As part of the home-buying process, you will have to decide how you want to live. Do you prefer the privacy and independence of a detached single-family house or is the freedom and convenience of condominium living more appealing to you? Before deciding which option is right for you, it’s a good idea to identify your living space priorities and determine how much time and money you will have to put into property maintenance and repairs.

If you buy a house, you will be responsible for paying all expenses related to owning and maintaining your property, including the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, insurance, house and yard maintenance and any repairs or renovations.

If you buy a condo, you will own the interior space of your unit and in some cases a parking space. Common areas and outdoor space will be owned in common with other owners in your building. You will pay a monthly condo/maintenance fee, which can cover items like heat, hydro, water, pest control, landscaping, building insurance and miscellaneous amenities. A portion of this fee will go into a reserve fund to cover major repairs and upgrades to the building, such as the roof or elevators. In most cases, you (and the other unit owners) will also have to pay a one-time special assessment for “emergency” repairs not covered by the condo fee.

A house may be right for you if:

  • You want the independence and freedom to make your own home improvement, decorating and style decisions
  • You don’t want to go through the approval process of a condo board for every potential home improvement/upgrade
  • You want a more private living space (without neighbors on the other side of the walls) and a yard you can use freely
  • You’re handy around the house and can do most of the maintenance or repair needs yourself (or have the money to hire someone)

A condo may be right for you if:

  • You don’t have the interest, time or ability to take care of the regular maintenance or repairs of a house (plumbing, carpentry, electrical, gardening, lawn mowing, snow removal, pest control, etc.)
  • You like the convenience and freedom of owning property without all the additional responsibilities and expenses that are likely to come with owning a house
  • You want the convenience of just picking up the phone to report any maintenance issues
  • You want access to amenities, which could include parking, concierge, gym, pool, common space, etc.
  • You don’t mind living in a potentially large community with neighbours living in close proximity

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Before buying a condo, make sure the homeowner’s association is well-run. See if any major improvements to the building are planned and ask how they are being paid for.
  • Review and approve the association’s bylaws, rules and regulations.
  • Condos tend to be less expensive than single-family houses in the same area.
  • Condos that are newer or with fewer amenities tend to have lower maintenance fees.
  • In general, condos typically have better security compared to houses.
  • Whether you’re buying a condo or a house, the property should be thoroughly inspected as a contingency of purchase.

Speak to a mortgage specialist or your real estate agent for help deciding whether condominium or single-family house living makes the most sense for you and your lifestyle.