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House or Condo?

It's the American Dream to own a house - most people don't dream of owning a condo. There are two big things people don't like about condos. The first is that you have neighbors living above, below, or on either side of you. That's usually an inescapable fact of condo living. But if a condo is your first home, realize that it isn't a prison. It's a vehicle towards greater wealth through appreciation in the value of your condo. The equity you build up in your condo can be converted in a few years to a down payment on a house.

The other thing people tend not to like about condominiums is the Homeowner's Association fee. These fees typically range between $100 and $300 per month. Where does this money go? A huge chunk of it goes to pay for insurance. At the very least, your condominium will have fire, liability, and earthquake insurance. Except for earthquake insurance, you will have to pay this money when you buy a single-family residence. Most of the rest of the HOA fees go to pay for maintenance of the exterior (roof, paint, etc.) and of the common areas (landscaping, etc.). This money is not money down the drain, though: it serves to keep your investment in good condition, so that it maintains its value and is easy to sell when it's time to move up.

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