If you are just beginning your home search, whether you are a first time buyer, or looking to downsize, your lifestyle and needs will play an important part on whether you choose a condominium or a single family home. (SFH) Single Family Home or Condominium – Which Should I Buy?
Of course, there are the obvious answers to this question. If you like an urban lifestyle with its restaurants and attractions, a condo would be right for you (there is nothing like staggering home on your own two feet from your favorite watering hole). If you have a large family, like to garden, and have several vehicles, a SFH is probably your best bet. But here are some less-than-obvious lifestyle issues to consider.
You work 60+ hours a week.
Time will simply not be on your side to handle all the chores that a house requires. As most SFH owners will tell you, homes take lots of maintenance and you will likely have a house project each week. There goes your free time.
You travel a lot.
Again, you may just not have the time to tend to the items that come up with single family home ownership. Also, there could be a safety issue here. See below. The concept of “lock and leave” with a condo is very appealing to anyone that travels extensively for work, or you just like to travel for fun. It’s nice just walking out the door and knowing the pool will be cleaned and the hallways vacuumed.
You have never owned a single family home before.
A condo may be right for you. You may think you love to putter and fix things, but there is a very steep learning curve to do-it-yourself-ing, regardless of what the person at Home Depot says. Also, and this is key, it is nice to have an HOA board that fixes things for you, weatherproofs your building, takes care of the gardener, etc.
You love to entertain, and have other people over a lot.
Sure, you can have some rocking parties in a condo. However, square footage and space between you and your neighbors means that a SFH would be your best bet. Guest parking is usually less of a consideration for a SFH as well. Also, maybe you want to take up that musical instrument? Not having neighbors’ walls attached to you might be a wise decision.
Your free time is spent out and about, and most of your activities are away from your house.
The nod goes to the condo here. If you work all week, and spend all day Saturday at a softball game, that limits your time for home maintenance.
You have at least one big dog.
You will need more square footage and a yard for anything larger than a Pomeranian. SO NOT TRUE! I’ve seen Great Danes living in a condominium. Walking your dog in the morning and at night will give you exercise, and the opportunity to meet neighbors in your building or around you. However, there is something to be said about just opening the back door and letting the dog out in the yard to do his/her business. And if your dog likes to bark….well…..
You are a little, or more than a little, concerned about personal safety.
This is an either/or choice. A condo in a city core may not feel safe if you need to walk outside late at night. But a SFH has at least four sides, presumably with windows, and could be an inviting target if your neighborhood’s crime rate is higher than normal. Not to be paranoid, but…there are ways around this one.
Good public schools are a key consideration for you.
Surprise! Both a SFH and a condo may be right for you. As you know, a SFH in the suburbs will likely have good schools unless the area has suffered a lot of blight. But many cities are rehabbing urban city cores with state and local funds. Infrastructure, including schools, is a big part of attracting people to live in the newly rehabbed (okay, gentrified) areas.
You have several children who need a yard.
Believe it or not, this is an either/or answer. If you have more than two kids, you will likely need the square footage and yard that a single family home can provide. However, many condo complexes have lots of rec areas including pools, green areas, etc. Chances are that your kids will have lots of activities away from your home anyway.
You may have a senior parent that will eventually need care.
In this case, a SFR is your best bet. You can always add on, convert a room, etc. You can also start in a condo if you know this event is further down the road for you and your parents. You can move to the single family home when you are closer to the time they may have to move in with you.
You like to remodel every few years and have big plans to do so.
A single family home is the choice here as you do not have shared walls. It is hard to knock out a wall in a condo as it may be load-bearing and holding up your upstairs neighbor’s place. You can remodel your kitchen and bath to make your condo different than the others in the building or your stack, but moving walls is a real challenge. (“Stack” refers to the same floor plan that runs vertically up a building. 911 is 1511 is 2311.)
Finally, you want to build equity.
This may surprise you, but both types of properties retain value and increase in value equally well, unless their respective neighborhoods are undergoing downward transitions.
No matter where you may be in the home buying process, I’m happy to sit down with you and talk about your needs and lifestyle and help you with the best options.