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If you're thinking of ... Living in a condo vs. a house

Whether you’re in Bellingham, Fairhaven or Blaine, the recent building boom is an indication of a strong condominium market in Whatcom County. Condos are popping up all over the place — some with great views along the bay, some over retail spaces and storefronts, and even more in resort areas like Semiahmoo and Birch Bay.

So are you ready for condo life or are you better suited for a more traditional home? Consider your lifestyle and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before you jump in.

“A condo is definitely a lifestyle choice,” says Christine Park, a real estate agent with the Muljat Group in Bellingham. “People do not want any upkeep. They are busy professionals, boomers, retirees, singles and even students.”

The key benefit to buying a condo over a traditional house is that everything is taken care of for you: water/sewer, painting, maintenance, trash removal and landscaping are all usually handled through the homeowner’s association fees you pay each month.

“Lock the door and go! That’s the theme of condo living,” says Jon Hansen, a real estate agent with Lakeway Realty in Bellingham.

But those benefits can be negative to some people, explains Park. Homeowners associations have rules that owners must abide by to live in the condo community. You aren’t free to paint your exterior any color you’d like. You may not be able to plant certain plants in front of your condo. Parking restrictions may be in effect. Certain pets may not be allowed.

Depending on what kind of condo you choose, it can be more like apartment living than home ownership. You may have people living on both sides of you, above you and below you. There may not be a yard at all and your outdoor personal space could be limited to a balcony.

A traditional house with a small yard is often a good alternative for folks who aren’t ready for condo living.

“Many people who have lived in the same house for many years can’t transition into a condo yet,” says Park. “Even though their age and their children want them to be in a condo, they end up choosing the little house with the small yard.”

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