Which is Better: House or Condo?

Photo (cc) by Sarah Jane

I have owned my own home for the last 16 years. For eight of those years, I lived in a single-family home. The other eight? I lived in a high-rise condominium. I was even president of my condo association, so I got a behind-the-scenes look at how these buildings operate.

Clearly, there’s no one living arrangement that makes sense for everyone, but there are advantages and drawbacks if you decide to go condo…

Condo advantages

  • They’re often a lot cheaper. A condo is a great way to buy a first home, especially since condo prices can be even more depressed than single-family home prices. Last year, we wrote about a condo selling for less than a used car.
  • Low maintenance. Owning a condo means never having to worry about many exterior issues like roofing, air conditioning and the many other things that can go wrong. While you’re still responsible for potential problems like a leaking faucet or running toilet, at least some of the stress of the stand-alone homeowner is alleviated.
  • Greater amenities. Condos can feature pools, hot tubs, fitness centers, or other social facilities. Some can include storage areas and even movie rooms.
  • Fewer bills to pay. As a condo resident, you can expect your monthly maintenance fee to include water, sewer, trash, and, in many cases, heating and air conditioning. Most people forget that these fees can also include insurance on the entire building, so you only need to buy a policy covering your personal possessions, not the value of your unit. My condo association even included Internet service and cable TV at no additional cost. We were able to provide these services to our residents for far less than it would’ve cost us to purchase them individually. When I lived there, I just paid my mortgage, association dues, electricity, and phone bills. Today, I pay at least a dozen bills each month.
  • Heightened security. Many condos feature alarm systems and security guards. Even without these features, living in close proximity to your neighbors is inherently more secure than a single-family home.

Condos’ disadvantages

  • Pesky condo associations. Some people join these organizations because they’re bored and love to force other people to follow their rules. Be careful to avoid any condominium whose association tries to dictate every aspect of their residents’ lives. Never buy a condo without talking to people who live there – the more the better.
  • Strange neighbors. I thought I was living with some great people – until my next-door neighbor decided to hold loud parties every weekend. When I knocked on his door at 2 in the morning to ask him to quiet down, I realized he had actually hired a band! Eventually, I called the police. We didn’t quite get along so well after that.
  • Deadbeat residents. The economics of a condo are fairly simple. All the common bills are divided equally among all the residents, according to the size of their unit. The condo association then bills each resident for the appropriate amount. Inevitably, some residents become unwilling – or, in this economy, unable – to pay their fair share. That requires their neighbors to pick up their tab in the form of higher monthly fees or special assessments.
  • Out-of-control association boards. If you have a problem with the government taxing and spending too much, wait until you have to deal with a condo association board that doesn’t know what it’s doing. Some raise rates every year to cover costs without looking for savings, while others ignore critical maintenance out of thrift or neglect. To minimize your monthly fees and to protect your investment, you have to make sure that your association is being properly run. Again, talk to existing owners.

While I’m enjoying my house in the quiet neighborhood, I miss the luxury, convenience, and (some of) my condo neighbors. Ultimately, it was our growing family’s need for more space that prompted our move to a larger, single-family home. Condos aren’t for everyone, but if you want to spend the least time worrying about your property and the most time enjoying it, buying into a well-run condominium can be a worthwhile investment.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales
7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales

Here’s what an experienced estate sale shopper considers a great find.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon
9 Hidden Ways to Get More Out of Amazon

You don’t have to be a Prime member to take advantage of these little-known perks of shopping on Amazon.

19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store
19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

These household necessities are overpriced at the grocery store. Get them cheaper at these places instead.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy. Here’s where I shop for these items instead of a warehouse club.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.