For first time home buyers, this age old question has probably reared its head one time or another. Single detached family home or high rise condo? This question slammed right into me (literally) when I was walking down the street looking at a condo for sale in downtown Montreal with a buddy of mine. The “for sale” sign hit me in the forehead because I was animatedly talking to another friend on the phone and wasn’t paying attention. Folks, don’t talk on the phone when walking downtown!
Many people are at odds whether to go rent or buy a condo versus renting or buying a house. Having experienced condo life in the central business district and living in a large home in the suburbs, I can tell you the advantages and disadvantages of each firsthand.
Condos – Living the good life
What’s great about condos is its proximity to everything in the city. Condos are usually situated at the heart of it all, and the parks, transport hubs, bus stops, shops, restaurants and maybe even your office would only be a 10-15 minute walk from where you live. For young professionals, this is the most ideal location because they can save money and time on transportation costs and enjoy all that the city has to offer.
Some condos have hotel-like amenities like a gym, a pool and even tennis courts. There are also the common areas where the community can hang out, like the roof deck. Condos are also more secure because you’re going to be living in close proximity with a lot of other people. There’s strength in numbers. Most condos also have guards and doormen, and some have buzzers at the main entrance and if the owner of the house isn’t there, no one will buzz you in.
If you value your privacy and you hate living in close proximity to other people, then condo living isn’t for you. Shared walls mean you’ll be sharing noises and smells with your closest neighbors, and not everyone can cook. Condos have strict rules and regulations regarding pets, noise levels and even kids. You also can’t construct anything in your condo, or use a hammer without the consent of the home owners association. And there’s always going to be a monthly association fee for the upkeep of the condo, like trimming the grass, paint, etc. Lastly, there’s the space issue. There’s very little of it, and if you have a lot of stuff, you may end up having to rent extra storage space outside.
Houses – Everyone’s Dream
Ask anyone about their lifelong dreams or goals and owning their dream home is right on top of the list, maybe after a Ferrari or a trip around the world. Kidding aside though, owning your own house means that you’ll have your own castle where you’ll be king or queen. You’ll have lots of space, a yard, a garage, maybe even an outdoor shed for storage. You’ll have your privacy, and the only cooking odors you’ll smell are your own. You can build or extend your home, paint it a different color every month or add diamonds to it. You can pretty much do whatever you want without asking permission from anyone. No association dues and no neighbors breathing down your neck.
The biggest challenge a homeowner has is upkeep. Maintaining a house is hard work. You have to clean the gutters, mow the lawn, make sure your trash is safe and secure from stray cats and other animals, repaint it every few years, tend to the plants and trees if you have any (trim them) and do some minor repairs when something breaks. You can either DIY all of this or hire someone else. Then there are heat, gas, plumbing and electrical problems that you have to call a professional for. You also have to make sure that your house is safe and secure. Even the best neighborhoods seem to get burglarized these days. Having a house can be pretty expensive.
If you’re still undecided whether to live in a house or a condo, weigh your options first. Make a list of all your priorities and what you want out of your home: space, freedom and privacy or convenience, amenities and location. Whatever it is you choose, be sure that you don’t rush in and study all your options first.