House versus Condo: The Ultimate Real Estate Face-Off

People entering today’s housing market have seemingly infinite choices to make when it comes to buying a home. However, one of the most important questions—and the foundation of any search—is what they’re even shopping for. Houses, apartments, condominiums, townhouses—what type of home will suit their needs? Here we take a look at the pros and cons and major differences between houses and condos.

To start, what is the difference between these two types of homes? The main difference is the type of ownership. “Condominium” doesn’t actually refer to a specific type of building; condos can look like apartments, townhouses, or even standalone homes; essentially, a condo is one housing unit within a larger complex of housing units. A house, on the other hand, is owned on its own and not as part of a larger complex.

Condo owners only own the inside of their unit, and share ownership of common spaces with other residents of the complex. Because of this shared ownership, condo owners pay a fee to maintain common spaces, such as hallways or amenities like a pool or gym. House owners own the entire house and the land underneath.

Condo Pros:

  1. Condos are generally less expensive than houses, though this varies depending on type and location.
  2. Many condo communities offer pools, tennis courts, gyms, and more.
  3. Only owning the inside of the unit means that you are not personally responsible for external repairs and maintenance.
  4. Lawn care and snow removal (where applicable) are taken care of, making a condo more low-maintenance. Association fees usually include utilities as well, though this varies by association.
  5.  The condo association has a set of rules and will hold neighbors accountable for breaking those rules.

Condo Cons:

  1. Condo association fees can be expensive and are a permanent added cost to your home. In addition, the association can assess extra fees for major improvements such as new siding or a new roof. It can also increase as the price of goods and services increases.
  2. Condo units are usually connected, which results in a lack of privacy due to possible noise from shared walls.
  3. Condo owners only own the inside of the unit, meaning they have little to no control over the outside of their unit. There is no chance for expansion since you don’t own the land around the unit.
  4. Condos have little to no yard space, and this could be a drawback for someone who enjoys working outdoors and maintaining a lawn or garden.
  5. The condo association will set rules and you could be assessed fines if you don’t follow those rules.

The condo association is an important aspect of buying a condo and should be looked into. Some important questions to ask when looking into a condo include:

  • How is soundproofing between units? Many units are double-insulated on shared walls, but it is important to ask. Also, which walls are shared? Are they relatively uninhabited spaces like closets or are they spaces like bedrooms?
  • What exactly is covered by the association fees?
  • How does the association pay for major improvements? Do they take reserves from monthly fees or use special assessments?
  • Are there any plans for major improvements? What and when was the last project? How was it funded?
  • Are there any pet restrictions?

You can also talk to members of a condo complex for firsthand experience about the complex. The best thing you can do is do your research and do some comparison shopping to figure out what home is right for you!

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