Should You Buy a House or a Condo? What to Consider

The question of whether to buy a condo or a house may be obvious to some, but for others, it's not so simple. Each comes with its own pros and cons as far as convenience, amenities, resale value and space is concerned.

It's important to start by identifying your goals, lifestyle and budget. A REALTOR® can help you navigate the different options in your desired market, including the factors to consider when choosing between a condo or a house. Get started on REALTOR.ca by using the property type filter and compare all the options in your neighbourhood.

Condo types

There are two main types of condos on the market, freehold and leasehold. Freehold condos can be buildings divided into a number of units, row townhouses and even standalone townhouses or homes. Within freehold condos, there are standard condominiums, in which you buy your unit and have an interest in the property's common elements but do not own the land. In common elements condominiums, there are no units but you own the property and the land on which it sits. The owners within the common elements condominiums community share ownership of common elements, jointly funding their maintenance and repair. There are also leasehold condominium corporations, in which the land is not owned by the condominium corporation, but where lease purchasers buy a leasehold interest in units and common elements. 

Price

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Buying a standard condominium is a bit different than buying a house, as you're only purchasing a unit in a building, not a parcel of land. (This may not be the case for other kinds of condominiums). Generally speaking, a condo is more affordable than a house in the same area, however the gap is much wider in some markets than others, and may not be all that different if it's a common elements condominium, for example. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, your willingness to sacrifice a more central location for a lower price will play a big role in whether you opt for a house or condo. 

Expenses

A bell boy at a hotel ringing the bell using white gloves

Condos come with monthly fees, which pay for services like security, maintenance and amenities. They're typically determined by the size of your unit and how many units are in the building. Some condos offer luxurious amenities, like a 24-hour concierge, pool, gym, sauna, big-screen theatres and in some cases, even a bowling alley. It's important to note, the more amenities offered, the higher your condo fees will likely be.

 an outdoor condo poolPhoto by Casey Schackow on Unsplash

Condo fees also generally cover the costs if anything breaks within the building (not inside your unit). For homeowners, no such luck. A leaky roof or window upgrades are a few of the big-ticket items you'll be responsible for yourself, especially in an older home.

Insurance is another expense that varies between a house and condo. Typically, insurance rates for a condo are much less than a house as the walls are insured by the building. Same goes for heating and electric bills, which are typically higher with houses.

Maintenance

a man shovelling snow off a drivewayPhoto by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

If you hate mowing the lawn, shovelling snow or emptying out eavestroughs, a condo may be just the ticket. Houses require a lot more work and physical maintenance, which means more time on the homeowner's part. 

Location and lifestyle

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Condos usually have central locations, giving owners easy commutes and accessibility to public transit, as well as proximity to shops and restaurants. For professionals, these urban conveniences may be more of a priority than an extra bedroom or backyard. And while houses outside of the downtown core are more affordable, you'll sacrifice location and other conveniences associated with condo living. To help discover locations matching your lifestyle, get started with REALTOR.ca Local Insights.

If you have kids or plan on having them soon, you want to carefully consider things like space, noise and privacy. While two people might be content in a condo, if their family grows, a house may have a lot more appeal. Even a two-or-three-bedroom condo will generally have less room for a burgeoning brood than a house.

Freedom

a woman reading a book on the front porch of a housePhoto by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Condo boards have rulesall owners or tenants are expected to follow. These can limit the number or size of pets allowed, prevent smoking in common areas or private balconies, restrict the use of visitors in common elements (such as a pool or gym), prohibit owners from renting out their units (like on Airbnb), prevent using personal BBQs on patios or dictate certain decorative elements, such as hanging Christmas lights or even the colour of your curtains.

Pros of a condo: 

a low-rise condo buildingPhoto by Daniel DiNuzzo on Unsplash
  • You won't be responsible for most repairs or maintenance outside of your unit.
  • You could have access to amenities like a gym, pool or 24-hour concierge.
  • They offer increased security.
  • They're often easier to rent in the short term.
  • They're more likely to be in a central or convenient location.

Cons of a condo: 

Photo by Joseph Albanese on Unsplash
  • You generally have less privacy.
  • There's limited outdoor space.
  • You will have to pay monthly maintenance fees (on top of mortgage payments and property tax).
  • You might have to pay for amenities you don't use.
  • You'll face possible restrictions on things like usage of common elements, parking, pets, renovations and decorations.

Pros of a house: 

a dog on a backyard deckPhoto by Morgan Thompson on Unsplash
  • You typically have total freedom over how you decorate and renovate.
  • You have more control over your own space.
  • You'll likely have more outdoor space.

Cons of a house: 

a ladder in a room with a crack in the wallPhoto by Brina Blum on Unsplash
  • You are responsible for all maintenance.
  • You are responsible for all repairs.
  • Utility bills and insurance is usually higher than in a condo.
a decision-tree graphic on wheether you should buy a house or a condo
 

by Stefani Forster

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