The Eternal Homebuyer Debate: Condo vs. House

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As you know, my husband and I are tentatively househunting. I say tentatively because we’re not sure when exactly we want to buy. We don’t yet have a real estate agent, but we do have a loan estimate. We also have a dealbreaker list and some neighborhoods we’re interested in. There’s just one major question left to answer: condo vs. house.

We’ve been back and forth on the question. I want a house with a small yard, my own roof, no HOA fees, and no neighbors above, below, or otherwise attached to me. My husband, who is more urban than me, wants a condo. He just likes the idea of it. Plus, condos are bigger than most of the houses in our area. They certainly have better kitchens and closets. (Most of the LA’s central areas were built in the 1920s-1950s. We can’t afford a house that’s been torn down and rebuilt.)

So we’re debating the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of a Condo

I do see the advantages of a condo, but there also some striking disadvantages that we need to consider.

Pros:

Secured parking/entrance
Instant community
Lower cost of entry – homes usually sell for more than a comparable condo
Possible on-site gym
Shared maintenance costs – you pay the HOA and hopefully it covers most routine maintenance as well as major repairs.
No exterior maintenance
No hiring contractors/repairmen for major exterior work
Lower insurance costs

Cons:

Close neighbors
Potential for unexpected assessments
Restrictions on usage, pets, modifications
Condo boards
HOA fees – you pay in, but don’t control how it’s spent
Communal parking
Tend to be on busier streets
Lower resale value

Pros and Cons of a House

It’s my dream to own a house. Not a big one, but one that’s all my own. I’m still convincing him that it’s the way to go, though. Some of the pros may be restricted by your city or housing development, but in general the restrictions are less than you’d experience with a condo.

Pros:

Land ownership
Stand-alone structure
Freedom to modify as needed
No pet or use restrictions
Higher resale value
Greater privacy
Private parking
Quieter street

Cons:

Responsible for choosing all services
Responsible for full cost of all maintenance
Responsible for all landscaping
Higher cost of entry
Higher insurance cost
Possibly higher property taxes

Depending on where you live, condos may also have newer fixtures and more modern design, however many areas have new home developments with the same features. It really depends on your personal taste and your budget.

I have a bias against condos because of bad experiences with a former employer’s leaky condo and her condo board. In contrast, my husband has friends who love their condos. So, we’ll continue to look at both before we decide.

Where do you stand in the condo vs. house debate? Tell me in the comments.

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