In a NutshellWhether you should buy a condo or a house depends on personal preference, your current financial situation and future goals.
If you’re planning to buy a place of your own, there are several different types of homes you can choose from, including a single-family home and a condominium.
Both options allow you to become a homeowner, build equity in your residence and make decisions about your living space. But the main similarities between the two stop there. Condos are generally less expensive and can be a good starter home or a place to live if you don’t need much space.
On the flip side, single-family homes tend to cost more but usually offer more space, particularly between you and your neighbors. Understanding these and other differences when it comes to deciding between buying a condo vs. a house can help you determine your best fit.
- Condo vs. house: What are the main differences?
- Things to consider before you buy a condo
- Things to consider before you buy a house
Condo vs. house: What are the main differences?
Both single-family homes and condominiums are housing units that you can own. However, there are several differences between the two that can influence your decision on which one to buy.
Buying a single-family home often allows you to own your house structure and the land it sits on, while buying a condo gives you ownership of a single unit. Also, potential buyers should be mindful of homeowners association costs and benefits if interested in buying a condo, townhouse or freestanding home with shared amenities within a housing community.
Housing prices can vary depending on where you live, the size and condition of the property, and several other factors. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sales price for single-family homes in America was $378,700 in the fourth quarter of 2022. In contrast, the median sales price for condos, in metropolitan areas, was $334,600.
A more affordable option may be more appealing if you’re on a budget or a first-time homebuyer without a significant down payment. That said, condos are typically part of a homeowners association, and that’s not necessarily the case with single-family homes, so you’ll need to consider if monthly HOA fees will impact your budget.
Space and privacy
Single-family homes are usually standalone structures with surrounding space, separating homeowners from their neighbors. The average square footage of a newly built single-family home in the U.S. is 2,561, according to the National Association of Homebuilders.
Condos, on the other hand, are often part of a multifamily housing unit, similar to an apartment, where only walls separate you from your neighbors.
Maintenance and repairs
With a single-family home, you’re the sole owner and generally responsible for all maintenance and repairs on your property. If you have a condo that’s part of an HOA, you typically only need to worry about the interior of your home — the HOA will usually take care of exterior maintenance.
As with maintenance and repairs, a condo’s HOA typically pays for insurance coverage for the exterior structure, while owners only need to obtain coverage for the interior. In contrast, single-family homeowners must obtain insurance to cover the entire property, including any detached structures on the property.
With an HOA, condos may come with certain amenities, such as a community swimming pool, a gym, a playground or green space. Some single-family homes — especially newer ones — are also part of an HOA and may come with similar amenities, but that’s not always the case.
If you live in a condo, it’s likely you’ll need to follow specific rules set by an HOA. That can include where you can park your vehicle, whether or not you can rent out your home, what upgrades you can make and more. A single-family home, which is less likely to be part of an HOA (though it’s possible), may be your best bet if you want control over your space.
Things to consider before you buy a condo
When considering a condo, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages before deciding. Here’s what to keep in mind.
- More affordable — Not only do condos typically cost less, but they also command lower insurance premiums, and you’re likely not on the hook for exterior maintenance or repairs.
- More amenities — Your HOA may offer a variety of amenities, such as a pool, a playground, a clubhouse, snow removal, lawn care and more. Some single-family homes may also have some of these amenities, but it’s not a given.
- Closer community — Not all condo communities are tight-knit, but if you like being close to your neighbors and enjoy making new friends, living in close quarters with the people around you can help with that.
- HOA fees and rules — While some single-family homeowners may also deal with this, it’s standard for condos. On top of your regular monthly fee, the HOA may also impose special assessments to cover unexpected costs and shortfalls. Your HOA may also impose various rules that restrict what you can do with your property. Again, single-family homes may also be subject to HOA rules, but they tend to be less limiting.
- Less privacy — While living close to your neighbors can be a plus in some ways, you can’t choose who lives next to you. If you don’t like listening to your neighbor’s music all day and night, a condo may not be the right fit.
- Harder to sell — Condos are less attractive to prospective homebuyers than single-family homes, so it may take longer to sell when you’re ready to move.
Things to consider before you buy a house
As with condo ownership, owning a single-family home has benefits and drawbacks. Here’s what to think about before you make your choice.
- More space and privacy — If you can afford it, having a single-family home will give you more space from your neighbors and added privacy to boot.
- More autonomy — If you buy a house that isn’t part of an HOA, you can do just about anything you want with your property, as long as it doesn’t violate local ordinances. Even if you have an HOA, you’ll typically get more flexibility with rules compared to a condo.
- Easier to sell — You may not have as much trouble finding a buyer for a single-family home as you might with a condo.
- More expensive — If your budget is tight, you might find a condo more affordable than a single-family home, even with added HOA fees. Even if you can afford a monthly house payment, you’ll need to budget for higher insurance costs, maintenance and repair expenses, and more.
- You’re responsible for all maintenance — Even if you have an HOA, you may still be responsible for all the maintenance and repairs inside and outside. If you’re not able to take care of the home’s upkeep, it may be better to opt for a condo.
- Fewer amenities — While some neighborhoods have a community pool and other amenities, they’re harder to find.
If you’re trying to decide between a single-family home and a condominium, consider consulting a real estate professional who can help you navigate your local market and give you some insights on what to look for. A real estate agent can also help you find the right place based on your budget and preferences.
Because buying a home or condo is a significant financial commitment, it’s essential to research and carefully consider your decision before you move forward.