House? Condominium? Which is Right for You?

Are you trying to decide what kind of home to be searching for? Singles, young couples, small families and empty-nesters often weigh condos and single family homes. It’s all a matter of deciding what is most important to you, and what is not important. Many articles and websites evaluate “the pros and cons” of each…but really, it’s about evaluating which benefits mean the most to you as the owner. There are costs and responsibilities to owning any type of home, so there’s no real downsides to either type, just different upsides. If you evaluate what a home means to you, what features you need to be happy, and what features leave you uninterested, you’ll know which type of home would meet your needs and make you anticipate a happy homecoming as you arrive in your drivway every evening!

What about cost? Yes (surprise!) there are costs to owning a house. Yes (surprise!) there are costs to owning a condo. In many markets a condo is less expensive than a house, but there are condo fees every month. But, for some houses there are homeowner association fees, too. Yes, houses cost money to maintain, while condos usually include maintenance costs in the association fee. However, there are some very good home warranty options that can reduce those costs for house owners. A savvy Realtor can suggest good ones for your area. For either housing option, read your contract carefully, understand what your risks, costs, obligations, and bottom line is. If the whole idea of reading the fine print on a contract gives you a headache, consult a real estate lawyer for a legalese translation!

So knowing that cost is an issue you’ll have to address no matter which option you purchase…let’s get to the good stuff! Which features of home ownership are important to you?

Outdoor chores: Do you use outdoor chores as a main source of pleasure or exercise? If weeding and mowing give you a chance to chat with the neighbors, or shoveling snow allows you and your honey the joy of a snowball fight and cocoa, a house is calling your name. Would you, or DO you pay money to have someone, ANYONE, do those chores for you? A condo may be your speed.

Meetings, community involvement, and mutual responsibilities are often cited as a reason folks avoid Condos…but HOAs are pretty similar. If you want to be free to decorate your house with glitter and erotic art, a freestanding house out in the boonies is a good idea. Even then, you’re going to get mail about making changes! For the rest of us, the pleasure of a well-maintained neighborhood is probably worth the trouble…and both types of homes can offer associations that improve and care for the neighborhood.

Privacy is a biggie for many home-hunters. Condos often share a living surface (walls, floors, ceilings) with neighbors. And while it may cut down on your heating and cooling costs, some neighbors are not a good fit for one another. If you value absolute peace and quiet, or if you know you love noise, action, and commotion at all hours, a house is a good option. Are you easygoing and social, and like the entertainment value of the lively neighbors? Then condo may be the way you’re thinking.

Do you own a gym, pool, or tennis membership? Or perhaps you really want to downsize but you love to entertain. Condo communities often offer luxuries like pools, tennis courts, fitness centers and party rooms that are available to all residents. Some even rest storage units, offer laundry facilities, and other unique options. For many, the ability to stroll to those amenities makes the condo fees look good. Not interested? Then some of the fees would be wasted, and a house might be a better choice.

How soon might you need to resell? Houses tend to increase in value over time in most markets, and their value stays steady even during economic fluctuations. Obviously major recessions and depressions will affect even the best neighborhoods, but overall, houses retain their value well. Condominiums don’t increase in value as quickly, and are far more responsive to economic climate changes than houses. If you’re worried you’ll have to resell in just a few years, or sell quickly, ask your Realtor’s advice. The location and other factors that play into retained and increased value of property can be explained by a professional. The risk is assumed by the buyer…so know your facts, and ask lots of questions.

Outdoor space is another consideration. Do you love having your own yard? Yearn to plant vegetables, or grow roses? A house may be just what you’re looking for. Do you enjoy parks? Love the outdoors but feel grateful to have park rangers and city services take care of them? Condos often have beautiful green spaces available to all residents, but without the danger of being assigned to weed, mow, shovel, or dig. Some even have patios, balconies, or other private outdoor spaces for those who want a little yardage, but not the whole kit-and-caboodle.

Evaluate what features of HOME mean the most to you. Talk to your Realtor about what you really want and don’t want in a home. Then search, tour, and consider all of your options with an open mind. There is a perfect home for you out there…no matter if it’s in house or condo form, once you’ve found your own personal castle, you’ll be home in no time!

Prefer to consider apples with apples and oranges with oranges? For the pros and cons lists, try these two references:

Pros and Cons of Going Condo

Buying a Condo Vs. a House

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  1. Wow…..excellent take on the subject, Pat.  As someone who sells a lot of condos, I am impressed, especially the part about how a condo might not increase in value as quickly as a house….this is absolutely true in our market as well….