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Should you buy a condo or a house? Like most real estate decisions, the differences between the two come down to Cost, Location, and Lifestyle. Below, we look at the pros and cons of buying a condo vs. a house.
Costs: Condos vs. Houses
In the GTA, there is a substantial difference between the cost of buying a condo and the cost of buying a house. In December 2019:
2019 GTA Home Prices: Condos & Houses
|City of Toronto||Peel Region||Durham Region||York Region||Halton Region|
|Average Condo Price||$656,233||$494,162||$368,190||$552,144||$532,583|
|Average Detached House Price||$1,363,357||$1,014,287||$696,665||$1,145,451||$1,114,808|
|Average Semi Detached House Price||$1,044,737||$713,636||$511,788||$813,7733||$733,100|
|Average Townhouse Price||$642,731||$578,640||$437,322||$629,572||$576,547|
Ongoing Costs: Condos & Houses
When you own a condo, most of your maintenance costs are paid via a monthly condominium maintenance fee. While what is included in that fees varies by building, it’s not unusual in the GTA to see monthly fees ranging from $$0.60 – $1.00 per square foot. While condo fees can feel expensive, there are other costs of owning a house that most people don’t think about. When you buy a house, you can expect to pay:
- 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, roof and mechanical systems are usually insured by the condo corporation).
- Water and garbage Add another $600-900 a year to the cost of a house (water and garbage 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, significantly lower.
- 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 and more expensive renovations in a house than in a condo. Between unsexy upgrades like electrical, plumbing and roofing, to size and age differences between condos and houses, renovation costs can be quite different. Pro tip: expect any renovation to be twice as expensive as you budgeted and take three times as long to complete (sad but true).
- For comparison purposes: A 1,000 sqft 2-bedroom condo fee can range from $600-$1,000 per month, depending on whether or not utilities are included.
Related: Understanding Condo Maintenance Fees
Location plays such a big part in determining how much a property costs and what type of lifestyle you can expect. Some things to consider when deciding between a house and a condo:
- Commuting – Condos tend to have some of the best locations in the GTA – 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 traditionally residential areas where houses are more common than condos, 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? How much are you prepared to pay for that – and how much are you prepared to sacrifice?
Lifestyle: Condos vs. Houses
- 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 amenities 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 shovelling 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.
Compromise: The Townhouse
Choosing whether to buy a condo or a house is a big decision…of course, there is always the townhouse compromise. Townhouses can legally be condominiums (and thus monthly maintenance fees are paid) or freehold (where you own it outright, just like a house).
Related: Is the Townhouse the New House?
So Should You Buy a Condo or a House?
When deciding whether or a condo or house is right you, think of your goals, your budget and what you want your life to look like in your new home. Both condos and houses can be excellent investments in Toronto.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Condo
Related: First Time Home Buyer Guide