high up in the building you were located and which direction your unit faced. HOA included electricity, heat, cable, water plus all the amenities of living in a 4 star hotel. I was able to buy in at a huge discount from an heir in NYC that did not want to pay out the monthly HOA. My buy in was so low they changed the association rules on rentals. Rentals by non-resident owners were prohibited and residents could rent out a singe condo. This was required because the typical renovation there consisted of the resident purchasing a unit moving in to that unit during renovations and renting out the temporary housing after the renovation was completed. I was grandfathered and rented the unit for 4 years. It was pain free landlording. If anything went wrong my tenants contacted on-site maintenance and the repair showed up on the monthly HOA fee. I sold the condo this year at a profit and maintenance even addressed the inspection punch list and met the the building inspector for Point of Sale inspections.
    I sold because even though it was profitable, I calculated that if I had a vacancy for more than a couple months the HOA fee could eat through the years profits. Since the banking industry no longer allows spot FHA approval, requiring that the condo association to apply annually. The builders always apply for FHA approval but virtually no condo association elects to do the paperwork. You can count on one hand the number of condo developments with FHA approval in NE Ohio.
    My experience did make me see an opportunity in this kind of rental. Because this Property provided all the amenities of a 4 star hotel, restaurant, heath club, spa, post office, ATM, cleaning shopping and pet services it allowed many residents to remain in the building well into their golden years. I held on to it because I realized that this could be half or quarter the cost of a mediocre assisted living center. My parents are approaching their 80’s and I thought this might be a great future option. My Mom was on board but not my Dad. With the right numbers an exclusive condo in a retirement destination could make a lot of sense, and allow you to be a long distance landlord.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Michelle, thanks for sharing. That seems like a really great situation. I’ve thought of buying into downtown highrise condos as well, though the downtown condos here don’t really make sense rent-wise. My thought was to flip one, as there are a few buildings that are older but I’ve seen renovated lofts go for huge amounts.

  10. chris carollo

    I can appreciate this article but I have to agree with some of the comments as well. We have one Condo unit and we are getting killed with Fees.. $100 New Lease Fee, $250 Move in Fee, $250 Move out Fee. It eats up profits quickly for a Studio Apartment.

  11. Jeff Kehl

    Interesting article. Generally I am with the ‘steer clear of Condos’ crowd but recently I bought one in a more sought-after area of Atlanta for my daughter and I was surprised to find that the numbers will actually work out as a good investment after she leaves it. They are one of the rare condo associations in the area that allow rentals and the apartment market here is very tight so that plays into it I’m sure.

    One thing that surprised me that I hadn’t really considered is how cheap the insurance is. There’s really not much to insure with a Condo compared to a house.

    One thing I would take issue with in your numbers though is Landscaping and trash removal. In this area for single family residences we just pass that responsibility on to the tenant. In general I find that in multi-family of any kind the tenants expect you to provide more services and the more services you provide the higher the monthly cost.

    For me, Single family homes just work out better because I can buy them for far less than your example but I’m no longer going to dismiss condos out of hand especially in tight real estate markets.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Jeff, good to hear you’re keeping an open mind! That’s a good point about passing on landscaping and trash to the tenant.

      You bring up another good point that these are retail prices, and if you’re diligent, you can pick up a single family for less (though those are getting fewer and far between). I just see so many people make the mistake of “investing” in a single family home in the ‘burbs, paying $250,000+ for a place that will rent for maybe $1,500 and then getting burned because they lose money every month…

    • Matt Geerts

      I want to reiterate the insurance savings. In my area a SFH insurance for a landlord is about $1200/yr, not the $500 in your analysis. And the insurance for my townhouse condo is $136/yr, not the $200 in your analysis. That’s not chump change.
      Besides that, SFH entry cost (for a given quality/size/location) is about 60% above townhouse condo and the rent is about 10% above, if not equal.

  12. mike h.

