How to Decide: House vs Condo

A detached house with a two-car garage and a backyard has long been the real estate dream of future buyers. But a burgeoning condo market means a wider variety of property options for homebuyers and the realization that a house doesn’t always have to be the goal.

“We all grow up thinking that buying a house is the ideal,” says Brian Elder, a Toronto-based real estate agent. “Everybody wants to own a piece of land, own the house that sits on it, and there are great advantages to that.”

“But,” Elder continues, “there are advantages and disadvantages to owning a house or owning a condo and it just really depends on your personality and how you live your life.”

To help buyers make the decision between a house and a condo, Elder has suggestions on what to consider.


A house affords owners a lot of freedom and independence when it comes to implementing their own ideas about design and style.

“You get to choose what colour you paint the outside, or how you choose to decorate the exterior landscape,” Elder says. Unlike a condo, where someone else has already made decisions about the building’s décor and features, house owners can exert almost completely control over their home’s appearance and components.

“The choices you make about the house are yours to make as long as they’re in line with the city bylaws,” Elder says.

But that freedom doesn’t come without a price.

“Because all the decisions are yours, the responsibilities are all also yours,” Elder warns. “If there’s a problem with the roof or any issues with the home, it’s something you have to look after.”

A house is a good choice for a buyer who:

  • is comfortable with handiwork and maintenance
  • is able to afford upkeep and any emergency repairs
  • wants privacy
  • wants control over design

A condo is a great solution for a buyer who is after a turnkey lifestyle.

“If buyers have a really busy life or maybe they’re not handy and the thought of doing anything in terms of upgrades makes them uncomfortable, then owning a condo is easier,” Elder says.

The amenities available in a condo building are also a great perk. “There’s often a pool, a gym, a party room and more,” Elder says. “It’s an ease of living.”

The high density of many condo buildings could be a good or bad thing, depending on the buyer. Living in a condo could mean having hundreds of neighbours, as opposed to a dozen. It may pose a problem for buyers looking for privacy.

Plus, amenities, ease of living and turnkey lifestyle of condos are possible only with monthly maintenance fees, which often scare buyers away.

“People are very maintenance fee-sensitive. They want them to be as low as possible,” Elder says.

A condo is a good choice for a buyer who:

  • doesn’t want the responsibility of maintenance and repairs
  • wants access to amenities such as a gym
  • wants a living space that will be move-in ready, without the need for upgrades
  • doesn’t mind living in a large community
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