Whether you should buy or rent should depend on where you are financially and your living preferences. As long as you’re being confident with your money, you have options. And just like renting, buying a house or condo each has its benefits and drawbacks. Let’s take a look at the differences between buying a condo vs. a house and the unique benefits of each.
For me, I always thought I’d live that American Dream, marry, buy a house, and have 2.5 kids. I did get married, but we did not buy a house. We rented an apartment for about twelve years, in the very expensive real estate/rental market of the Boston suburbs. We had our daughter there after seven years, all planned, and then we started looking at houses. With the prices of the Boston suburbs back in the mid-1990’s we quickly realized, to find a house within our budget, we would need to move to the outer suburbs. My husband and I would likely face an hour commute each way to work. It just wasn’t worth it for what we were looking for in our quality of life.
We moved to a wonderful coastal community not far from Miami just after my daughter turned three. After looking at newspaper real estate listings, we realized our budget could afford a house. However, it would not have any view of the water and would have a very small yard. So, the realtor suggested we look at condominiums. At the time I did not really understand what a condominium or condo was all about. The realtor explained that we could own a unit in a building and that common areas that surrounded it are jointly owned and shared. It seemed reasonable, plus we could have that view of the water within our budget. So, our first “home” was a condo.
We ended up not having the 2.5 kids, we were happy with one kid and owning a 1,500 square foot, 2 bedroom/2 bath condo was perfect for us. Our unit was in a full service building. It had lots of amenities to offer in the common areas. There were 2 pools, beach access, shipping and receiving area for packages, a doorman, a restaurant, and several recreational rooms, including a gym. People who were not familiar with condo life, used to say it must be hard living there with a child, but we had so many great facilities we never missed anything. The nearby parks and community center were like an extension of our backyard. We lived quite happily there for nearly 20 years.
When our daughter went off to college, we became empty nesters for awhile. Then my mother-in-law’s health started failing, so we began to consider having her live with us. Both my husband and I worked from home by then, so we knew having 3 adults plus a college kid sometimes, was not ideal in the 1,500 square foot condo. We needed more space. We started a search for a house.
We found what we were looking for after searching for about a year, after reconnaissance trips to check out towns, neighborhoods, and houses. The requirements were a waterview, at least 4 bedrooms, and space for both of us to have our own separate offices. We found all that in approximately 3,000 square feet and the house came with two acres. The view was great and we quickly sorted out who was working where. I had a lot of ideas about planting a garden in the raised beds, and filling the beds around the house with a riot of flowers. In the end my mother-in-law went to live with her daughter, but that didn’t matter, we were happy in the house, for awhile.
Planting a garden and flowers is all well and good, but gardening in 100 degree temperatures with 100% humidity is reality. Keeping up with a 2 acre lawn was harder than we imagined, even with a riding lawn mower. We also did not realize the amount of upkeep that was involved with a house. We had to paint the deck, pressure wash the house, fix some plumbing and HVAC issues and the list went on an on. Plus we were two people working full time and neither of us is particularly handy. Boy did we miss condo life!
So, we are still empty nesters, our daughter completed her undergrad degree and went on to complete a masters in Communications and Public Relations. She now has her own apartment nearby. We are now thinking that at this stage in life (I am 53 and my husband will be 58 next month) that downsizing and going back to condo life is what we want to do. I will say that I feel uniquely qualified to talk about the pros and cons of condo versus home, considering I’ve done both. I realize not everything I feel will apply in your situation, but if you’ve been wondering, then maybe my insights could help you with your decision.
Thinking about buying a condo? The good news is that there is little maintenance required as they’re almost always turn-key (which is also great for travel). There are also usually on-site amenities, heightened security, and lower insurance. Cost can vary by location, but they tend to be more affordable than traditional houses and in convenient locations close to restaurants and other entertainment.
When considering the perks of buying a condo vs. buying a house, consider the amenities. If you’re all about the pool, fitness center, etc., you may end up paying more. Living in a condo can also mean sacrificing a bit of your privacy, along with size limitations. You’ll also want to check the pet policy to ensure that every member of the family is invited to live there.
Being a homeowner certainly has its share of perks. You have as much privacy as you want and you’re free to renovate to your unique tastes. Typically, you can usually enjoy more space. There are no policies to follow and you’re free to rule your castle as you see fit.
When considering the pros and cons of buying a condo vs. buying a house, you have to consider maintenance. Simply put: When something breaks at home, you can’t just fill out a request. You’re responsible for the upkeep, insurance costs, and dealing with depreciation. Many homes won’t be offered turn-key, meaning you’ll have your work cut out for you if you want to save a little money on the mortgage.
When it comes to buying a condo vs. buying a house, it’s all up to you. My family enjoys traveling and want to be near a large airport with a good schedule of international flights. Having a condo would mean we could close and lock the door as we set off on our next adventure. The condo association would have access to the unit should there be a water leak or similar. As I mentioned, neither of us is handy. We’d like to have less space to care for, less furniture, and things. We have found the more space you have, the more stuff you will find to fill the space. It just all depends on your unique needs for your space!
This year has certainly upended a lot of things, but your money shouldn’t be one of them. Here’s how to protect your retirement finances in uncertain times.
Subscribe today for free to receive our weekly update and never miss an article.