Buying a Condo vs Single Family Home – The Pros and Cons

Condo vs Single Family Home - The Pros and ConsDo you barely know how to spell hammer, much less comfortably swing one? Is travel a regular part of your work week? Do you prefer to spend winters in warmer climates?

First-time home buyers and seasonal travelers often prefer condos because condo fees cover maintenance, yard work, and exterior repairs.   Condominiums also tend to be a bit more affordable, perfect for entry-level buyers and retirees wanting to stretch their dollar.

For condo buyers, location is often a deciding factor. Proximity to restaurants, entertainment and public transportation takes priority over square footage and yards. 

Considerations

  • Monthly condo fees:  Be certain you can afford the monthly condo fee in addition to your mortgage and taxes.
  • Make sure that at least 90% of the units in the condo development are owner occupied.
    • Keep in mind: If 3% of the owners fall behind on their condo maintenance fees, it is up to the remaining 97% of the development’s residents to make up for the shortfall.
    • Lenders will consider both your creditworthiness and the financial health of the condo association.
    • Some condo associations do not allow residents to rent their units, or it’s common for HOA’s (Home Owners Association’s) to limit the number of rentals within the association. If you are considering renting your condo down the road, be sure your association allows it.
  • In 2009, the Federal Housing Administration announced that it would insure loans on condos only in developments where at least 50 percent of the units are owner occupied and, for new developments, where at least 30 percent of units are already sold. If you are considering using an FHA-insured loan, you can check if a condo development is FHA approved at hud.gov

Single Family Homes

Single family homes typically offer more space and room for growth, storage, and a yard or private outdoor space.  For the same price as a small condo in a cool downtown location, you could potentially find a larger single family home only a short commute away.

Size: In general, the size of a condo is more limited than that of a house. Condominiums are forced to build up and will often have less square footage than comparably priced single family homes.

Control: You own your home and don’t have to worry about whether your neighbors have become delinquent in paying their condo fees. Decisions affecting your home are yours and you do not have to involve your neighbors or a Home Owners Association (HOA). HOA’s often have strict rules governing everything from painting your door to pets and even grills on balconies.  

Privacy:  You typically have more privacy and space in a single-family home. A house is a self-contained dwelling often separated by at least some yard space from other houses. Condominium share space with other units by definition.  If you value privacy and want space from your neighbors a home is almost always a better option.

Considerations:

  • As a single family homeowner, you are completely responsible for all maintenance inside and outside of the property, including care and upkeep of the yard and trees.
  • You may need to invest in tools, a lawnmower, snow blowers in colder climates, ladders, etc..
  • Travel for long periods of time can be stressful as a home owner.  Asking neighbors or family to check in on the house on the rare vacation is one thing, doing so regularly will test their patience.
  • Utility bills are generally higher, because houses have more space than condos.

Depending on your preferences for space, privacy, and neighborhood, you may be happier in a single-family home or in a condo. Regardless, find an experienced Realtor you can trust, make sure you get answers to all your questions, and do your due diligence before you sign on the dotted line.

Author: Chris Muellenbach is a real estate broker with:
Muellenbach Real Estate, First Weber Group.
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