Prioritize trade-offs in house-vs.-condo decision

REThink Real Estate

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Q: What is better to buy: a house or a townhouse? –Naida

A: In the house vs. condo or townhouse battle, the analysis of which type to buy is not as simple as "better" or "worse," per se. (For ease of reference, I’m assuming you are trying to decide between a single-family home and some sort of condominium, whether or not it is strictly speaking a townhouse — i.e., a row-style, shared-walls, two-story home, which may or may not be part of a homeowners association).

However, there are trade-offs to each, and in the final analysis of which property type to buy, own and live in, your decision boils down to a matter of fit between your lifestyle, personality and finances, and the key characteristics of the property type you select.

The most common concern homebuyers bring up when making the "condo or no" decision are around homeowners associations: the monthly dues they charge, and the restrictions they impose.

While many people think paying any sort of monthly dues on top of your mortgage and property taxes is nuts, these dues often cover expenses that a single-family homeowner would have to pay out as individual line items to various vendors, like garbage collection, hazard insurance and maintenance of the building(s) over time.