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Condominiums have always been a mix of pros and cons. On the one hand, their advantages include less time spent on property maintenance, enhanced security personnel and technology, conveniences like pools, health clubs, and community centers, lower purchase prices than single-family residences and even appreciating market value. At the same time, drawbacks remain such as homeowner association fees, poor HOA management, lots of regulations, less privacy, and difficult re-sales. This is why being selective is all the more necessary when shopping for a condo in Portland, Oregon. The key is to find a condo that is strong on the positives with minimal negatives.
What Defines a Condominium?
A condominium is an owned residence within a larger community, e.g. a multi-unit building or grouping of townhomes. Each owner is a member of the condo association that governs the common areas and regulates the usage and appearance of the dwellings as a collective. As members, each owner is obliged to support the homeowners association (HOA) through monthly dues. These monies go primarily toward the upkeep of the general property, management of the common recreational facilities, security, and sanitation, among other obligations. Also, each owner is eligible to serve on the HOA governing board.
Things to Consider when Shopping for Condos
Optimizing the advantages of condo living, in Portland and elsewhere, begins while prospecting. Utilizing a Realtor with extensive condominium experience is a good prerequisite. Then, measure the community’s offerings against your own needs and desires.
- Determine the extent to which the association provides maintenance and upkeep services to the outside.
- Evaluate the common venues in terms of your own expectations: do you need a pool, a gym, a tennis court? Do you want more or less interaction with neighbors?
- Decide whether the level of dues matches the services provided by the HOA.
- Investigate the management company retained by the HOA to evaluate its track record.
- Make sure the development is on the Federal Housing Administration’s list of approved condos. Sometimes condo mortgages are easier through the FHA.
- Get a list of additional assessments that are not covered by monthly dues.
This might seem like a lot of information to gather. However, with the right Realtor, such knowledge is fairly simple to acquire. Doing so can spare a new owner many unpleasant surprises in the future. Nobody should have to suffer regrets.
The Importance of Neighborhood
Condominium communities do not exist in isolation. They sit in larger communities where residents will shop, recreate, vote and send their children to school. Fortunately, Portland, Oregon boasts numerous neighborhoods that excel in every metric, e.g. atmosphere, convenience, safety and property values. Mt. Tabor, Irvington and Buckman are just three such districts that enjoy superior lifestyles. Plenty of retail outlets, an abundance of restaurants and coffee houses and the presence of safe, nature-filled parks are just some of the attractions of Portland’s districts. Anyone looking to buy a condominium does well to scope out the neighborhood.
Housing Market in Portland, OR and Vicinity
In the era of COVID-19, the buying and selling of property is approaching the pre-pandemic tempo. While the supply of listed and available homes for sale is on the low side, sales prices have dropped very little: the average in May was $467,500. This is perhaps because incomes in Portland are in the ascendancy, showing no signs of leveling or declining. Unemployment is lower than the national average, while the median household income sits at $53,230. Realtors and investors believe the coronavirus may slow luxury condo sales but little else.
Greater Portland, or the Portland metropolitan area, embraces Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill Counties in the Beaver State, and Clark and Skamania Counties in the state of Washington. These areas are statistically similar to the city as far as the real estate market goes. One thing notable is that new condos may be fewer in the region, a fact that is unrelated to the pandemic. Beginning in 2019, a trend from the previous decade was giving evidence of resurgence: buildings developed for condos were converted to rental apartments. Whether condominiums are in less demand remains to be seen.
How Does Condo Value Differ from a Stand-Alone Residence?
While the focus here is on Portland, Oregon condominiums, the methodology of residential valuation is uniform throughout the United States. The three approaches to value remain the same:
- COST APPROACH — where the value is determined by estimating how much it would cost to reproduce the house. Materials and labor are weighed against age and usefulness.
- MARKET APPROACH — looks at comparable sales in the vicinity; adjusts values for the difference in the subject property. “Comps have similar square footage, construction materials and appliances. This approach is most common with condominiums.
- INCOME APPROACH — is most often used with investment property. Rental income and expenses are considered when formulating value.
If the market approach is most frequently applied to condos, is there any difference with its application to a single-family residence (SFR)? FannieMae form 1073 is the template for an appraiser’s report on a single condo unit. It is like its SFR counterpart in that it includes address information, borrower data, contract terms, and legal description. At the same time, though, the 1073 also accounts for the common elements such as the parking lot, recreation facilities, and clubhouse. Interior and exterior inspections are required — the exterior is often the responsibility of the HOA. Also mandated is a sketch of the interior layout with accurate dimensions.
The distinction when performing a condo appraisal is the challenge of including and excluding common property depending on the section. Although seasoned appraisers can do this competently, it is more difficult for buyers and sellers to accept in the heat of negotiations. Purchasers who think the appraisals come in too high are often discounting those all-important amenities. Sellers, conversely, may think common property does not weigh enough in valuations.
Condo Values in Portland, OR
In terms of new construction, there is little to none in Portland. Ideally, demand should be rising in this sector. Portland State University researchers have noted that the highest 25 percent of housing prices have dropped, high-end condominiums are prominent among them. One variable in this trend is slowed growth in population. Though 2020 population statistics reflect a 1.13 percent growth over 2019 greater Portland numbers, the increases are shrinking compared to earlier in the decade. While nothing is set in stone, potential buyers might see opportunity in dropping sales prices.
Nailing Down Condo Financing
As noted above, condominiums are underwritten differently than SFRs. Sometimes an FHA home mortgage is better-suited to a condo purchase — but not always. More fees are involved, as is mortgage insurance. Central to applying for the best loan product possible is to discuss the matter with a loan officer well-versed in condo financing. New buyers can learn about rates, associated fees, the loan process, and the best term to fit their financial condition. Getting assurances about mortgage qualification puts purchasers in a stronger position to make a credible offer on a condominium.
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