Publication Date: Wednesday, October
Purchase prices are less volatile, but monthly
fees vary widely
by Bill D'Agostino
In the late 1990s, the residents of Parkview West, a 180-unit condo
complex in Mountain View, faced a financial fiasco after they replaced
Mike Crader, a resident of condominium complex Parkview
West in Mountain View, is also president of the homeowners'
association board. This year the board has had to deal with
replacing failing roofs.
The replacement roofs were tiled with a brand new product known
as Cemwood, a cement and wood mixture. After five years -- instead
of the 75 years guaranteed by the manufacturer -- the roofs began
"The manufacturers filed for bankruptcy and the installers
went out of business," remembered Mike Crader, a Parkview resident
and the president of its homeowners' association board. "So
instead of reserving for replacing the roofs over 50 years, we're
replacing them over 10 years."
Condominiums are one of the few affordable housing options for
people in the area who want to purchase their homes instead of continually
throwing money into a rental. They're popular with retirees and
younger families, especially since a monthly fee pays for all exterior
costs: roof and structural repairs, painting, landscaping and insurances.
Still, complexities abound. When someone buys a condominium, they
don't purchase the building -- just the airspace inside. Instead,
it's the homeowners' association that owns the buildings and the
That board, which is responsible for the maintenance of the units,
can thus change the outside appearances at their whim. Residents
"can't touch the exterior," Crader noted. "You can't
have your own painting. You can't change your windows, you can't
change your doors, you can't change your fences."
"In a condominium, the association also controls much of what
goes on inside the unit, as far as any kind of structural changes,"
according to Tim Johnson, president of Community Management Services.
Johnson's company manages complexes for associations in the area,
including Mountain View's Cypress Point Lakes.
Overseeing condo owners who want to expand their decks or change
the color of their homes is done to maintain uniformity, Johnson
said. "In all cases, the restrictions are pretty precise, for
good reason, because people do not want things happening to their
homes to change the appearance or to alter the overall look of the
Condo owner's monthly rates can vary greatly, depending on the
age of the complex, the general state of the buildings, and the
type of amenities offered. They generally range between $100 and
At Parkview, located at the corner of Rengstorff Avenue and Central
Expressway, near Rengstorff Park, the rate is between $220 and $320,
depending on the size of the unit and the number of bedrooms. Unlike
many associations however, the rates at Parkview also include water,
gas and garbage. That's because the units, converted from apartment
units into condos in 1979, don't have their own meters.
Since Parkview's association has nonprofit status, none of the
fees -- including any special assessment costs for damage that needs
immediate repairing -- are tax deductible. Fees don't necessarily
go up every year (in the late 1990s at Parkview West for instance
they dropped two years in a row) but this year, many are facing
increases due to rising insurance costs. Parkview's rates will jump
10 percent in 2003.
Despite the roof debacle, Crader can still see the benefits of
condo living: "There's more community because you know your
neighbors, you're right up against them. There's a lot more social
activity that goes on than in a regular neighborhood of houses."
This year, the market prices for the differing sized units in the
Parkview complex range from approximately $200,000 for a small studio-style
unit (550 square feet) to $425,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath
home, with 1,300 square feet.
Because of their relative affordability, condominium prices aren't
as volatile as other housing options. While they do mostly correspond
with the market, the peaks and valleys aren't as extreme.
As association president, Crader has seen his share of politicking
within Parkview's board. One of the worst came about last year when
the proposed height of a pool fence caused a stir in the community.
The resulting flap led to two of the complex's board members being
voted out in the March election. "It was the first time in
quite a while we had a contested election," Crader said, noting
that the two newcomers who won ran on a pool-fence height platform
-- and only a pool-fence height platform. One of those two new board
members has since resigned.
"When you're dealing with a condominium association, you're
dealing with, in our case, 180 different people who have 180 different
opinions about the ways things need to be done. You need to find
a middle ground so everything is pretty much done by consensus and
compromise," Crader said.
"It's basically a little city," he added. "Being
on the board is like being on the city council."
E-mail Bill D'Agostino at email@example.com