Should I buy a condo or a house? [Video]

Tim Lucas
Tim Lucas
The Mortgage Reports Editor
October 24, 2018 - 2 min read

Condo or house: Which is best?

Whether you buy a condo or house depends on your individual goals and lifestyle. Each has its merits and drawbacks. Here’s what you should know.

Pros and cons of condos

There are typically a few reasons people buy condominiums:

  • Lower cost of entry
  • Less maintenance
  • No yard work
  • Fewer large one-time expenses (exterior painting, re-roofing)
  • More options in urban areas

Because you have “walls-in” ownership, you are not responsible for major exterior maintenance or repairs. In most cases, homeowners association (HOA) dues take care of those expenses if the HOA managers set aside adequate funds. So, you still pay for exterior maintenance, but do so in a more predictable fashion than with a free-standing home.

Condos are fantastic if you want to live in a city, ditch your car, and be close to work. They are more convenient for urban home buyers.

However, there are drawbacks, too.

  • Less privacy (shared walls, stairways, and parking lots)
  • HOA dues (which can increase over time)
  • Inability to add on square footage or do structural remodels
  • Can be harder to finance
  • Not as pet-friendly as a house

Most of the time, those who buy condos do so for their convenience and lower upfront cost, and are okay with the relatively minor drawbacks.

Single-family homes: pros and cons

A “single-family home” is another way of saying “house” or “free-standing house.” It indicates that the structure doesn’t share walls with a separate residence.

As the owner of such a structure, you probably guess that there are some bigger maintenance costs involved. But, the added stress of upkeep is often rewarded with these advantages:

  • Faster appreciation in some cases
  • Ability to remodel or add square footage
  • More privacy
  • Your own yard and landscaping
  • No HOA dues

But it’s not all green grass and roses. There are some serious “cons” to consider before buying:

  • Potentially large repair costs
  • Constant lawn and landscaping maintenance
  • Higher cost of entry
  • Longer commutes

Still, when considering owning a home, most new buyers think “house” — meaning single-family residence — for a reason. It’s the most traditional way to own a home, even though it can come with a steep price tag, both upfront and as the years go by.

How do I qualify for a house or condo?

The first step to buying any type of home is to get pre-approved via an application with a lender. That can happen over the phone, online, or in person. The pre-approval letter will tell you the price range you’re qualified for and will allow you to make an offer if you find the right home.

Check out our first article in this series: “What’s the first step to buying a home?”

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