Living in a house vs a condo

Alyssa Furtado
by Alyssa Furtado July 18, 2012 / 8 Comments

As a Realtor, I get asked this question all the time: which is a better, a house or a condo?  There is no right or wrong answer here; it’s completely a personal and lifestyle choice whether you’re a first-time home buyer, a family or an empty nester. Houses are not just for families as one may think, personally I could never live in a condo whether I’m single, with a family or an empty nester, that lifestyle is just not for me (and yes I live in a house and yes I don’t have a family). But I know many people that feel the exact opposite, regardless of what stage in their life they are. So make sure that whatever decision you do finally make its right for you and it’s something you can live with, literally! To help you along in this process, here are some points to consider.


Do you like shoveling, weeding, cutting grass and maintaining a garden and have the time to do so? Actually let’s be honest, no one really likes shovelling and weeding but if you don’t mind it and have a green thumb, then a house would be a good fit. In a condo, the building hires professionals to do all that work for you which is taken out of your maintenance fees, so if it’s not your cup of tea and you don’t have the time, then a condo might be a better option. On the reverse side, if you have a budget for those expenses and want to live in a house, then you can hire a professional too.


In a house, especially older ones, like we have here in Toronto, something is always bound to break or stop working, leaving the owner with a costly repair bill, most of the time. Again, if you have the money or are a handy-man and are not afraid of the unknown, then why not try a house? You also have to factor in utility bills and home insurance payments into your monthly budget when owning a home. With a condo, you pay your mortgage and a monthly maintenance fee that usually includes insurance, and most utilities (hydro is separate, especially in newer condos). If something breaks down anywhere in the building, which is NOT inside your unit, the condo will pay for it out of the reserve fund. But keep in mind maintenance fees are determined based on the size of your unit and how many units are in the building. Also, the older the building, the higher the maintenance fee is, so make sure to do your homework!

Backyard vs. Balconies

Some people love the idea of having a front and backyard, especially us, Canadians. We are all about our patios in the summer time. If you have a dog it also makes things easier by having a backyard and also a place for kids to play in. If you’d rather have a view of the city skyline from up above, then a condo might be the way to go.

One Level vs. Multi Levels

I personally cannot live somewhere where everything is all on one floor; I like the diversity of having multi levels, each floor having its own purpose, it makes me feel like I have more space and options. If you’re like me, then a house is a better fit. If you prefer everything on one floor or are indifferent to it, then why not a condo?


Condos usually offer an extensive list of amenities and multi purpose rooms, which is also paid for through your maintenance fees. Some people love the convenience of having everything right at their fingertips, a one-stop-shop if you will and condos are perfect for that. If you are not into that or like traveling outside of your home to go to the gym, etc, then your money is better spent on a house.


What is your long term plan for your property? Do you intend on staying put until it’s time to downsize or do you have a short term plan? If it’s the short term plan then a house may be a better choice as houses retain their value better, even during a down time (minus a major recession) and increase in value a lot faster. This is why we have TV shows called “Flip This House” and not “Flip This Condo.”

Location, Location, Location

A lot of condos are built in the city’s core, close to work, entertainment and nightlife. If this is what is at the utmost importance to you and you don’t plan on spending a lot of time at home, then a condo is the better route. Don’t get me wrong, you can buy a house close to all of that, you just have to have a lot of dough.

Space, Decorating, Entertaining

As our city’s condos get smaller and smaller, there is definitely less space to accommodate a growing family and entertaining a group of friends. This can easily be done in a house, so if you’re a social butterfly with a growing family, choose a home. Decorating inside your unit is never a problem, but if you like to renovate to customize your space, you need approval first, in a home you don’t.

This list is endless so make sure to weigh all your options before making a decision. Really be honest with yourself about the lifestyle you like to lead and what your current situation is. If you go down the condo route, never let the monthly condo fees, combined with property taxes, mortgage and insurance, exceed 30% of your monthly income. If a house is the winner, then the mortgage combined with property taxes shouldn’t exceed 25% of your monthly income, since you’ll end up paying extra for any maintenance the house will require. Remember one is not better than the other, it all depends on your location, budget and way of living. A good hybrid in between both is a condo townhouse, but I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

The following article was written by Toronto real estate agent, Aleksandra Oleksak, a sales representative from Sage Real Estate. You can find more of Aleksandra’s blogging material at

Don’t forget to follow @RealtyQueenTO on Twitter and ‘like‘ her on Facebook. We already did.

categories: Real Estate
  • Anonymous

    Such a biased article! Crazy.

  • It really depends on what your goals are and what is right for you long term. In some situations a condo is the only way to go and in others you would be crazy not to buy a single family house.

  • ratehub

    Hi Anonymous. What do you find biased about the article? I thought Aleksandra did a great job of laying out the pros and cons of each.

    I personally am house all the way but agree with Raeann it really depends on the home buyers and financial situation.

  • Matt

    I feel the article comes across as biased because pretty much right away Aleksandra mentions how she could never live in a condo. I am glad that she is fortunate enough to be single and own a house in the GTA, not a reality for a lot of people. Perhaps an article written by someone who has experienced both living in a condo and living in a house makes more sense when describing pros and cons in both.

    You see shows like flip that house instead of flip that condo because you can do so much more to a house than to a condo.

    At the very least wait until the end of the article to let everyone know which one house vs condo you have chosen, instead of setting the tone right from the beginning.

  • ratehub

    That’s a fair point Matt – thanks for explaining. Aleksandra definitely states her opinion at the beginning of the article and then brings up many points on either side throughout the article.

    There are significant financial trade-offs as you mentioned and we’ll be exploring those in a article this month with Yahoo! finance. We’ll pass along the link when the article is live.

  • HI Matt, sorry you feel that this article is bias…next time I will mention my preference at the end of the article and not the beginning to set the tone as you say. I did mention also at the beginning that many people feel the exact opposite and I understand that there’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s based on your lifestyle, budget, goals and personal perference, I was just giving some points to consider on both sides and do mention home ownership can be costly.

    “You see shows like flip that house instead of flip that condo because you can do so much more to a house than to a condo”

    In regards to your above comment, I have renovated many proeprties in the past, condos and homes and I’m also Realtor and it is a proven fact that houses appreciate in value faster then condos. Further, yes there are restrictions when renovating condos, but the most common renos in a condo are, paint, new floors, kitchen and bathrooms which can be done with relative ease in a condo just like a house. Really the only thing you can’t change is the outside of your unit and knock out walls, like you can in a house and therefore I stand strongly by my statement. Regardless thanks for reading the article and commenting 🙂 Difference of opinions and that’s ok

  • Laura

    I think this article is very good.
    I am a single empty nester that is considering selling my house and buying a condo, but am still undecided. This article makes very good points about costs, resale and how to budget for maintenance. Very good points to consider, thanks for the info!

  • Pingback: Buyer Round Up! | Realty Queen TO | Toronto Real Estate Agent | The Junction Toronto()