Deciding whether to buy a condo or a house can sometimes be rather difficult. Especially if you're a first-time buyer and you have some expectations from your new home, as well as some reasons why you'd go for one or another option. In this article, I'm not just simply going through the pros and cons of condos and houses. I'd like to take a bit of a different approach by using two examples from real-life experience. So take a look at a the typical condo owner and the typical house owner below. I hope this will help you make the right decision quickly and easily.
Condo or House?
What should you consider, if you're not sure whether to buy a condo or a house?
Suppose there's a young man who has been renting an apartment after graduating, and he now wants to have his own home to have a bit more space for himself and his friends and to be able to get his own furniture and make any changes according to his style and preferences. Let's call this young man John.
Suppose John is a busy person who spends most of the time at the office, so he will probably not have much time to spend running errands, going out for fun, or shopping. He can't imagine shovelling snow every morning in the winter, and he doesn't care for roses or other flowers, so he won't plant or grow them.
John doesn't have any hobbies requiring more space than an apartment offers; he doesn't want more space, because he's not willing to throw away money on its maintenance. All he needs is a gym to work out at twice a week and maybe a pool where he can relax his muscles afterwards. As a condo owner he has to pay monthly condo fees, but the advantage is that they cover all his amenities, so he doesn't have to spend any extra money on a gym membership.
He's not a DIY person, so when something goes wrong — let's say the kitchen sink or the toilet — he wants someone to repair it and to save money by not having to pay bills for these issues. As for John's interaction with neighbours, he doesn't avoid them, but he doesn't want to spend every day with them either, because he enjoys spending some evenings alone. Furthermore, he's a rather tolerant person, who can stand some noise coming through shared walls, provided that it's not regular.
He also likes the fact that the building is secure 24 hours a day and that he has a parking place, although he hasn't bought a car yet. If he decides to lose the condo before he buys a car, he knows that the resale value will be higher due to the parking space.
Suppose there's a young woman with a husband and two children who used to live in a typical college environment and who now want to have more privacy. Let's call her Emily.
She has to travel to work and to shops when she wants to do some shopping, but she's ready to make some sacrifices if the pros can overshadow them. Since there are four people in the family and it's probable that they will have another baby some time, or that she'll be taking care of her mother when she grows old, she needs a pretty big space. Besides, Emily doesn't want her children to be cooped up inside the house — she wants them to be able to play and run around in a big garden instead.
Her husband, let's call him Bob, is passionate about cars. Therefore he needs a garage, where he can make some adjustments to his vintage Ford Mustang, Shelby. and regularly polish it, of course. Moreover, one of their sons plays the drums, so they had to soundproof the basement to find some place for him to jam.
They don't mind home repairs, because they always put aside some money for this purpose. Emily loves her garden and using fresh vegetables she's grown with her own hands when she cooks.
Both of them like socializing with their neighbours. They can throw parties in the yard, fire up a grill, and share thoughts and interesting ideas with their friends. Furthermore, their children have some friends in the neighbourhood they can play with. And due to good relationships with their neighbours, who keep an eye on their house, they're not afraid of burglars. Besides, they have a new, reliable security system installed.
As a Toronto Realtor, I've been through this decision-making process with my clients many a time, and therefore I'd like to offer you the most important rules that you should keep in mind.
If you're considering a condo:
1. If your dream is living in a condo, you'll have to pay various costs, like the monthly condo fees, usually a mortgage, insurance, and property taxes. These are not a big deal unless the costs exceed one third of your monthly income.
2. Find out everything about the Homeowners Association. Above all, check whether they're wealthy enough, because if their fiscal health is poor, you can experience an unpleasant surprise. What do I mean? Well, the biggest problems are usually costly repairs, so it's crucial to have a professional find out whether the monthly fees cover everything.
3. Find out what amenities are included in the fees.
4. If you own a pet, make sure the building is pet-friendly.
5. Find out your estimated utility costs. A short example: if heat is not covered in your monthly fees and some of your walls are made of glass (which is common these days), heating bills can become a nightmare.
If you're considering a house:
1. If your dream is living in a house, you'll also have to pay various costs, like a mortgage and property taxes. In this case, it's better to keep the expenses below one quarter of your monthly income, because you'll need to regularly put aside some money for maintenance.
2. Don't forget that you'll have to travel a lot every day if you move to a suburb, which means that you'll have to sacrifice not only some time but also some money.
3. Examine the condition of the house by having it inspected to avoid any surprises.
As you can see, there are really many factors to be taken into consideration. But in life, you get great things without much effort only rarely, don't you? So take your time to decide, consider everything, and in the end let your heart guide you to your dream home.