So you want to buy a condo on the beach?

The thought of living on the beach was a dream come true, but as the saying goes…”Be careful what you wish for!” The view from my balcony,  in Cape Canaveral was absolutely spectacular…. fourth floor, corner unit , with a panoramic view of the ocean, the port and the infamous Cocoa Beach Pier.  From my balcony,   I could watch the Disney Cruise Ships making their way in and out of port, rocket launches from NASA, and the most incredible sunrises, that you could ever imagine.  I could be at Disney World  or the Orlando International Airport , within an hour’s drive. All of this for a fraction of what it would cost, to buy a house or bungalow of my very own, along the shore line. That would take several million dollars!

Condo living is expensive. What I didn’t realize however, were the hidden costs of this venture. Of course, there’s your mortgage, your monthly maintenance fee, your taxes and your insurance. The maintenance fee is something, that all of the unit owners pay into, to maintain the cost of running the building. ….like lawn care, pool service, garbage pick up, etc.. I was fine with all of that, but later was blindsided, with what they call “assessments”.  Now,  that’s where they hit you and hit you hard! An assessment is money,  used for major repairs on the building itself…construction costs….renovations, etc..  The problem is , that you don’t get to decide , when to make the repairs! You cast your vote, but the decision is based on need and an elected board’s majority decision.

Assessments  could be $1,000, $10,000, and up, depending on the cost of the repair, and the age of the building!  Cost of a new roof on an older building, could run several hundred thousand dollars, divided by 40 or so, plus or minus (considering the size of the building),  and the number of unit owners.  There’s no ceiling on the cost of assessments. No pun intended!

But don’t let me digress….money isn’t everything! Bottom line, if you want to live on the beach, it’s going to cost you!

Sadly, I opted to sell my condo. My decision to sell, was not about the monetary costs, but rather quality of life.  There were 48 units,  in my particular building.   47 were owners and one unit was occupied,  by a renter. The renter had the best deal of all. He paid a fraction of the cost of owning the condo, but was able to enjoy all of the amenities:  beach frontage, the pool, use of the grill, and a garage for his car. He’s lucky !  Better off!  Best of all , he is spared the ultimate spoiler of condo living….. the politics!   I had rented,  at the building next to mine, before purchasing my condo and got along with everyone. Renting does have its advantages!  I was spared all the decisions and confrontations, required of owners.

The problem for me,  was the communal aspect of condo living.  You see , it’s all about sharing. I thought that wouldn’t be a problem. I consider myself  to be a fair-minded person. I banked on my belief, that people are generally kind and fair.  But, unfortunately, some people have their share of issues.

It  was an awakening for me….a harsh realization, that people in general , can be difficult! Here I was, on the beach where almost everyday is gorgeous…. full of sunshine and salty fresh air, but unfortunately people bring their baggage with them, wherever they go, and that includes , the beach!

“Snowbirds”  occupied over half of my building. Snowbirds are people, who don’t live on site, year round. They usually own a  home in another state and drive down, to enjoy their vacation condo once a year , for a period of three to six months, (during the winter). They pack everything  into their suitcases and into their cars, and bring it with them,  across state lines. They park their cars on site, unpack their personal belongings and are sure to carefully remove their baggage, as well. This baggage consists of their anger, resentments, jealousies and all around petty and mean-spirited feelings, towards others.

I guess it’s unfair to generalize.  Let me say,  “the snowbirds living in my building”, had issues… as opposed to ….all snowbirds! Some owners have owned for years. Some have newly acquired  units.   But, at my particular condo ….when you gathered a group of owners together, you could  count on the inevitable mob mentality, raising its ugly head! At least, that was my experience.  Ask anyone who has ever attended a condo board meeting.  Most,  are not enjoyable! On more than one occasion, heads began spinning, vile and hateful dialogue was exchanged, and a spirit of hateful rigor, completely engulfed the room.  If the board meetings  weren’t so incredibly abhorrent, I might have found them somewhat amusing.

Each condominium has a board. Our board was made up of five elected members. The president sets the tone,  at board meetings.  At my condo, anyone who dared to speak out against the opinion of the board members, specifically the President of the Board,   would be  chastised by the group of fellow owners. New owner’s opinions were considered suspect. New ideas and suggestions,  were met with scorn! Fellow owners vehemently objected to CHANGE! Unfortunately, “change” is the one thing , that condo owners fear the most! It is their kryptonite! At the point, when the tar started to boil and the feathers started to fly,  I realized…. that I needed to move on.

I ultimately decided to sell my condo and venture further , down the beach.  My new condo is a townhouse. I like my neighbors, I love the community and confess that I haven’t attended any of their board meetings. I have acquired access to a tennis and racquetball court, the use of three pools ( I prefer the lap pool),  a large community room, an observation deck and a full gym.  I am happy to say that I pay less maintenance and enjoy more amenities, than I did before.

The same group of people have been running my current condo for several years and all of my neighbors are cheerful and seem happy!  I have yet to disapprove of any of the decisions made by my current board. I am on a mailing list and am informed about matters pertaining to my community. “Life is good”!

If you are considering purchasing a condo, my advice is to do your homework and be sure you have some idea about the climate and the emotional energy of the current owners.  It will make your beach experience …. so much  more enjoyable.  And, remember , that life is short!  I really do love “Sandy Toes & Salty Kisses”!  Beach life truly can be….. an  amazing experience!

Author: Patty Richardson

Writer: Film scripts, poetry, short stories.

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