Should you buy a house or a condo?

Homes & real estate
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Should you buy a house or a condo?

Homes & real estate

Finally! After months—or even years—of saving, you’ve got your 3, 5, or 20% down payment ready to go. It’s time to start earning some equity!

Over the past several weeks you’ve bookmarked every real estate site and scoured every blog on the hunt for the best mortgage rates. “Location, location, location” has become your answer to every question even if the question is “What’s for dinner?”

One big question remains: Condo or house?

It may be trite, but it’s still true, a home is the single largest purchase most of us will ever make. Condos and houses each have plenty of advantages and disadvantages, but it’s likely one of them will make you feel at more at home than the other.

Team Condo

You’re likely to be happier in a condo if:

  1. You want the upgrades modern properties offer. Since condos are generally newer, they more often have things like open floor plans, granite countertops, or stainless steel appliances.
  2. You’re all about the amenities. BBQ pits, saunas, clubhouses, a pool you don’t have to clean. Condos can offer access to extras that most first-time buyers can’t afford to have in one property.
  3. You like the security of gated access and video cameras. Even with security systems, houses are more vulnerable than condos.
  4. You already have a full-time job, and don’t need a second one that comes with a “Honey Do” list on the weekends. Sagging roofs, old sewer pipes, peeling exterior paint, and a host of other tasks all fall under the heading of, “Someone else’s job”. And, since condos tend to be smaller than homes, you’ll spend much less time keeping the inside neat and tidy than in a home.
  5. You want to be “close to the action.” Condos are more commonly within walking distance of city centers, shopping and the like.
  6. You’re not made of money. On average condos can be anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars less expensive than a standalone house. So you’ll not only save on the initial purchase price, but also on points, closing costs, property taxes, and interest over the life of the mortgage. They may also have lower monthly expenses. Some condo association fees will include water, sewer, and garbage as well as exterior maintenance and insurance. And since condos tend to be smaller than houses their monthly utilities will typically be lower.

Team House

On the other hand, you may be happier in a house if:

  1. You like to crank it to 11, but you don’t want to listen to someone else do the same. Let’s face it, sharing walls, ceilings, and floors can be a major pain depending on your neighbors.
  2. You’ll need an FHA loan. Not all condos qualify for FHA loans which means you’d have to go the conventional route. Plus, lenders may charge as much as a .75% add-on to loans used for condos, so a home loan may end up saving you money in the long run.
  3. You think the World’s Worst Acronym (WWA) is HOA. Your HOA can dictate everything from pool use after dark or whether you can run a business out of your home to what color you can paint your front door or how you can park in your assigned spot. Not every association is micro-managed by over-zealous board members, but even sensible restrictions can still rankle. And, of course, there are the dues. They can add hundreds of dollars to your monthly budget. And if the building is old or the HOA is poorly run, you may get hit with “special assessments” to pay for things not covered in the general fund.
  4. Appreciation is going to play a big part in your future plans. It’s just a fact that condos are much more limited in how much they’ll increase in value.
  5. You need some elbow room. If “home” isn’t just where the heart is, but all of your stuff, too, your—typically smaller—condo might feel claustrophobic after a while.
  6. Your family includes some furry/feathered/scaled friends. Even condos that allow pets will likely have restrictions on size, breed, or number. Fish tanks might be off limits. When it’s your own home, you’re only limited by local laws.
  7. You believe in The American Dream. Owning a standalone home has been one of the bedrock motivating forces in America for generations. If it’s a part of your idea of success, buying a condo may feel like only getting half a loaf.

Choose Your Own Adventure!

Whether it’s a house or a condo, both are major upgrades to being just another renter. By taking stock of what really matters to you and what you’re seeking to get out of being a property owner, you can make the best choice to ensure you’ll look forward to coming home for years to come.