Is the condo life for you?

  • Published in Columns

Condominiums are a big part of our real estate market in the Lakes Region of NH. Condos provide care free living for many year round residents as well as a more affordable get-a-way for those looking for a second home. We are fortunate to have many condo associations that offer great amenities like water access, docks, moorings, beaches, tennis courts, and exercise facilities. When you combine these amenities with the fact that exterior maintenance, snowplowing, mowing, and landscaping tasks are taken care of for you, condo living looks pretty darn good. After all, you do want to spend more time on the boat, golf course, or ski slope don't you?

The Lakes Region has a wide range of condo associations from cottage colony conversions to gated communities like South Down Shores in Laconia and Grouse Point in Meredith. And, there is a wide range of prices so there is something to suit everyone's budget. Sale prices this year ranged from just $31,500 for a studio style condo at 937 Weirs Boulevard to $667,900 for a brand new lakefront unit at the Townhomes at Meredith Bay at 595 Scenic Road in Laconia.

There were 122 condo sales in Laconia in 2013 at an average price of $186,697. That total is up 29 percent over 2012 when there were 96 transactions with an average sales price of $185,055. That's a pretty impressive increase! It should be noted that about one quarter of those condo sales in Laconia were in South Down Shores.

There were ten condominium sales in Meredith in both 2012 and 2013. The average sales price was $246,000 in 2012 with a slight increase to $267,850 in 2013. Gilford finished 2013 with 42 transactions at an average sale price of $150,881 compared to 39 in 2012 at an average of $180,374.

So is condo living right for you? There are a lot of pluses, including those listed above, along with the fact that major costs and repairs are shared among all of the unit owners. But, there are also issues that some people shy away from. There are the monthly condo association fees to cover all the maintenance you chose not to do and, like taxes, they never seem to go down. And there can be special assessments from time to time when unexpected and unbudgeted repairs come up. Of course, as with any association, there are the politics of running the place with meetings, elections, and decisions to be made on expenditures and rules. You need to be able to play well with others and accept the will of the majority in order to enjoy condo living and almost invariably there are one or two unit owners that don't.

Rules and regulations will differ for each association so you need to investigate each one. Probably the biggest issue for vacation home buyers relates to the availability and assignment of docks and moorings, especially when there are fewer spaces than there are unit owners. Each association can handle this situation differently. Another big issue is whether your unit can be sublet. Many owners like to rent their units out occasionally in order to defray some costs, but not all associations allow short term rentals so you need to do your homework.

If you are thinking of purchasing a condo, now is a great time to get out at look at the available inventory. Right now there are over 180 units available in Belknap County! Your realtor will be able to help you sort out the details and find a unit that fits your budget and lifestyle requirements.

Please feel free to visit to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.