A condo might sound like a good deal among expensive properties but keep in mind that condos are difficult to resell. Despite the cheaper rates, minimum maintenance costs and great amenities, condos have a small buyers market, making the property less desirable and harder to sell at the desired price point.
With skyrocketing property rates, getting a single-family house sounds like a far-fetched dream!
Of course, renting is common among some families, but for how long can one continue to pay for living in a house that isn’t even theirs? That’s when condos emerge as a more affordable alternative to buying a detached house. It offers the same, if not more, level of independence without the burden of regular repairs and upkeep. These factors make condos a favorable option for first-time homebuyers.
But anything that sounds too good to be true is bound to invite suspicion. Hence, we’ve compiled this guide on “Condo vs. House” to help you make the right choice!
Difference Between Condos And Houses
For starters, a condo or a condominium is an individual unit that generally requires less interior and exterior maintenance and is, overall, more affordable than a typical single-family home. Condos may be available as apartment-like units or detached houses.
The most advantageous feature of buying a condo is that you only own the inside of the property. Hence, the outdoor space is maintained by a homeowners association (HOA), and you’ll be required to pay them for home maintenance and other community amenities.
In contrast to a condo, a single-family house is a type of real estate wherein you are responsible for interior and exterior maintenance. You do not share any utilities or amenities with other houses in the vicinity and can even steer clear of paying HOA fees. As such, you need not abide by the HOA rules as long as you maintain your house properly.
However, in some areas, some subdivisions of single-family homes are supervised by an HOA, so remember to find out about HOA fees, if applicable, before buying any property. Regardless of what type of home you purchase, note that you can finance either of them with a mortgage, so it’s best to apply as soon as possible.
Cost Of Buying A Condo Vs House
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can surely keep a roof over your head! So, it should be the first thing to consider while buying a home for yourself. However, before we proceed, keep in mind that the cost of real estate is not just the listing price. Other expenses include but are not limited to homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance, property taxes, and HOA fees.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of these costs…
First things first, houses are much bigger than condos, thereby covering a larger surface area. And if it has a garden or a garage surrounding it, the costs are bound to get higher.
Insurance is another factor adding to the house costs as it covers not just the four-walled structure but also the property it is situated on.
Then comes taxes. Now, normally condos and houses are taxed on a similar basis. However, a house covers “more” property than a condo, so you can expect property taxes to be higher for a house owner than a condo owner.
Lastly, you have ownership over the surrounding area, which includes the roof, the lawn, the gutters in the vicinity, and more. As such, you will have to maintain and clean them regularly or pay someone else to do the job. Either way, it’s your pocket that needs to bear the maintenance costs!
Condo owners are better off than house owners in terms of costs. This is because the square footage of a typical condo is much smaller than a single-family home. And since you have the authority over the interiors only, you don’t have to worry about landscaping, plumbing (outside the condo), and more. The condo board or the HOA looks after any work done outside the condo.
The HOA costs are the only factor that may make condo living expensive for some. While looking for suitable condo complexes, try opting for one that offers fewer amenities to lower your HOA costs.
For instance, swimming pools, storage units, gyms, dog parks, etc., aren’t really necessities. So, if you can find a condo complex without any of these amenities you don’t need, well and good. Of course, if you really want a condo unit with a swimming pool within the complex, simply inform your real estate agent and mentally prepare yourself for the HOA fees!
However, the good news is – your insurance will be significantly lower than that of, say, a free-standing house owner. This is because, again, the HOA covers the insurance for the exterior of the house.
Basically, you’re responsible for whatever happens inside the house, like if your kitchen ends up in flames because of some mistake while cooking. On the other hand, if the harsh weather damages your roof, the HOA will take over.
Pros Of Living In A Condo Vs House
1. Community Living
In a condo complex, possibly with a community pool and other shared amenities, you will get more chances to interact with your neighbors. Other condos will also be located in close proximity to one another. Not to forget, the HOA or the condo association may hold regular meetings to discuss issues regarding maintenance, monthly HOA fees, and more.
Now, this factor can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on your relations with the HOA members and neighbors, in general. Also, note that not every condo community will be as tight-knit as mentioned above. So, it is best to do your research with a real estate agent before buying a condo.
