Condo or Single Family Home?

Condominiums have been a significant part of the real estate market for the last 20 years. In fact about one-third of all residential real estate transactions are condos. Townhomes or coach homes have many of the same strengths, weaknesses and special considerations. However, as a rule, when it comes to resale townhomes sell more easily than comparable condos.

Condo ownership allows a person to own a predetermined area of space, not necessarily land, and to share in common 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 owns everything and is solely responsible for the entire property. A house entitles the owner to the rights of the land (including mineral rights), all permanently attached structures and the air above it.

Condos

In both instances owners of condos and houses have title of ownership and tax responsibilities and can rent and sell the property they own. Condos appeal to many groups of people, but first time home buyers and older persons are the primary purchasers. In general, condos tend to cost less than single family homes which appeals to many first time home buyers. Because there is no exterior maintenance, they tend to appeal to older people. "Empty nesters" also like leaving larger houses for the convenience and increased safety and amenities of a condo.

Because condo owners share ownership for common areas and because of the close proximity of residences, by-laws are established to set certain rules and manage the overall property. A condo association (group of owners within the condo) is formed to enforce and change by-laws. Usually the board is elected annually. By-laws are usually very extensive and typically cover areas such as noise, pets, common area usage, exterior decoration restrictions, interior renovations, etc.

In addition, the common areas need to be maintained, cleaned and repaired. Financial responsibility for common areas is shared by the owners. Typically there is a monthly association fee that is paid into a fund to cover maintenance, repairs and cleaning. Generally this monthly fee takes into account extended repairs needed in the future: the roof will need to be replaced every 15 years; the parking lot will need to be resurfaced every five years, etc. For unforeseen expenses, the association may call for a special assessment for a particular project (a one time fee).

Condo fees vary greatly and should be considered in determining affordability of a property. On the other hand, condo owners do save on some general maintenance costs because these are covered under association fees. There is no cutting the lawn, trimming hedges, painting the exterior of the building, shoveling snow, etc. Many condos also have common amenities such as pools, work out rooms, tennis courts, even golf courses. Many people purchase condos as an investment, earning income by renting out the condo. High absenteeism of landlords in a property is generally undesirable and can make it difficult to get mortgage approval.

Single Family Homes

Everything about a single family home is yours. You have no association rules and no association fees. There is also a tendency for single family homes to appreciate in value more quickly than a condo of comparable size, accommodations and community. With a single family home you enjoy more privacy and more control and have sole responsibility for the property.

Condo Pros
  • Generally More Affordable
  • Generally More Secure
  • Often Offer Amenities (pool, etc.)
  • No Outdoor Maintenance
  • Earn Equity (like a house)
  • Get to Deduct Interest Payment from Taxes (like a house)
Condo Cons
  • Less Control Over Space
  • Condo Fees
  • Generally More Difficult to Sell than Single Family
Single Family House Pros
  • Generally Appreciate in Value Faster Than Condo
  • Give Control Over Property
  • No Association Fees
  • No By-Laws
Single Family House Cons
  • You Do All House Maintenance and Yardwork
  • You May Have Limited On-Property Amenities
  • Does Not Offer the Security of Community Living
  • Not Always as Affordable