    Couple of things that seem off.
    1) Rents for cheaper townhome being the same for
    more expensive house?
    150k house rents for the same as a 100k townhome/condo?
    That doesn’t equate one bit in my area.
    In my area a 140k townhome rents for 150 to 200 less than
    a 140k home.

    People in my area would much rather pay more to live in
    a home than a townhome. Homes have yards. Homes don’t share

    2) Vacancy. In my area, the vacancy rate for a home
    is much better than for townhomes. I have a couple
    of townhomes and have actually had pretty good luck with them.

    But the reality is they’re glorified apartments.
    People don’t typically stay in a townhome as long
    as they would a house.

    Its not the same type of renter.

    3) Landscaping and trash paid by the landlord?
    I don’t pay for landscaping service, snow removal, or any
    utilities at any of my single family homes. Maybe your
    area requires it. But I don’t typically come across
    landlords that pay for lawn cutting and the like
    on single family.

    Multi-unit or 4 plexes and above, yes.
    But not single family homes.

    4) Appreciation.
    One other thing I would add. SFH’s have always appreciated
    much better than townhomes – again, in my area.
    I’m sure there are pockets of areas that may not be true.
    But the reality is there is a larger buyer pool for
    SFHs than there are for townhomes and condos.

    So while your numbers on paper do make some sense.
    There are some things that seem really off compared to what
    I see in my area for townhomes and rents and resale.

    I would be surprised if a 100k townhome
    were renting for 1200 a month and a 150k house were
    renting for the same 1200 a month AND the landlord is
    providing landscaping service and paying for garbage to boot.

    That just doesn’t add up to me one bit.
    Unless the 150k house is one of those tiny houses
    and the townhome is 2000 sq ft. 🙂

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Oh yes, it definitely differs by market, which is one of my points above. I’m not sure which market you’re in? Single family homes definitely appreciate more but I buy for cash flow, which is less risky to me than betting on appreciation.

      There is definitely more turnover with condos/townhomes though it really varies. I have a tenant in one of my units who has been there for 4 years now. I believe if you treat your tenants well and take care of repairs in a timely manner, they will be more incentivized to stay.

  13. Siraj Ahmed

    Hi Tiffany, i have had good luck with condos thus far as well but i do fear about the concerns most people mentioned above about special assessments, rental caps, etc.

    question, in your article you mentioned that you rent out room by room rather than the entire unit. How do you deal with association on that? Meaning are they open to you having 3 different leases on the same unit?

    Also, I am wondering what kind of area your condos are in? Besides students in college, are there people open to sharing same kitchen and living room?

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Yes, since these are in a college area they are pretty much all individually leased– even the ones that are managed with a property manager.

      I do find that I have tenants who aren’t students– they are recent grads, young professionals etc. that value living close to downtown and the freeway (about 5 minutes from each). In fact in one of my student rentals, there was a point where all 4 tenants were no longer students.

  14. Taunya Phillips

    Tiffany, great article! I just got into real estate investing, with the purchase of two condos that are close to a major university campus. I purchased them from someone who already had them leased. The rents are great! These condos attract graduate and professional students, and young faculty members. As a newbie, a female, and someone who works a full-time job, I love that they are low maintenance.

  15. Xavier Martinez

    Thanks for the post, Tiffany. I needed something like this to put condo investing into perspective. I’ve definitely seen condos in my area where the numbers appear to work. The best part about my area is, there’s a couple towns with newer condos in high rent areas that have lower HOA’s than the older complexes near the center of the metro area. And I actually have seen condos renting for nearly as much as a house. I think this would motivate me to go for a good condo investment, especially since SFR’s are just so hot right now.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Thanks for reading and commenting Xavier! They can definitely be a great investment. As others have pointed out in the comments, just make sure you do your due diligence before purchasing. I love that condos are kind of the “underdog”… they are less in demand by investors which means I usually can take my pick 🙂 Which is an awesome thing given this ridiculous seller’s market we’re having!