2. Fancy Amenities
Depending on the condo associations, you may get to enjoy fancy amenities like on-site gyms, parking garages, parks, etc. Obviously, if you own a house, you won’t get these shared amenities unless you live in an expensive locality. You do have the option of building a personal swimming pool or garage, but then, again, the cost and effort of maintenance lurk over your head!
However, even for condo owners, the cost of these amenities is cloaked under monthly HOA fees. So, make sure you choose a community with the amenities you actually require.
3. Less Maintenance
This factor is probably the best part about condo living! Thanks to condo communities, you don’t have to worry about tasks like roof maintenance, snow removal, trash pickup, gutter cleaning, and more.
In some cases, electrical and plumbing repairs may also be looked after by the HOA, provided you pay for it. In case of no on-site maintenance, the HOA maintains contacts with local plumbers, electricians, cleaning specialists, and more. So, in case you need one, you won’t have to waste any more time looking for the right service company/professional.
4. More Choices
While the number of houses easily outweighs the number of condos in the US, in most high-cost cities, densely populated urban areas, and vacation spots, condos are more common. And as mentioned before, condos are cheaper than single-family homes, and the difference in price is even wider in expensive areas.
In March 2021, the National Association of REALTORS concluded that the average purchase price of a single-family home is $334,500, while a condo unit generally costs around $289,000.
5. Potentially Cheaper Insurance
Condo insurance is significantly lower than homeowners insurance. However, we recommend checking the HOA’s insurance policy to know exactly how much you’ll be paying and purchasing a condo accordingly.
Cons Of Living In A Condo Vs House
1. Lack Of Privacy
Condo owners usually share walls with their neighbors, providing less privacy than you could have in a detached house. Plus, there are common areas for the condo owners to meet and interact. Now, this may sound good if you’re a social butterfly.
But for those who prefer staying in over socializing with the world, condo living can be no less than a nightmare! Moreover, due to constant turnover in a condo building, most of your neighbors will be short-stay renters, which could be another undesirable factor.
2. HOA Fees
Apart from the mortgage payment, you will be signing up for monthly HOA dues by opting for condo ownership. The community may charge extra fees for additional amenities, and these monthly costs can add up over time. So, make sure you know all these costs before buying a condo.
3. Rules And Regulations
The HOA’s rule is the law of the land in a condo community. So, the condo HOAs may pose restrictions on, say, the color of your curtains or having pets. As such, they have the power to limit what happens inside and outside the condo.
A well-run HOA may offer you a certain degree of freedom while helping you increase the value of your investment. That said, you may have to tackle an HOA even while buying a house in a planned community. However, they are much more lenient in terms of the look of your house and more concerned with the amenities in the community.
4. Resale Issues
If a condo is your first home, you may want to think about its resale value. Condos tend to be harder to resell, especially if they aren’t well-maintained. After all, your condo will be competing with multiple others in the same community.
Hence, if your budget allows, we recommend opting for a two-bedroom condo unit, even if you essentially require only one bedroom. While reselling, the number of buyers for a one-bedroom unit is drastically lower than that for two bedrooms.
Condos Vs House Frequently Asked Questions ?
Who is a condo best for?
Condo ownership is ideal if you are…
- a first-time homebuyer transitioning from renting
- a previous homeowner who isn’t willing to take responsibility for building maintenance
- someone who often travels abroad
- someone who wants to live in a high-end area but cannot afford single-family homes
- someone who wishes to enjoy fancy amenities but cannot maintain them
Who Is A House Best For?
House living is more suitable for the following…
- growing families
- those who want the freedom to take decisions regarding the aesthetic and structural aspects of the house
- those who want privacy
- those who do not require a maintenance team
Condos Vs House Final Words
Condos, generally preferred for their lower price tags, are also suitable for those who want to build equity and use it toward a down payment for their next home.
However, it is best to do your research before buying a condo. While it does seem like a better option if you’ve got a tight budget, the lack of privacy and authority over your own property isn’t quite desirable. Not to forget that reselling condos is no cakewalk!
Another pro tip would be to ensure that most of the condo units in the community are occupied by owners and not renters. If there are too many of the latter, you’ll only be surrounded by temporary occupants who do not have much interest in caring for and maintaining the common spaces.