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Can You Pick Out the Condo?

Clearing up the misconceptions about what a condominium really is and whether this type of ownership is the right choice for you.

Can you pick out which one is the condo?


First, lets define what a condominium is and isnt.

Before I became a REALTOR, I assumed a condo was an apartment style unit in a mid- or high-rise building. This is what they are in New York City, which is where I first lived on my own. In the City, you have rental buildings, condo buildings, and co-ops. If you live in the city, no one lives in a single-family home.

This idea stayed with me despite moves to cities like Boston, Houston, the DC Metropolitan area, and until I relocated to Delaware and became a REALTOR. In Northern Delaware, in the Wilmington area, most condos fit this description but when you come to Southern Delaware, all bets are off.

This is when I learned a condominium is a form of ownership, not a style of dwelling.

So, what is a condominium?

A condominium is one of a group of housing units where the homeowners own their individual unit space, and all the dwellings share ownership of common use areas.

Condo fees may include:

  • Property management fees
  • Master insurance policy covering shared common areas and the exterior physical structure
  • Building repair and maintenance of amenities and systems
  • Exterior building maintenance
  • Upkeep of common areas (snow removal, painting, landscaping, etc.)
  • Security
  • Reserve fund to handle future maintenance
  • Access to amenities which are part of the condo association

But not all condominium associations or master insurance policies are identical, at least not here in Delaware

Can a condominium also be part of a Homeowners Association?

Some communities are 100% condo communities while others are 100% Homeowners Association (HOA) communities. But in Southern Delaware, many of these communities are hybrids.

In a planned community, sometimes called a PUD or master-planned community, you may find a mix of single-family homes, villas, townhomes, and flat-style units. Some of these may be part of a condo association while others simply belong to the HOA. And, you cant tell which one is which by looking at the outside. Confused yet?

Condominiums located within a planned community belong to both and will pay a condo fee to their condo association as well as an HOA fee to the community within which it is located. What do HOA fees typically include?

HOA fees may include:

  • Common area maintenance
  • Lawn maintenance
  • Trash pickup
  • Access to the clubhouse, pool, and other amenities which are part of the HOA
  • Maintenance of the amenities
  • Hazard and liability insurance for all common areas and amenities

Every Homeowners Association is unique. Never assume that what is included in one is the same as other HOAs.

Lets look at some examples

Village of Five Points

The Village of Five Points East is exclusively single-family homes, part of a Homeowners Association. The Village of Five Points West, however, is a mixed-use neighborhood which includes commercial space, two groups of condominium buildings, townhouses, and single-family homes.

  • The two groups of condominium buildings each belong to their own condo association.
  • The townhouses simply belong to the Homeowners Association; they are not condos.
  • The single-family homes belong to the Homeowners Association.

Paynters Mill

Paynters Mill is a mixed-use neighborhood which also includes some commercial space near the community entrance. All residences belong to the Paynters Mill Homeowners Association (HOA). There is a group of condominium buildings that belong to a condo association. Many attached homes or duplexes are part of the HOA only. A group of single-family homes belongs to the HOA only but there is another group of single-family homes that belong to their own condo association.

See what I mean? There are two separate groups of condo associations within this one HOA. The services available to residents are quite different.

The Peninsula

The Peninsula is a private gated country club style community. There are distnct neighborhoods spread throughout the community; some of them are mid-rise condo neighborhoods, others are townhouse neighborhoods, villas, single-family home neighborhoods, and custom homes. There are multiple condo associations while other neighborhoods simply belong to the HOA.

As a private country club, there is also a membership fee that entitles the resident to either a Social, Sport or Golf membership in The Peninsula Club.

Bay Forest Club

In this last example, it gets even more interesting. In Bay Forest, not only will you find single-family homes, but you will find many neighborhoods of attached villas. Some of them are part of a Condo Association but others are not. Without getting into the weeds, the ones that are not part of a Condo Association do belong to a maintenance plan, for lack of a better phrase, which covers the same kind of maintenance normally included with the condos.

These are just a few, but they are quite large and well-established communities in Southern Delaware. If you want more information on some of these examples, youre just going to have to give me a call!

IN DELAWARE, we disclose, disclose, disclose

In Delaware, when you are purchasing a home in any community that charges a fee of more than $650/year in 2019, you will receive a full disclosure, called a DUCIOA, outlining all the rules and regulations but also details of the financial health of the association. You have five days to review and accept or reject this disclosure. If you reject for any reason, you can void the contract and get your deposit back.

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