What Should I Buy?
Condo or Single-Family Home?
The purchase of a condo allows a person to own a predetermined area of space, not necessarily land. Condo owners share in the ownership of all common areas such as hallways, foundation, stairs, social rooms, etc. under a legal arrangement. With a single family-house, the owner is solely responsible for the entire property. A house entitles the owner to the rights of the land, all permanently attached structures and the air above it. In both instances, owners have title of ownership and tax responsibilities and may rent and sell the property they own. There are many factors to consider when deciding between the purchase of a condo or a single-family home.
About one-third of all residential real estate transactions are condos. In general, condos cost less than single-family homes, which appeals to many first-time home buyers. They also appeal to older people because there is little to no exterior maintenance. "Empty-nesters" also like leaving larger houses for the convenience, increased safety and amenities of a condo. There is no cutting or watering the lawn, trimming hedges, painting the exterior, etc. Many condos also have common amenities such as pools, workout rooms, tennis courts, even golf courses. Many people purchase condos as an investment, and earn income by renting out the condo.
By-laws are established to set certain rules and manage the overall property of a condo building. A condo association (group of owners within the condo) enforces and changes by-laws. By-laws are usually very extensive and typically cover areas such as noise, pets, common area usage, exterior decoration restrictions, interior renovations, etc. Typically there is a monthly association fee that is paid into a fund to cover maintenance, repairs and cleaning, so that the owners share financial responsibility for common areas. These fees vary greatly and should be considered along with the cost of the condo. On the other hand, association fees do allow condo owners to save on some general maintenance costs.
- Generally more affordable
- May provide increased security
- Often offer amenities (pool, gym, etc.)
- No outdoor maintenance
- Earn equity (like a house)
- May deduct interest payment from taxes (like a house)
- Less control over space
- Condo fees
- Generally more difficult to sell than single-family homes
Everything about a single-family home is yours. You have no association rules and no association fees. However, you should always check out a neighborhood before buying because some do have HOA fees, especially in gated communities. There is also a tendency for single-family homes to appreciate in value more quickly than a condo of comparable size. Of course many factors contribute to a home’s value such as location. Single-family homes allow you to enjoy more privacy and control.
Single-Family House Pros
- Generally appreciate in value faster than condos
- Give control over property
- No association fees, unless in a planned community or gated community
- No by-laws
Single-Family House Cons
- Responsible for all house maintenance and yardwork
- May have limited on-property amenities
- May not offer the security of community living
- Not always as affordable