  16. Christina H.

    I agree with this article, I own 2 condos. fee includes heat, water, sewer, all those high cost items/maintenance like paving, snow removal, landscaping, etc.
    I love that it takes a lot of stress away since I only have to worry about “walls in” maintenance, which is very low cost and easy. I don’t worry about septic, roof, etc. because it’s already in the fee. I volunteered to be the association treasurer to make sure the financials are good, I even pushed to raise the fee a little just to prevent high cost assessments. And even with that fee, property tax (much lower than SF), ins. (also much lower than SF), and mortgage, I get $600/mo cash-flow on each, so I love it!
    It’s also easy to rent out since heat is included. And of course make sure to screen tenants to prevent headaches.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Awesome, Christina! I’m on the board for the HOA of one of my units as well. Agreed that I’d rather pay an extra $10 a month if needed versus getting hit with a thousand dollar assessment down the road!

      The ease of maintenance has really appealed to me as well. I just have to worry about appliances, the HVAC and the hot water heater. I get maybe one or two calls a year from each unit.. and that’s it. And most of the time they are calls I anticipate (ie I knew the dryer in one of my units was on its last legs).

  17. Reba-Lynne Parsons

    Great Article!! I’m an investor just starting out and I have decided to focus solely on condos and townhouses. I think that’s the best bet for me. I live in Tampa, FL and between here and Orlando, there’s no shortage of condos to choose from. Are there any books that you would recommend that I read to learn more about the ins and outs?

  18. Michael Swan

    This thread has had a tremendous response so far. Here is my story. In 2011 in San Diego, I found the same to be true as you found Tiffany. Sooooooooo, I began investing in 2br and 3br condos in the San Diego Area. My first condo I purchases cash flowed about $350.00 a month and then I got better at finding higher cash flowing Condos. The next cash flowed about $450.00 a month and the next was about $500.00 a month and I got better at finding condos that cash flowed at $600.00 a month.

    Then the magic happened!! Appreciation went hog wild. I purchased 10 condos for an average price of $125,000 and am now 1031 exchanging them for apartment complexes, because I am selling them 4 or 5 years later at an average of $275,000 each. Appreciation for Condos were practically the same as the appreciation for Single family here in San Diego over the last 4 or 5 years.

    I am trading in $5,000.00-$6,000 in cash flow per year for $15,000-$20,000 cash flow with the apartment complexes. I have $120,000.00 tax deferred cash flow right now and with my 1031 exchange plan to larger and larger apartment complexes, I expect to have $1,000,000.00 in tax deferred cash flow in the next 10 years. To think, I just started with contributing $30,000 as a down payment on each of these little condos.

    What a country!!!


    • Tiffany Alexy

      Hey Swanny, that’s incredible! I think anyone would kill to have that sort of success 😉 Thank you for sharing your story with us. The California market is insane and somewhat of an anomaly, but who knows – it could be anyone else’s area next! I don’t buy for appreciation, so I make sure my condos are cash flowing enough to cover my needs… but heck appreciation is the very delicious icing on the cake, and it looks like you’ve gotten to enjoy some of that, great work!

  19. Marvin Gunn

    Great post Tiffany. As investors, we should be open to anything that makes financial sense. Due diligence is always key. Fears about HOA and mounting fees or special assessments could be potentially mitigated in your strategy and exit plan. Treat these as flips or short-term holds (or lease options for your tenants).

  20. Jeff Kehl

    You definitely should write a book based on the response. Seems to be a topic a lot of people are interested in.

    One thread I’ve noticed is that Condos seem pretty good in tight real estate markets when prices are rising. My example in Atlanta, yours in Charlotte, San Diego, Orlando, college towns generally.

