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Buying a Condo vs. a House: Pros and Cons of Each

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Buying your very own piece of real estate is an exciting and intimidating step. There are so many decisions involved in the process that it can quickly become overwhelming. One of the first decisions you have to make involves choosing the type of property you want to buy — house or condo.

Here’s some information to help you make an informed decision:

Pros and Cons of Buying a Condo

Buying a condo might seem like a no-brainer if you’re looking for lower upfront and maintenance costs.

It’s essential to weigh out all the pros and cons before you make a final decision:

Pros of Buying a Condo

  • Lower prices: Condos typically come with lower prices compared to single-family homes. In Florida, for example, the median price for a townhouse or condo was $252,000 in 2021, whereas the median price for a single-family home was $348,000 — almost $100,000 higher.
  • Less maintenance: Condos also tend to require less maintenance than a single-family home, thanks to the existence of condominium fees or HOA fees.

    These monthly dues usually cover the exterior of the building (roof, windows, and walls), landscaping, and amenities. Some fees may even cover utilities, including water, sewer, and trash removal.

  • More amenities: Speaking of amenities, condos are a great option if you’re looking to enjoy features like pools, fitness centers, clubhouses, playgrounds, dog parks, tennis courts, and more.
  • Better locations: Since condo complexes are built up instead of out, they are usually located in more urban areas that are zoned for multifamily use. This type of zoning aims to house as many people as possible within a single lot to maximize space that is limited in urban areas.

    As a result, condo owners are often able to enjoy walkability to cafes, restaurants, parks, and entertainment compared to homes in the suburbs.

  • Enhanced security: Another feature of many condos is enhanced security. If you’re concerned about security, look for security features like gated communities, doormen, security cameras, and onsite security professionals in your condo.

Cons of Buying a Condo

  • High fees: While condos may initially cost less than a single-family house, you may have to pay hundreds of dollars more every month for your condominium fees. Even though it might seem like it, all those amenities aren’t actually free: You’re paying for them through your monthly fees.

    Condo fees for an average complex tend to be between $100 and $300, but fees for higher-end complexes can be much higher.

  • More rules: When you own a condo, you’re subject to the rules of your condominium association. For example, some associations may not allow you to rent out your unit. Other associations may have pet size and quantity limits.

    Finally, most associations have noise complaint policies, home maintenance and upkeep standards, and decoration restrictions. If you violate these rules, you could be issued a fine by the association.

  • Less privacy: While living close together in a condo may provide you with better access to urban areas, it also means that you have less privacy. In a condo, your neighbors are literally right next to you, on top of you, and below you. Depending on the structure of the building, you may be able to hear your neighbors walking upstairs or talking next door.

  • Limited space: Condos are designed to have small footprints which means that you have limited space and limited square footage. Generally speaking, most condos aren’t larger than two bedrooms and two bathrooms with 1,200 square feet. Additionally, condos tend to come with less storage space without access to a garage, basement, or attic.

  • No land ownership: When you own a condo, you don’t actually own any land. Instead, you only own your specific condo unit. The land itself is shared between you and your neighbors.

Pros and Cons of Buying a House

On the other hand, if you’re looking for more space and freedom in your home, then you’re likely considering buying a single-family home, although this option also comes with its own set of pros and cons:

Pros of Buying a House

  • More space: Buying a house over a condo definitely gives you more space to work with. The average size of a single-family house in the United States in 2020 was 2,261 square feet consisting of multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. Houses also tend to come with more storage thanks to features like garages, basements, and attics.

  • More freedom: When you buy a house, you tend to have more freedom over your property since it is your property. For example, if you want to put in a pool, you’re able to do this with the proper permits. If you want to change your exterior paint color or paint your front door, you’re able to do so with the proper approvals.

  • More privacy: There’s no doubt that single-family homes come with more privacy than condos. Instead of being right next to your neighbors, you have some buffer room. There’s also no one on top of you or below you. As a result, living in a home tends to be more private and peaceful than living in a condo.

  • Faster appreciation: Single-family homes have proven to be a better investment than condos due to faster appreciation rates. In Florida, for example, the median home value has increased by 23.9% over the past year. And over the past five years, home values have increased by nearly 69%.

Cons of Buying a House

  • Higher prices: While buying a house may come with more space, freedom, and privacy, it also comes with a higher price tag. For example, the median sales price for a single-family home in South Florida was $475,000 in December of 2021 — and prices are expected to keep increasing for the foreseeable future.

  • More maintenance: Buying a house also comes with more maintenance that can be time-consuming and expensive. When you own a single-family home, it’s recommended that you set aside 1% of your home’s value each year for repairs on everything from the roof to the HVAC system.

  • Fewer amenities: Depending on the community you live in, buying a single-family home tends to come with fewer amenities. And while some neighborhoods offer basic amenities like a community pool, park, and playground, you’re not going to get the high-end amenities that come with luxury condos like rooftop decks, concierge service, valet parking, etc.

  • Rules and regulations: You may still have to deal with HOA rules and regulations if you buy a single-family home. Across the United States, 58% of homeowners live within a Homeowner Association. However, this number is even higher in the state of Florida at 67.3%, with 3.52 million homes, 9.57 million residents, and 48,500 HOAs.

Should You Buy a House or a Condo?

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider when deciding between buying a house and buying a condo. It should really come down to your financial situation and your desired lifestyle.

For example, you should consider homeownership if…

  • You have a family and are looking for more room, privacy, and freedom.

  • You’re willing to spend more money both upfront at the time of purchase and regularly on maintenance costs.

  • You’re looking for a solid investment that’s going to appreciate quickly.

On the other hand, you should buy a condo if…

  • You’re willing to sacrifice space for location and live more of an urban lifestyle.

  • You’re looking for high-end amenities and don’t mind paying for them in your fees.

  • You want to minimize the time, effort, and money you spend on maintenance.

Are You Ready To Buy a House or a Condo?

Whether you’re buying a house or a condo, here are some things that you need to have ready for your mortgage before you start looking at properties and putting in offers:

  • Stable income: Generally speaking, lenders want to see at least two years of steady employment history. However, there are some exceptions for buyers who are just starting their careers or who are in-between jobs. In that case, an offer letter might be sufficient. However, if you are self-employed or 1099, you will need at least two years of income to qualify. In either case, come prepared with W-2s, 1099s, offer letters, income tax returns, etc.

  • Saved money: In most cases, you’re also expected to have enough money saved for your down payment and closing costs unless you’re able to qualify for down payment assistance. Your down payment and closing costs vary based on your loan type and lender, who may want to verify that you have the funds by looking at your bank account statements.

  • Good credit score: Lenders also want to see a good credit score that indicates that you’re a low-risk borrower who’s likely to repay the loan. While credit score requirements also vary by lender and loan type, you’re going to get the best interest rates if your credit score is above 720.

Final Thoughts: Condo Community vs. Home Ownership

If you’re looking for a flexible lender that offers customized loan products to meet your needs, then you need to check out Vaster. Vaster works with those with unconventional employment histories, including foreign nationals.

Vaster also works with those with lower credit scores. Reach out to our lending experts today to see how Vaster can help your dream of home or condo ownership come true.

Buying a home in Florida? See how much you qualify for. Get Pre-Approved  

Sources:

Condo vs. House: What to Consider | NerdWallet

Rule of Thumb: How Much To Budget for Home Maintenance | The Balance

5 Things You Need to Be Pre-approved for a Mortgage | Investopedia

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