Many retirees are looking for a smaller home and one with less maintenance. It is hard to get a house with less "maintenance" than a condominium. A condo differs from other forms of real property in that the owner has title to the interior space in fee simple (absolute sole ownership) and holds title to the whole complex with all other owners as tenants in common. By owning only the interior space, the owner need only keep that interior up. Should any problems occur with the structure such as the roof or the siding, he simply turns that over to the local HOA to deal with.
The HOA is the blessing and the curse of a condo. Yes it is this entity that keeps the roof and siding good, pays to maintain the grounds, parking, etc. But this HOA organization also must be responsible to provide these services. It must be run well. Furthermore, some HOAs can be very "gestapo" about rules and regulations.
Condo living is not for everyone. It is however great for many retirees that want a nice place to live and time to enjoy life outside of their home! The less time you have to work on your house, the more time you have for exciting and fun activities. Condos also often have amenities like a pool or work out area. For the modern retiree many condo complexes are designed for senior living with recreational activities that bring opportunity to socialize.
If a condo is something you might be interested in there are a few things to consider. First is the HOA; make sure it is well funded and managed. HOAs are required by law in most states to keep and provide for prospective buyers and existing owners a balance sheet and projections. Understand that you as an owner will have no discretion over the exterior of the building other than your HOA member vote. Talk to existing tenants to see if there are any annoying HOA-isms that might bother you in the future. If you have a pet or a boat or several cars, be certain the facility can accommodate your needs. Pets are sometimes limited in size or quantity in an HOA environment. Make sure the HOA dues are manageable in your budget. if you are borrowing to purchase the bank will qualify you including the HOA payment. This will lower the available funds you have to borrow.
There are some great condos out there and right now they are one of the few remaining values in the market place. Condos have yet to spike back up in price. The next year or so could prove to be the last of the screaming condo deals. If the care-free living style afforded by condos is your cup of tea then now is the time to act.