Are condos a nightmare and to be avoided?

11 Replies


I'm 55 years old and bought 5 condos in the downturn. I live in the expensive Baltimore/DC area so thought they'd be a wise investment. I actually got them in great areas and for decent prices. So, one of them has flooded twice in the last year from the condo above. The condo association has paid for damages both times but took 4 months to complete the second flood. I have a very unhappy tenant as a result and she's pissed at me. Now another rental condo of the same model the tenant is complaining about loud noise from a chinese family living above my condo. We've tried everything to get this family to cool it, to no avail. At least so far. My question is, should I start dumping my condos and opt for townhouses instead? It's incredibly expensive here so SFH are out. I hate to do this but it just seems like they come with unwanted issues inherent to being condos.


I can give you several reasons as to why I would never invest in condos, none of which are related to your post. However condo's can be a good investment depending on price you paid, appreciation potential, HOA's, and cash flow.

The real problem you are having isn't your investment vehicle but rather your temperament and landlording style. You are emotionally invested in matters largely outside of your control. Seek legal advice, but I cant see how noisy Chinese neighbors are within the ambit and scope of your legal responsibility. The flooding issue may need to be addressed further but find out what your exact responsibilities are rather than just addressing them ad hoc as an earnest novice. If you cant emotionally detach yourself from your investments better you should reconsider any method of landlording.

i.agree with you but haven't had issues like this before. Still, I haven't run into any of this with the SFHs I own in ABQ. Nor townhouses I own here. I used to live there but now don't. Condos seem to lend bigger issues caused by people. Seems that eliminating the amount of people involved makes for handling problems in a smoother way. While legally I.have no responsibility to these issues I prefer somewhat satisfied.

Any over/under living setup is prone to these problems. I would tend to stay away from places of this design, but it's just one aspect of the equation. If the numbers are right and there are other items in the "plus" column it could be worth hanging on.

There's really too many unknown variables here to give you a meaningful opinion from here, like: prices, rents, amount of cashflow and equity, your longterm plan... You say you got great prices when you bought -- perhaps the market improved enough that you could do well selling a few and moving into a different property? Or perhaps it's improved so much that you'll never get the same cashflow elsewhere?

Or maybe you've just got some picky tenants right now and it will all fix itself on the next turnover.

Hi Scott,

I agree with your second post and Jean also makes more good points. Over time I do believe condos have more problematic renter issues on average than SFR's.

The way I read your initial post was that you were frustrated regardless of the financials. Whatever your long term investment strategy becomes you should work to eliminate your short term emotional stressors in landlording by consulting legal advice and not emotionally burdening yourself with issues beyond your control after due diligence and reasonable efforts. We all want happy tenants but we are not the guarantors of tenant happiness, and should not operate under that auspice.

I've flipped quite a few condos and they all have been very good deals for me. I do own several townhouses as rentals and I only consider townhouses (when it comes to community living) because of the exact reasons (problems) you state in your OP.

I'm leaning towards replacing them with townhouses. As of now I will not buy anymore condos. I have 2 condos on upper levels. Seems like they haven't had the issues of lower level ones.

Scott , Anne Arundel county isnt expensive , its just that every else seems to be cheaper . finding deals on single families is hard , but can be done , I got 2 in 8 months . As far as the condos go , I would sell them , mainly because if the associations are mis managed , the condo fees can sky rocket . I like the Pasadena , arnold and Severna Park areas due to their good schools . The best deals have been in Pasadena!

@Scott P. , I understand your frustration and everyone here gave you great advice! yet, I would take a different approach if I were you!

From your post, it sounds like the condos are a great investment in term of the financials ( bought at decent prices, and I assume good rents based on great location). Landlording is not easy and we all have different tolerance levels.

So if the only reason why you "hate" these condos are the issues associated with managing your tenants' happiness, why not just hire a property manager for just those two condos and let the PM deal with all the headaches? IMO this would be a better option, unless you want to sell for other reasons ( for example you need money for other investments... which does not seem to be the case here).

Yes that's a possibility Victor. I would cut into the bottom line but maybe it's worth it. Thanks again.

It's absolutely not worth hiring property managers for two condos. Just like you said, it's cuts into the bottom line and when you invest in condos it's all about the net.
You can't do anything about the noisy neighbors, that kind of crap is always going to be an issue somewhere. My recommendation: get on the Board and change things around. The management of the association should be fining the hell out of the folks that are loud if this is a constant. Just check the rules and regs and I am sure you'll fine violations you can site and get these folks to either calm down or get fined so much they want to leave (if they rent).
Regarding selling the condos, if they cash flow why would you? If the area is desirable, people should be lining up to rent your unit and this thing should be taking care of itself depending on the product itself and the lease structure you have set up. Also, I like condos a lot because of reduced liability, the moment the tenant steps out of your unit there is no longer liability on you but the Association. All the maintenance is take care of, except for inside your four walls, but as long as you have taken care of that stuff, you shouldn't have any issues.
Bottom line, it's all about having the right product. You'd know it if you had it. So if you do, keep them, get on the Board and try to shake things up.
Good luck.

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