Should you buy a condo? Should you buy a house? Like most real estate decisions, the differences come down to Cost, Location, and Lifestyle.

Costs

Yes, condo fees can be expensive, but there are other costs to owning a home that most people don’t think about:

  • Higher insurance costs: You can expect your insurance to be $100-150 a month for a typical house (vs $20-25 in a condo, as the walls, etc are insured by the condo corporation.)
  • Water and garbage add another $600-900 a year to a house (and are included in condo fees)
  • Higher heating and electrical bills come with older houses too (usually $200-$400 a month for most of our clients), and are often included in condo fees – or at the very least, offset by neighbours
  • Maintenance: We usually recommend people budget 3-5% of the cost of the house for maintenance – cleaning eavestroughs, ducts, furnace servicing, plumbers, landscaping costs, etc.
  • Big Unexpected Costs: Even in a fully renovated home, you need to expect the unexpected. Every owner of an old Toronto house has stories to share about unexpected surprises…sewage backup, flooded basement, leaky roof…
  • Renovations If you don’t buy a fully renovated house, expect to deal with bigger renovations. Updating kitchens, bathrooms, replacing electrical, upgrading plumbing, etc. – and you need to expect your renovation to be twice as expensive as you budgeted and take three times as long to complete (sad but true stats)
  • For comparison purposes: Condo fees generally range from $0.55- 0.75 a square foot (depending on what’s included and how old the building is), so a 2-bedroom condo can easily have condo fees in the $700-$900 range.

Location

  • Commuting – Condos tend to have some of the best locations in the city – and provide owners with the option of easy commutes to work and play.
  • $$$ and Location – It’s generally easier to enter the market via a condo purchase than a house – though houses can still be affordable first-time purchases if you move outside of the core downtown market.
  • Schools – Most schools are located in traditional residential areas with houses, so if you’ve got school-aged children, you’ll likely find getting to and from school easier from a house.
  • Proximity to shops, restaurants and services – Some Toronto condos have everything you need as you walk out the elevator…convenience store, dry cleaner, LCBO, pet daycare. How important is convenience to you?

Lifestyle

  • Condos generally come with amenities – from fully equipped gyms and pools to big screen theatres, party rooms and even bowling alleys. Yes, you’ll pay for these via your condo fees, but if you use them, it may be money well spent.
  • Freedom – owning a house means fewer (if any) issues with neighbours; no small-talk in the elevator;  no rules and policies about the colour of your curtains or where you park your bike.
  • Maintenance of your house will not just cost you money when it comes to maintenance, but time as well. From shoveling your driveway and mowing your lawn, to figuring out how to get rid of the mice who moved into your basement, there’s no doubt that owning a house will take time – and skill.

Choosing whether to buy a condo or a house is huge decision…of course, there is always the townhouse compromise. [Related: Is the Townhouse the New House?]

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