    But I remember looking at some condos back in 2010-2013 and thinking man you couldn’t pay me to take that property. The HOAs were a financial mess, half the owners weren’t paying, no one wanted to rent there because they could rent a house cheaper…

    So like everything else they are cyclical. That got me thinking about condo conversions. I haven’t heard of anyone converting an apartment building to a condo in a long time but I remember it being all the rage at one point. Was that the 80’s?

    I’m wondering if anyone reading the thread knows what market conditions are good for condo conversions? I’ve got a couple of smaller apartment buildings where it might make sense.

    And you could make that a chapter in your book…

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Oh man! I am definitely adding this book to my to do list, then!

      I don’t have personal experience with apartment conversions. Maybe once you’ve figured it out you can guest write the chapter 😉

      The only thing close is I know of a building downtown that used to be a Hudson-Belk. They converted it to condos… very unique and right downtown.

  21. Theresa Kraa

    Thank you Tiffany, for a great perspective on an investment strategy that most people do shy away from. You have opened my point of view on this as a realtor and I think I will check out my neighboring condo and town-home neighborhoods, to get an understanding of their rules in order to possibly start offering these to my clients who are investors.

    I think the lower maintenance (meaning monthly coordination of landscaping, pool, etc) on these types of units would be very attractive to investors. Plus if the unit is nicer and the complex offers amenities, you could ask a premium rent. If the tenant has use of the on-property gym and pool then this is a bonus for them. Thus this should net you a better tenant which the HOA should appreciate in the long run. There are many young professionals here in the Orlando area that relocate here and prefer to rent nicer units before buying, so this could work here. It just takes a bit of research. Thanks again!

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Thank you for reading and commenting Theresa! There are definitely some upsides to condos as investment properties, and I’m glad my article has piqued your interest enough for you to do some more research on the topic! I’m sure your future clients will appreciate your diligence 🙂

  22. Very accurate! It’s surprising how many investors won’t consider a cash flowing condo because of the monthly HOA fee. In my market it’s not uncommon to find smaller condo units in the $25-$35K range with low HOA fees and high rents $700-$1000.

  23. Justin R.

    @Tiffany Alexy Are rents really the same for a condo and a home in your market? I find that surprising. In the small number of markets I’ve looked at (including my local one where I own one condo), a comparably sized house will *easily* rent for at least 25% more.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      If you are able to rent by the room, yes. If you rent by the unit – it depends, but that can also be a yes.

      Last year I looked at a really nice 4 bedroom SFH – screened porch, fenced in yard, two Master suites, the works. Listed for $219K, could rent for $1800-$1900. But then I found a 4 bedroom townhouse closer to campus w/ also 2 Master suites (4 bedrooms total) – no yard or porch but some green space and a deck for $150K. I bought the TH, and right now it’s rented out to 4 international students by the room for $1875 total. It is on the free university bus line and I also charge a premium because it is a shorter term (6 month) rental. Which is more work, but I’ve also been able to leverage my contacts with the university so that they actually reach out to ME asking how many rooms I have available and when for incoming students.

      The SFHs here easily go for double the condos/townhomes (my other units were $103K and $93K) but the rent differential is not enough to actually make up for the higher price.

  24. DeVon Zumbrennen

    Tiffany, I’m with you. Of our 8 rentals, 6 are condos. We own 5 units in one complex. The HOA is low key; the only fee we pay is a $140 monthly fee. When we bought our last unit, I apologized to the HOA manager about it being another rental. He said, “No, no, we like you. You pay your HOA fees on time.”
    Last year exactly half of my onsite time was spent at our duplex, working in the yard, pruning, trimming, etc. (I pay a grandson to mow the lawn.) I like the condos because once the renter moves in there’s nothing I need to do, except for an occasional inspection; no outside work.
    Our last purchase was a WF foreclosure via Auction.com. (Please don’t get me going on WF. Quite the organization!) Then we put in $11,700 for a new kitchen, carpets, windows, etc. Still with these upgrades and purchase price we net 9.95% ROI.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      Devon, so glad condo investments are working out for you too. I love not having to do exterior maintenance! I have no desire to try to be handy so it all works out and that’s been a big factor in my decisions as well. It almost seems like I have a property manager at times, as I can call the HOA if I see siding damage, lighting issues, etc. I manage my units myself so it really helps!

