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 www.realtyqueento.com