The Boston condos for sale market has been growing in popularity over the years, both locally and nationally. And buying a condominium as your next home may be a great opportunity for you. But it truly is “different” from owning a traditional single family home, and you need to know ahead of time what you are getting into.

Here are some of the questions I am most often asked. I hope they will help you to decipher condos, and understand the good, the bad and the ugly.

Q: Exactly what is a condominium?

Answer: A condominium is a form of ownership, not a style of construction. In a Boston condominium you purchase individual ownership of your unit, from the carpet up, from the ceiling down and from the walls in. FHA refers to condominiums as “air space estates.”

In addition you purchase an undivided interest in common areas, which typically includes the structure of the buildings, all the grounds, the pool, the streets and the clubhouse, if there is one. Undivided means you share these areas with the other owners.

Q: Are we talking about a multi-family community of a bunch of homes?

Answer: In Boston, we typically think of attached townhomes. In places like New York City, we think of old apartment buildings, like we saw in the Seinfeld show. They call theirs “co-ops,” but those are very similar to our “condos” in Georgia

Q: What’s the good news about Boston condominiums?

A: In a nutshell, condos have several major advantages:

Economies of scale: It’s a lot cheaper for 100 unit owners to hire one company to keep the lawn mowed and the flowers planted than it is for 100 different people to try to do it on their own. It’s a lot cheaper for 100 homeowners to pay to have a pool open all summer than it is for each to have his own pool. There are lots of areas where joint ownership results in reduced costs.

Enforced exterior maintenance: In a Boston condo environment, the association of owners is almost always responsible for all exterior maintenance. That includes streets, grounds, grass and shrubbery, and all exterior building maintenance.

Amenities and location: Because of condominium unit density, you may be able to afford a great location with amenities you might not otherwise get, at a price you can live with.

Q: Is there any bad news with condominiums?

Answer: Well, when you buy an ownership interest in a Boston condominium, you need to understand that you are giving up a significant number of rights you would otherwise have if you bought a traditional house.

Q: What are we talking about?

Answer For starters, you don’t get to decide what the outside of your unit looks like. You can’t paint your unit a different color, you usually can’t put a grill or even a large potted plant on your balcony, and in most cases, you can’t even decide what color window curtains you can have. These decisions are almost always made for you by the Condo Association, which is a club made up of all the owners.

And if the association decides to save some money by delaying maintenance or flower planting or exterior painting, the whole community can suffer, which includes your unit, and there is little you can do about it.

Q: OK, so, whats the bottom line?

Answer: My advice is this: if you’re thinking of buying into a condominium community, know that you are giving up some of your individual rights. And please understand, in advance, what rights you are giving up to the home owners association.

Talk to other owners before you buy, talk to the association officers about important issues of the condo, and talk with your real estate professional about your alternatives before you make a final decision.

The rules and regulations of the condominium are detailed in a documents called a) the declaration, b) the by-laws, and often c) the house rules. Make sure you understand these documents before you make an offer to purchase.

Q: Anything else we need to know?

Answer Historically, the condominium market in metro Atlanta has been the first part of the market to go soft, and the last part of the market to firm up after an economic downturn.

That may not be true going forward, but it is a factor to keep in mind when considering your alternatives.

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Author Profile

John Ford
John Ford

Over the course of 20 years in the Boston downtown real estate market, John represented and sold numerous, condominiums, investment and development properties in Greater Boston and in the surrounding suburbs

In addition to representing Boston condo buyers and sellers, John is currently one of the most recognized Boston condo blog writers regarding Boston condominiums and residential real estate markets. John's insights and observations about the Boston condo market have been seen in a wide variety of the most established local & national media outlets including; Banker and Tradesman, Boston Magazine The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and NewsWeek and Fortune magazine, among others.


For over 24 years, John Ford, of Ford Realty Inc., has been actively involved in the real estate industry. He started his career in commercial real estate with a national firm Spaulding & Slye and quickly realized that he had a passion for residential properties. In 1999, John entered the residential real estate market, and in 2000 John Started his own firm Ford Realty Inc. As a broker, his clients have come to love his fun, vivacious, and friendly attitude. He prides himself on bringing honesty and integrity to the entire home buying and selling process. In addition to helping buyers and sellers, he also works with rental clients. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new Boston condo or rent an apartment, you’ll quickly learn why John has a 97% closing rate.


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John Ford and his staff can be reached at 617-595-3712 or 617-720-5454. Please feel free to stop by John's Boston Beacon Hill office located at 137 Charles Street.

John Ford
Ford Realty Inc
137 Charles Street
Boston, Ma 02114



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