  25. Deanna Opgenort

    Seen lots of Condo crazy 2nd hand; the rehab from heck (tiger stripe carpet, foil wallpaper…in this century), the lady with nothing better to do than sue anyone who disagreed with her at a board meeting (this is CA – you can sue anyone for anything), the unnecessary rehab of irrigation (work coincidentally performed by a board member’s nephew), and of course the 90 year old HOA president of a small, well-maintained complex who wanted to assess every unit $50k in order to build the HOA fund up to “one MIIILLION dollars!” (can you say a bolt to the Bahamas with a cute young thing just waiting to happen? Sure you can! )
    Well-run by sane people Condos can be great, but the human factor……be cautious.

    • DeVon Zumbrennen

      Karen, the price of insurance depends on your state laws. In my market the state legislature recently passed a law making the HOA responsible for everything attached to the unit. In other words, if you picked the unit up an shook it, everything that fell out you are responsible; the HOA the rest. We pay approximately $100/year for a $10,000 policy that is required to pay the HOA’s Master Policy deductible. Our 2 bed / 2 bath condos are valued at $130,000.

  26. sherwood sohmers

    One problem I see with your writing is that you are trying to forecast which will be the better investment. You can’t. It is impossible. I know from experience. I once invested in 6 Condo and initially it did not perform well as I expected. After a dozen years I had to sell them. At that time they appreciated in the last year or two and I always had them rented. So after 12 years I did OK, better than I thought I would after analyzing my investment at the 5 and 10 year mark which were not good.
    We have just bought some condos and single family units and we are trying to see which will perform best. Currently, I have no idea now which will be better. The R.O.I. is just over double digits. Maybe as high as 11% plus.

    • Tiffany Alexy

      The examples were just that… examples. But I do personally own multiple condos that are getting that ROI I listed (actually higher since I overestimate on repairs/maintenance/vacancy etc). I don’t buy for appreciation, but for cash flow.. which you can reasonably measure with research (what the area rents for).

  27. Christopher Neil

    Nice article. I’m new to all of this but I can’t stop reading/learning about REI.

    I bought a 2b/2b, 1,100 sq/ft condo in NW FL in 2011 for a steal but primarily because I loved the place…on the water, boat slip with lift, and nice grounds/amenities. After two years I moved and had no troubles renting it out. I’m happy I hired professionals though as my own (inexperienced) apprasle put rent at $1200 which was also roughly my mortgage + HOA fees (900+$330). My property management company appraised and listed for $1600. We had an annual lease signed after 2 days. Fast forward another two years to present day and my condo is now under contract where I stand making $110,000. It turned out to be my best investment to date by far.

    Now the caveat; I was lucky! 2011 was the absolute bottom of the market, my realtor was awesome and did her homework on my behalf, she also compared what house chores I’d do versus hiring a professional (like a landscaper) and the HOA fees seemed reasonable then, and finally, I was lucky because I didn’t know the financials of the HOA but it turned out they were pretty good. Fees did go up $65 p/mo but over 4 years…I’ll take it.

    Overall point, condos can be great if you find those cases where HOAs are permissive, purchase price versus rent is good, and appreciation remains positive (all obvious things). For my first deal, I’m ecstatic but know a LARGE amount of luck played into that. As I move forward in REI, you can bet I’ll be doing my homework in far more detail!

  28. Scott w.

    another issue w/ townhomes is they have HOA. you’re banking on homeowners/landlords all paying their share of the HOA or you get stuck w/ the bag. doesn’t happen a lot but definitely happens.

    also, you’re paying for the HOA salaries, rent, etc. and they are not always managed properly. you’ve also got legal costs in there.

    what if you get a special assessment?

