Condos kissed by late afternoon sun

Condos vs Houses: How to decide which is right for you

Condos kissed by late afternoon sun

Photo by Jay Wennington

“Where will I be happy?” Ask yourself this question before you look at properties!

Maybe you want to feel like you’re in nature or maybe the shops and cafés of a busy city center call your name. Wherever you see yourself, remember there are different options to consider. Condos and houses, for example, both have their perks. So what are the differences that you should consider? Read on! 

Size

Houses tend to be larger than condos. They usually have more bedrooms and bathrooms, and the rooms themselves often have more square-footage. Storage areas also have more space—this can be advantageous if you have children or other family living with you. Condos are often without attics and rarely include basements. This can present a challenge when it comes to staying organized and clutter free. All this aside, a smaller home does mean less to keep clean! Sometimes a smaller home is an opportunity to simplify life.

Overall: The space allowed by houses can be convenient when there are many people under one roof, and condos an simplify things if space is less of a priority!

Yard

Do you spend a lot of time relaxing in your back yard? With a condo, if there is a backyard space, it’s often shared amongst homeowners. For dog owners, this can be a challenge.  Spot will probably need to be leashed whenever he’s outside, and any “presents” he leaves behind will be unwelcome by the neighbors. On the plus side, yard work and landscaping are covered by the HOA. If you have a green thumb, adding big pots with your favorite plants can be a good way to stay in touch with your “roots”. Finally, privacy is something to consider. If you like sunbathing or outdoor yoga, try to imagine where you will do these when you tour properties. After all, who wants the neighbor to see their downward facing dog?

Houses, on the other hand, come with front and back yards, which require upkeep. If you don’t want to take care of your land, you’ll need to hire somebody (whether it’s a professional service or just a neighborhood teenager) to keep your trees and grass under control. But if you own a house, your backyard is considered your private property. Spot can run free, you have control over your landscaping, and there’s nearly always a privacy fence.

Location

Houses are much more common in the suburbs than they are in cities. You’d be hard-pressed to find a standard three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the heart of a major city that doesn’t cost an obscene amount of money! For this reason, many families, especially those with young children, enjoy suburban living. It’s often quieter and safer. Also, schools tend to be less crowded, with more room to grow and play. However, commuting to work from the suburbs every day is a commitment.

Condos, therefore, can be a popular choice for city-dwellers. They have many of the same amenities as houses and can be located much closer to major metropolitan areas. This often means being within walking distance of dining, shopping, and entertainment venues—some folks can even walk to their office buildings! Just remember that the constant hustle-and-bustle of city life can be wearing. For that reason consider a condo that offers family-friendly amenities, like a swimming pool or playground. That being said, if you find a home you love but it doesn’t have a pool, recreation centers are a great option!

Maintenance

We already discussed the fact that condos don’t require homeowners to take care of landscaping, but this low-maintenance aspect goes even further. Most of the time, the condo association will take care of exterior issues, including faded or peeling paint, rotting wood, and roof damage. They’ll also maintain parking areas and walkways. Rules vary from complex to complex though, so you’ll want to double-check the association’s policies before signing any paperwork. Another thing to keep in mind is that these services aren’t exactly “free.” You may not have to write a personal check to the landscapers, but as a condo owner you’ll be asked to pay monthly or annual dues to the HOA (Home Owners Association).

With houses, homeowners are pretty much on their own for construction and repair projects. This has it’s pros and cons. On the one hand, you can add a patio or another bedroom without asking for approval. As long as you’re not encroaching on your neighbors’ property, you can go to town! On the other hand,  when own house you also get to shovel snow, clean the pool, and pay for repairs.

And the Winner Is…

Both kinds of domiciles have good qualities and bad qualities, so it’s really a matter of which option is right for you and anyone who will be sharing the space. Condos are great for first-time homeowners looking who want to purchase a home without the commitment to repairs and landscaping. Houses are a good option for larger families or anyone who needs to have more control and freedom over their space.

Good news: VA Loans can be used to purchase both traditional houses and condos. There are more rules associated with using the loan to buy a condo, but these policies apply to the condo complex/building—not the borrower:

  • For existing buildings/complexes, at least 50% of the units must be owner-occupied, and at least 85% of owners must be current on all dues and fees.
  • For newly constructed buildings/complexes, at least 75% of the units must be sold (even if the new owners haven’t moved in yet).

If you already have a condominium in mind that you’d like to purchase, the official website of the Department of Veterans Affairs can tell you whether or not a specific development already has their approval. And if your dream condo isn’t listed, don’t despair: you can work with your lender or real estate agent to gain approval for the purchase.

So, would you like to purchase a single-family house, or is a condo more your style? Whichever one you pick, a VA Loan can make your dream of homeownership a reality. And VA Lending Group is ready, willing, and able to help you get started!

Photo courtesy of grendelkhan on Flickr