Thursday, 2 July 2015

House or Condo?

Today we are going to compare two very different types of properties to try and weigh the differences, pros, and cons of living in a detached home vs. a strata or condominium property. Each one has it's own unique set of qualities and understanding the difference can help you decide which is right for you.

Detached House(see: Freehold Properties)


There are plenty of fantastic reasons to own a detached home on it's own land. You have the benefits of extra space, usually a yard or outdoor area to enjoy, and the freedom to make changes to the decor and even the layout of the home as you see fit. Having extra privacy can also be a major benefit as you will never have to worry about sharing hallways or common spaces with anyone inside the boundaries of your property. Many people also value the sense of independence that comes with being the owner of a freehold property(i.e. no strata). Being able to Improve and Renovate to your home as you see fit is something that appeals to the DIYer in all of us.


With all the great reasons to own a home like this, why are people so reluctant to take the plunge?

One word: Responsibility.

Uncle Ben said it best:"With great power comes great responsibility", and this holds true for detached home-owners. You are the one who has to worry when things go wrong; you are property manager, bookkeeper, maintenance guy, and secretary of "Chateau-Your-House". As such, you must also remember that you are responsible for budgeting for the extra costs of operating and maintaining a home, such as yard work, utilities, monthly/yearly maintenance, and the inevitable repairs that all homes will need sooner or later.

Condo/Townhouse/Apartment(See: Strata Properties)


For as many great reasons as there are for owning freehold, strata properties can also be a great alternative for several key reasons. Owning in a strata, whether you choose a townhouse, an apartment, or a condo(Call it whatever you like!) comes with strength in numbers. Because there is a larger pool of owners available to distribute the costs(things like yard work, basic maintenance, insurance, etc.) it is easier to keep the overall costs reasonable. The other benefits that often go hand-in-hand with strata living are better locations and amenities than a similarly-priced detached home. These complexes and buildings are often situated in prime locations and may offer bonus amenities like a gym or even a pool that might otherwise be out of your budget in a freehold home. Add to this the turn-key, move-in ready lifestyle that you can often get and you have a pretty appealing package.


There are however, some drawbacks that must be considered with strata living. One thing to consider is the diminished privacy of group living. This can be anything from sharing a parking lot to sharing a hallway or a storage building, but it is worth remembering that these places are often referred to as "Common Property" for a reason; they are common/shared amongst all the owners. Your monthly strata fees can go a long way towards lowering your cost of maintenance and repairs to your unit, but these costs must be considered as part of your total monthly budget and may lower your qualifying mortgage amount somewhat. Lastly, there is always the simple fact that you are only able to make minor changes to your unit when you are part of a strata. Each group will have it's own unique rules, but these should be thoroughly understood to ensure you understand what you can and can not do within the walls of your home. Often structural changes will not be allowed, and similarly you will not usually be able to make changes to the exterior look, color, or style of the home.

How Do You Choose?

Deciding whether a House or Condo is right for you is a task that requires comparing the options and determining how each would fit into your own life. While there is no right or wrong choice, I've written this article to help you break down which one may best suit your lifestyle. A house comes with extra privacy, independence, and space, whereas a condo comes with a low-maintenance, turn-key lifestyle and often a better location and amenities.

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