The Prince or The Pauper: Answers to Your Comments

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Thank you so much for all the comments received yesterday regarding the two potential condo choices I wrote about – so much to think about! Rather than answer everyone’s comment individually though, I thought I would just write a general post that would hopefully answer everyone with some more information.

First, our income qualifies us for both condos, so that’s not an issue. The Prince, at its current asking price and with the association fees added in, would take us very close to our upper limit though. With either of the units we will have to pay for electric (other utilities are covered by the HOA), and electricity is NOT cheap here. With the electric bill added to the mortgage on The Prince we would be pushing the envelope of our personal comfort level when it comes to housing costs, and that’s without any special assessments that could come along. We would offer less than the asking price, but whether the owners would be willing to accept that is of course unknown. Even if we paid full asking price for The Pauper we would have a much lower payment, making it easier on our budget to afford the cost of running an all-electric home as well as possible special assessments that might be levied in the future. If we could get it for less than the asking price, even better.

But then again there are those renovations and upgrades that would be needed with The Pauper. We are not talking remodeling; that it, there would be no plumbing or wiring changes required, or walls moved, or things like that. As far as we can tell now, the unit needs the flooring replaced, the whole interior needs painting, the bathrooms need new vanities and countertops, and the kitchen eventually will need new cabinets, countertops and appliances. All of these jobs are ones that could be done by a good handyman (and I so wish the guy that did the selling prep for us back in Portland was available here. He could do everything, do it well and for only $25/hour). Still, any upgrades will take time, and cost us in labor and materials, and we know from experience that going through even small upgrades is not fun. We have seen pictures though of lower level units that have recently been renovated and they are lovely, so there is lots of potential if we’re willing to put up with it (and we’re not sure we are).

As far as costs are concerned though, we have funds to do some upgrades, and because we are veterans we get a 10% discount on everything we purchase from Home Depot, from paint to flooring to window coverings to hardware to kitchen cabinets to flashlight batteries. Everything. Prices here are the same or only slightly higher at Home Depot than they are back on the mainland. And, we can do some things ourselves, like painting, installing hardware, etc. which will help cut costs.

Location within the complex will also play a strong role in which might be the better unit for us. While The Prince is upstairs and has a nice view, it’s also closer to the pool, tennis courts, clubhouse and other facilities. The path to these amenities goes right by the condo, so there is the potential for noise from guests coming and going, as well as noise from the pool area itself. The Pauper’s building is set in a more secluded area, so it might be quieter overall. Its view of the forested area might be very nice – we don’t know yet. All the units are placed to catch the tradewinds.

There are no elevators in the complex, so we would be going up and down the stairs to The Prince with our groceries, etc. for as long as we owned it, and no matter what the weather. Our current house is upstairs, and while we like being up here for a variety of reasons, going up and down the stairs with groceries, trash, laundry, etc., if we are being honest, has gotten old. Still, the stairs are better for us health-wise as we age (more activity), and bugs are less of a problem the higher up you are. But, as we have learned from living in the house we’re renting now, being upstairs is no guarantee of quiet. We might not have footsteps overhead, but we still get plenty of noise and cooking smells from downstairs because windows around here are usually always open, rain or shine. Also, there is assigned parking at the complex, and we don’t know yet how far that is from each of the units. It might not be a big thing, but I know from experience that something small like how far you have to walk to get to your house has the potential to become very annoying a couple of or few years down the road.

Finally, there are no short-term or vacation rentals allowed in any condo within the complex, so no VRBO or Airbnb rentals for us no matter how nicely renovated our home is. We can still do house swaps though, so will be investigating those more in the future as a possible way to save when we travel.

We will know more after we tour the condos this coming Saturday. The Prince’s open beam ceiling is stunning and really calls to us, and we like the idea of everything being done even if it’s not exactly to our taste – it’s a beautiful unit. But, looking at the long term, we know it might be wiser to have that smaller mortgage that comes with The Pauper, and the savings from doing the upgrades ourselves.

And who knows, maybe neither of the condos will be what we want, or maybe another unit will come available, one that we like more, before we get ready to make an offer (tomorrow I’ll be putting up our timeline).

Thankfully, we have time to make the best choice for us.

The Prince or The Pauper?

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Brett and I have become interested in two condos that are currently available in a complex that’s a good choice for both location and price. Both units are the same size (2 BR, 2B, 1000 square feet), have the same floorplan, the same taxes, the same HOA fees. But that’s where the similarities end.

In order to tell them apart when we talk about them, we named the two units The Prince and The Pauper:

  • The Prince: This is an upstairs unit and has beautiful open-beam cathedral ceilings as well as a storage loft. The unit has been upgraded with porcelain tile floors in the living room and new carpet in the bedrooms, It has a fully-renovated kitchen with high-end finishes (tiled backsplash and granite countertops), new appliances and loads of cabinet space. Both bathrooms have been upgraded. Air conditioners are already installed, and the two lanais are screened-in. The lanais overlook a greenbelt and the complex swimming pool.
  • The Pauper: This is a downstairs unit that hasn’t had any upgrades in nearly 20 years and was probably used as a rental. There is older carpet throughout, the kitchen could use renovating but is useable, and the bathrooms need upgrading. The whole interior needs painting. The lanais are not enclosed, and are really just open concrete patios. They look out over a forested area.

The Prince is priced at $50,000 more than The Pauper.

If we bought The Prince all we would have to do is move in – everything is already done. The loft provides a bit more storage space, and there’s the nice views from the lanai. But, while it’s very attractive, many of the decorating choices are not ones we would make and we’re not sure how we would feel about them over time.

With The Pauper, there would be lots of work to do – like immediately replacing the carpet with tile and doing the painting, for example – but we could get things done the way we wanted versus living with someone else’s decorating choices (for example, we really don’t care for granite countertops). We could enclose the lanais. And, all the renovations/upgrades could be done for a whole lot less than $50,000. Our monthly mortgage payment would be much smaller. But, there’s no extra loft storage, and the unit doesn’t have those lovely open beam ceilings or as nice a view.

There is a third unit available, priced the same as The Prince, but it’s also on the ground floor and needing some work, so we probably won’t even consider it. 

The choice between The Prince and The Pauper almost makes us feel like we’re on an episode of Househunters. Brett and I go back and forth over which would be a better choice for us – one day it’s The Prince, the next it’s The Pauper. The girls love The Prince, but they’re not paying the mortgage nor will they be living there after a couple of years.

We have plans to visit the complex with our agent this weekend to check out the two competing units, and we’re hoping that actually seeing them will help us decide. Maybe we won’t like either of them!

What do you think?