So you’ve finally got some money saved up for a down payment and you’re thinking about what to do next. Before you start your search, it’s a good idea to write down things that are important to you so you can better evaluate the homes you look at.
One of the most important considerations on many buyers’ ‘list’ is what type of home they’re looking for. Most folks don’t go out on a home search that includes detached, semi-detached, townhomes, condos, etc. - they go out with a narrowed focus to better use their time. Before even diving into all of the different types, you need to decide if you want your front door to open to the outdoors (a house) or a hallway (a condo). Here’s what to consider.
Unfortunately, you're not comparing apples to apples when looking at the prices of houses versus condos. While broadly speaking, condos are less expensive, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most cost effective option. On average, condos are smaller than houses, which often accounts for a good portion of the price difference. A more accurate comparison would be to look at the price per square foot. While price is of course important, there are a number of other factors that may lead your decision before getting into price consideration. That said, if getting your foot in the door of the real estate market is your primary goal, a condo is a great option to consider.
Beyond the price itself, it’s important to understand the other costs associated with your purchase and what you actually get for it. When you purchase a house, you are not only purchasing the physical structure but also the land that it sits on. When you purchase a condo, you purchase a portion of an existing structure and you do not own anything outside your door. This is an important cost consideration as with a home, you’re responsible for the upkeep of your property (and the costs associated with it) whereas with a condo you pay condo fees to maintain the building and property. This is why it’s so important to understand the state of a property as that will help you to better predict future costs. For a house, a home inspection will help you evaluate this and for a condo, a Status Certificate will help you to better predict the future growth of condo fees.
The most obvious difference between a house and a condo is how you enter them. This often comes down to personal preference. While it is very convenient to be able to step outside your home into the outdoors, there are a number of conveniences that come along with stepping into a hallway. Not only do you not have to clear snow or debris off of your front step, but you also (usually) have an added layer of security with a front desk vetting non-residents before they enter the building. These are conveniences that you do not have when you own a house, but it is worth understanding where in a building a condo is and how accessible it is via stairs or elevators to make sure it’s not a pain to get in and out of.
More densely populated areas, such as downtown Toronto, have a large number of condo buildings and very limited supply of actual houses. This means that if you’re after density in something like a downtown core, a condo will be your best bet and often your only one. Conversely, if you’re looking for more space, greenery, and lower density, you’re more likely to trend towards a house as there won’t be as much condo supply in those areas. The area that you select will greatly impact the price so understanding where you want to live will not only help you determine what type of home you want to buy, but it will also have a major impact on your budget.
When you buy a home, most of the time you just get the plot of land and the house that sits on it. You wouldn’t normally expect your house purchase to come along with any extra amenities, such as a gym or a golf simulator. This is where a big difference between houses and condos comes into play - the amenities. In condos, you often get access to things such as gyms, pools, theatre rooms, party rooms, etc. These are great perks to have as it saves you from spending money outside of your home for these amenities. If you do decide that a condo is the best option for you, you should definitely consider what amenities would be most valuable to you and their impact on the condo fees. Condos with lots of amenities often come with higher fees - whether or not these higher fees make sense to you really depends on how much you will take advantage of them.
Parking & Storage
Parking and storage options are typically better in a house than a condo. Often condos don’t even come with a parking space and storage in the condo itself is at a premium due to their smaller size. While a condo will usually come with a storage locker, it's unlikely to make up for the increased storage options you get with a house. With houses, there are typically a lot more options for parking, including driveways, garages, and on-street parking. All of which are more likely to support parking for more than one vehicle. This isn’t to say that additional parking and storage options aren’t available when living in a condo, you’ll just have to think outside of the box (and potentially spend a bit more).
Choosing between a house and a condo is just one of many considerations that go into a home search. As it is an incredibly exciting and stressful time, the more clear you can be on your criteria, the better. It’s easy to get emotional in a home search, but if you’ve done the work ahead of time you can hold yourself accountable by constantly referring back to the original criteria you set out.
Once you’ve found a home that you’d like to purchase, it’s important to engage a real estate lawyer. They will help you to ensure property taxes are up to date, legal documentation is secure, and that there are no outstanding legal issues with the home. For condos, they can also support the review of a Status Certificate to make sure the condo you’re looking at is in good financial standing. At Doormat, we marry technology with an obsession for customer experience to bring you the most transparent and stress-free real estate legal services in Canada. Check us out today to see how we can provide the best possible home transaction experience!