Ah, the eternal homeownership argument: house vs condo, which is the superior choice? As a Torontonian who has owned both – and sold both – here are my top 10 reasons to choose one over the other.
THE TOP TEN (inherent truths that those living in a house can always boast over the condo set…)
- Simply put, if you’re looking for a solid long-term investment, it’s pretty hard to argue against the value of buying a freehold house. The year-over-year appreciation alone on detached homes in Toronto indicates that. Hey, this boils down to basic supply and demand — y’know, that ol’ economic model of price determination in the market?
- There’s also the obvious: MORE ROOM! Whether, say, your basement is finished or not, that’s a bonus 400+ square feet of living area! So go ahead and fashion a rec room to keep the kids busy. Or better yet, a ‘man cave’ or ‘she shed’ to preoccupy your better half.
- How about the ability to customize your space and make it your own? For example, you get to put your own blinds up, doesn’t matter if they are purple or teal. Or, should you decide to add a non-load-bearing wall inside, you do not require the consent of a board comprised by members you don’t even know.
- Some much-needed privacy, thank lord. Because they are bigger, houses extend you freedom from being observed or disturbed by nosy neighbours.
- The ability to possess more than one car is quite advantageous. Whether on your property or via street permit — at least you have the option. Good luck finding a condo unit that includes more than a single parking spot. Renting a second is crazy expensive, too. Not to mention there are monthly limits to how often you can have visitors borrow a space.
- Everyone gets to barbecue — as opposed to condo life, where that choice is limited by whether or not your building has gas lines on the balcony. In that case, prepare to sign up days in advance to avail yourself of the communal grill, presuming they even have one.
- For grocery runs, the luxury of easily unloading from the car to the front door can’t be overstated. I’ve done multiple elevator trips in my condo days. Trust me, it’s a hassle.
- Got a dog? Well, when Toronto’s cold, snowy nights inevitably arrive, how sweet is just having to open the backdoor for your furry, four-legged friend to do their business? Certainly beats bundling up at any given hour and taking the lift downstairs.
- On that note, as far as keeping a domestic animal around goes, there are zero pet restrictions — potential allergies withstanding. Which means if you want to have a pet snake, or three Great Danes for your companionship — go nuts! Ain’t gonna happen in a condo, unless you’re seeking a swift eviction.
- Last but not least, you have good peace of mind knowing you’ll never have to deal with some drunk imbecile, who accidentally lights his toast on fire and forces the entire building out onto the street at 3 in the morning. (Unless you’re that imbecile, and you intend on waking up the whole block with fire engines racing to the premises.)
THE TOP TEN (benefits which condo dwellers could conversely claim over their house equivalents…)
- First and foremost, a condominium conventionally offers its population a stronger sense of community. Sure, plenty of house owners would say the same about their particular neighbourhood. But here’s the catch: condo owners tend to live in much closer proximity than their suburban counterparts, who often have relatively big enclosures separating them. In a condo, residents will see each other at the concierge desk, in the mailroom, on the elevators, out front while walking the dog, etc. Not to mention there are shared areas for them to meet, Facebook pages where they can discuss what’s going on and regular social functions that bring them together.
- Condos are — for the most part — not usually constructed in the middle of nowhere.To that end, they commonly yield a better walk score than 80% of Toronto houses. You should hang your hat on being closer to the action, from shopping and entertainment, to dining and nightlife.
- Very few house owners get built-in access to a pool, gym or extra party room for hosting guests. By paying a standard monthly maintenance fee as a condo owner, you get these amenities bundled in. Some maintenance fees even include hydro, which makes for one less hard cost to budget for.
- Never underestimate the benefits — oh, how celestial they are — of floor-to-ceiling windows in a condo unit. Thanks to them, you obtain more natural light, even on the darkest days. Semi-detached and row houses are the worst, in that regard. And I wouldn’t deem detached homes much better, unless you’ve got one with plenty of transparent glass throughout!
- Don’t consider yourself much of a gardener? NO PROBLEM! Living in a condo guarantees no mowing the lawn, no plucking out weeds and no routine yard work to tend to. Or, if expensive structural upkeep is a concern, you’re similarly off the hook for repairing the roof once every decade.
- Because your car is parked overnight in an underground garage — all warm and cozy — you’ll never be burdened with chipping away at frozen ice on your windshield the morning after one of Toronto’s irksome ice storms. Feels good to thumb your nose at Old Man Winter, doesn’t it?
- You get to dump your daily rubbish down the chute at your convenience, and not have to stress about missing the garbage man — or being stranded with a heap of stinkin’ trash for another week. Nor do you live in fear of any pesky, nocturnal encounters with Toronto racoons.
- Condos promise greater home security. In addition to your unit’s door lock, there is the bolted entrance of the building itself, which requires a specially programmed fob to open. Sometimes the elevators even require these fobs to get to your respective floor. Also, a concierge of some sort will probably be on duty, 24/7, to regulate building access and keep signed entry records, all while being monitored by professional video recording equipment.
- If you enjoy long getaways — and who doesn’t — living in a condo means you’re able to take off for lengthy periods without too much concern about your place. Just lock up, ask the concierge keep their eyes peeled for you and trust the security measures I just pointed out. This stands in stark contrast to leaving behind a house, where you have a litany of maintenance issues to consider, as well as the risk of burglary to fret about. In other words, you better have someone you trust on speed-dial to come housesit.
- Finally, condos are much easier to rent out if your financial circumstances should change. Contrast that to leasing an entire house, where you’d not only have to procure storage for an infinitely larger amount of personal possessions, but find qualified tenants able to pay a hefty first and last month’s deposit, on top of forking over thousands more in rent than a condo would cost in-between — not always the smoothest process.
And that’s where we ended up!
Again, I need to stress that I don’t think anybody can truly quantify whether one type of living reigns supreme. What’s attractive to one segment of the housing market doesn’t always appeal to the other.
Different strokes for different folks, right?
I believe what really matters is that home ownership, period, affords you a blue-ribbon opportunity to build wealth.
House or condo — go seize it!