By Damon Poeter
Choosing between a condo and a house is a big decision for any home buyer. In Part 2 of this series, we discuss condo service and insurance fees and how to calculate the real cost of condos and houses.
Determining the actual cost of what you’re buying is the first step in deciding whether to get a condo or a house, but it’s also important to decide where and how you want to live. How you answer these questions can help you decide whether a condo or house is a better fit for the lifestyle you want:
In some urban areas, such as downtown districts and city centers, zoning laws might limit housing options to condos. Also, the median price of a condo is typically lower than the median price of a house in many cities. So, in some cases, even if you can’t afford a house in the area you prefer, you might be able to afford a condo.
If you want to live in a city with an expensive housing market and especially if you want to live in a downtown area closer to shopping and entertainment, a condo might be your best option. If you’re looking for a quieter neighborhood and good nearby schools, a house outside of a city center could be for you.
Semi-detached condos, often called townhomes and sharing at least one wall with another townhome, are available in some areas. But the majority of condos are apartments that you can own in a large building. That means you could have neighbors living right above, below and on the sides of your unit and the building’s hallways, staircases and elevators are shared with your neighbors. It might be quite a hike from where you park your car to your front door, so carrying groceries and other items up to your condo could be a chore.
If you don’t like the apartment lifestyle, you might consider opting for a townhouse condo or a fully detached house instead of a condo.
Some condos have community facilities like pools, spas, picnic areas, gyms and athletic courts. Those amenities can be enticing, but you should be honest with yourself about how much you would really use them. If you rent in an apartment building or complex with similar facilities, but don’t use them, that could be a warning sign.
If you believe you’d get a lot of value out of a condo’s amenities, condo living might be for you. Keep in mind that buying a house in a neighborhood run by a homeowners’ association (HOA) could offer similar community facilities, though they might be a further distance from your front door. It might also be possible to find a neighborhood that isn’t in a HOA, but is close to public amenities that meet your needs.
Condos typically have stricter limits on what owners can do to change their units than you’d face if you owned a house. Part of this is practical – in an apartment-style unit, it’s difficult to make any structural changes. Usually, the only way you’d be able to expand your square footage would be to buy part or all of another condo unit.
A condo association might also put restrictions on what you can do inside your unit as well, such as remodeling a kitchen or bathroom. Local ordinances and HOAs can limit the changes people can make to their houses as well, but generally, house owners have more freedom to upgrade their homes than condo owners.
If you anticipate making changes to your home or just like having the freedom to do so, a house might be a better bet for you. Consider too that some condos have restrictions on renting out units and requirements that a certain percentage of the building must be owner-occupied.
Condos come in all shapes and sizes – including luxury high-rise apartments with incredible views, loft-like units converted from commercial buildings, detached homes in secure, private communities and more. They can offer owners services and amenities that add to everyday living and reduce the headache of doing home maintenance and repairs. Houses generally provide more space between neighbors and owners usually have more control over what they do with their house.
Both condos and houses have benefits and drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide which lifestyle you prefer.
Homeowners insurance provided by United Services Automobile Association, USAA Casualty Insurance Company, USAA General Indemnity Company, Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Company, San Antonio, TX. Each company has sole financial responsibility for its own products.
The information contained is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining professional financial advice. Please thoroughly research and seek professional advice before acting on any information you may have found in this article. This article in no way attempts to provide financial advice that relates to all personal circumstances.
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