A: Thanks for reaching out. Many homeowners find it difficult to deal with the people who run their homeowners’ associations. However, we think that it’s part of the risk you take living in an association.
We understand your frustration with your board-run building, and actually spent five years in the same situation with the first property we bought together many years ago. Ours was a gorgeous co-op on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, but the owners who ran the co-op board were petty, had no common sense and treated it like a fiefdom. They made such poor decisions about the management of the property that we eventually decided to sell the unit and choose a single-family home for our next property.
Like you, we loved living in our unit, but the interactions with most of our fellow unit owners was a bit too much. When we left, we moved to a small suburban town in the Chicago metropolitan area. At our first town meeting, we looked at each other as we realized that we’d moved from a small co-op association to another that was similar, just larger. People are people.
What we’re trying to say is that you have to compare how much these people interfere with what you do and how you live your life to the annoyance and the expense of selling and moving. If they make your life so unbearable, you’ll need to move. On the other hand, if you can avoid dealing with them and stay out of the politics of the building, you might find it better to stay and avoid all of the hassles of packing, moving and finding other living arrangements.
But at age 84, are you wondering what’s next? Selling your home would give you a significant amount of cash in the bank. Renting would give you the flexibility to make other arrangements, should you need them, and feel more secure financially in case you have a large medical expense. Or you might be thinking you’d enjoy moving to a community designed for active seniors that offers more amenities, such as classes, exercise opportunities and social opportunities on-site.
Even if your health is quite good now, we suspect asking about the association issues is a red herring, masking some insecurities about what will make you happy if and when that changes.
So we’ll ask you the question a friend of ours often asks in situations like these: Could you be happier? If the answer is yes, focus on what changes you could make that would improve your situation, whether that’s simply ignoring the bad and stepping back from the people who run your building, finding a new place to buy or rent that offers you an equally lovely living space with other amenities, or moving closer to friends and family.
Take a look at the big picture and consider your options; then you can decide whether to stay or move. Just recognize that people are people, and any building you live in, whether it’s owner-occupied, a rental property, or a senior lifestyle community, may present issues with neighbors and poor management.
Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (4th Edition). She is also the chief executive of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through her website, bestmoneymoves.com.