  29. Don Johnston

    I got lucky! In 2007 I bought a townhome in Littleton, CO. Understood what the HOA did and didn’t do as well as what it required. I did NO due diligence in regards to the reserves and solvency of the HOA. My unit was built in 1982 and others in 1984. To my knowledge there has never been a special assessment. Roofs have been replaced on a scheduled basis. Units painted the same. Deck boards and railings have been replaced with composite wood. In 2010, street lights were up-rooted and replaced with much more efficient ones. I get lawn care, snow removal, garbage pickup, and water paid as well as the parking lots re-sealed and striped about every 3 years. I pay $168/month…that is all. Not sure what the amount was when I moved in but it has gone up no more than just $10-$25.
    My ex lives in it now and I am in San Diego. When she is ready to move, I am seriously thinking of refinancing to give her her share of the equity and renting it out. It is a 3br, 2.5 bath with full finished basement and an attic for storage. Rents would be about $1500.
    The common comment throughout most of the posts is “DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE!” I got lucky!

  30. Great article and I share the same approach.
    I have a full time job hence Townhomes and/ Condos are way easier to manage for the same or approx rental revenue
    Also in Canada (my area anyways) you need to invest another 100k to get a SFH
    Keep up the good work.

  31. Matthew Hurst

    Keep in mind that condo management fees may include alot of overhead. For example, the condo management company will take a fee, in our area, often 10% of gross fees, They also must hire bookkeepers, accountants and lawyers to review their books and documents. Some associations have disputes that escalate into litigation. That csan get expensive in a hurry. For physical work performed, the association may hire general contractors, who will take their cut, prior to then hiring subcontractors, who in turn hire the actual workers who do the grounds keeping and building maintenance or repair.

    It’s not necessarily that the managers or contractors are getting rich either – they have their own expenses like licensing, continuing education, and their own insurance to pay. It’s just that the more hands money must pass through, the more overhead there is.

    There may also be “agency problems” as well. Not every person will push as hard to get the best deal when spending someone else’s money.

    Condos are one way to own property, and they do have their benefits, but they not always the most cost efficient way to own property.

  32. Lilian Tran

    I am 100% new to this, so trying to take in as much as I can before I get started – hopefully within 5 years. This post and all the comments are so helpful and informative, it is really great!

    Thanks Tiffany and everyone! 🙂

  33. Tiffany, great article! I use to live in Raleigh but now Wilmington. Do you do any investing here? I was going to stay away from condos but ou made some great points and they are everywhere here because of the tourist and student populations. Any advise to getting started investing I’m ll ears. Thanks, Brenden

  34. Rachel Luoto

    On the money again Tiffany! I just bought my first deal, a condo. I’m flipping it, but there is room to rent it and still make a little profit if the market goes crazy.

    I concur that blanket statements rarely reveal the whole truth of the issue.

  35. Jeff Martinez

    As a totally new investor this article and it’s responses has opened my mind to looking into condo’s and what to look for. If I can get a good ROI and watch the HOA fees then it could be good part of portfolio, especially subleasing each room. Something to look at for sure.

  36. Maheen Akhter

    I apologize if this has been asked earlier in the thread, but as far as condos go – most condo HOA’s contain restrictive covenants against leasing, or only being able to lease the unit for 1 year or 2 years and then having to be placed on a waitlist. Have you dealt with this issue? Any creative ways around it?

  37. Hey Tiffany,

    Im starting to get into real estate and I am wondering how you do with renting out rooms instead of the whole unit. you mentioned that this was what you were doing with your condo? Does this mean you provide a furnished house or how does this work?

  38. Garcia Santos

    great post, really informative. this post is good for people who want to start their RE career, forthomebuyers is an investor site and they buy houses and this article can really be useful to them, Thanks for sharing!!

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