Also published on the Huffington Post.

Condo life. It’s, for the most part, a city thing. People who don’t want to be able to see their neighbors or who want to own land don’t understand those who choose to live in condos. Sometimes it’s not about choice but necessity.

Lots of people have condo horror stories. I once managed a condo building that was ripe with hilarious stories that you would not believe unless you were there. For example, it’s never good when the building’s most unstable resident comes into the management office to ask if there’s a rule prohibiting her from buying a gun. Or when the hoarders who live below or next to you keep their place in such poor condition that you become an expert at deploying rodent traps. Or when a domestic dispute between two ex-boyfriends of a woman who has since moved on to Bachelor #3, results in gunshots to a toilet tank that floods the entire tier of condos below it.

Whether you’re out hunting for a condo to buy or you already live in one, here are some tips that could greatly improve your quality of life.

1) Run for the Board – Not From It!
I know, this sounds like a horrifying suggestion – a volunteer job with no perks. But, there is incredible value in being part of the decision making body for the condo association. You get to protect your own investment. You can weigh in on matters of importance and make a real impact to both the quality of life in the building and your investment by making sure the proper things are fixed, repaired, addressed. And you can satisfy your gossip appetite for finding out all sorts of interesting tidbits.

2) Don’t Be a Jerk
It’s obvious from the second you see the condo for the first time that you will be living in very close quarters with many other people. Make no mistake about it – when someone breaks up with their significant other, when someone’s burning samosas (guilty!) when someone is out of town – you’re going to know about it. And, there’s going to come a time where you could use a neighbor’s help. Locked out and need a place to hang out until the locksmith arrives? Stuck at work and need a neighbor to walk your pup? Realize you’re out of eggs mid-recipe? (And flour, and sugar, and vanilla, and the cake pan. You know who you are.) The more friends you have in your building or community, the better. Some of these friendships can form the quality of your entire home life and last for years after you’ve moved out.

3) Take Care of the Manager and Maintenance Staff
You may live in a small building or it may be huge, but it is likely that you have someone who either sits in a management office in the lobby somewhere, or who shows up a couple times a week to clean and empty trash. Regardless of who that person is, show your appreciation for them. It doesn’t have to be monetary though that is nice. But, baking cookies one night? (With the ingredient list borrowed from your neighbor’s refrigerator?) Bake extra and drop off a plate in the office. Gestures like this are greatly appreciated. It’s best to be on the good side of everyone who is employed by the condo association. And regardless of the fact that yes, your monthly dues go toward paying their salary, never ever remind them of that. Forging a good relationship with the management can pay back in insurmountable ways. The managers will go out of their way to help you with things they won’t do for others. This is a nice place to be when your air conditioning gets clogged with dust and you need a repair right away or when you leave your iron on and realize only when you’re at work.

4) Make Friends with the Postal Carrier, Fed Ex and UPS.
If possible, of course. If you work all day and never see them, it’s understandable that you may not have the opportunity to say hello or hand them a plate of your fresh-baked cookies. But if you have a day off, or a sick day? Try to find them. Make sure they know your face because they certainly know your name, and what you buy, and how much you spend. A little goodwill here goes a long way. It could be the difference between finding your packages at your door and having to chase them down across the city to a distribution center.

I realize of course that for some reading this, you may be reminded of that old Seinfeld episode where they hang pictures in the lobby and give each other hugs and kisses, much to Jerry’s dismay. You don’t have to go that far, but when you realize that these relationships will greatly impact your experience living in the community, it’s worth the extra bit of effort.