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Condos v. Single Family Homes – Which is Truly Right for Your Lifestyle?

Everybody knows the statistics. Most, but not all, people want to live in single family homes. Condos and townhouses are for “the newlywed and nearly dead.” But if all other things are equal, such as price, which kind of dwelling really fits your lifestyle?

Of course, there are the obvious answers to this question. If you like an urban lifestyle with its restaurants and attractions, a condo would be right for you (there is nothing like staggering home on your own two feet from your favorite watering hole). If you have a large family, like to garden, and have several vehicles, a single family home (“sfr”) is probably your best bet. But here are some less-than-obvious lifestyle issues to consider.

You work 60+ hours a week.

Your best bet is a condo. You will simply not have time to handle all the chores that a house requires. As most sfr owners will tell you, homes take lots of maintenance and you will likely have a house project each week. There goes your free time.

You travel a lot.

Again, you may just not have the time to tend to the items that come up with single family home ownership. Also, there could be a safety issue here. See below.

You have never owned a sfr before.

A condo may be right for you. You may think you love to putter and fix things, but there is a very steep learning curve to do-it-yourself-ing, regardless of what the person at Home Depot says. Also, and this is key, it is nice to have an HOA board that fixes things for you, weatherproofs your building, takes care of the gardener, etc.

You love to entertain, and have other people over a lot.

Sure, you can have some rocking parties in a condo. However, square footage and space between you and your neighbors means that a sfr would be your best bet. Guest parking is usually less of a consideration for sfrs as well.

Your free time is spent out and about, and most of your activities are away from your house.

The nod goes to the condo here. If you work all week, and spend all day Saturday at a softball game, that limits your time for home maintenance.

You have at least one big dog.

You will need more square footage and a yard for anything larger than a Pomeranian. That means a sfr. Some people love to walk their dogs at all sorts or times and in all sorts of weather, but your pet needs a bit more room to roam inside, too. Cats, hamsters, snakes and bunnies are a different story, of course.

You are a little, or more than a little, concerned about personal safety.

This is an either/or choice. A condo in a city core may not feel safe if you need to walk outside late at night. But a sfr has at least four sides, presumably with windows, and could be an inviting target if your neighborhood’s crime rate is higher than normal. Not to be paranoid, but…

Good public schools are a key consideration for you.

Surprise! Both a sfr and a condo may be right for you. As you know, a sfr in the suburbs will likely have good schools unless the area has suffered a lot of blight. But many cities are rehabbing urban city cores with state and local funds. Infrastructure, including schools, is a big part of attracting people to live in the newly rehabbed (okay, gentrified) areas.

You have several children who need a yard.

Believe it or not, this is an either/or answer. If you have more than two kids, you will likely need the square footage and yard that a single family home can provide. However, many condo complexes have lots of rec areas including pools, green areas, etc. Chances are that your kids will have lots of activities away from your home anyway.

You may have a senior parent that will eventually need care.

In this case, a sfr is your best bet. You can always add on, convert a room, etc.

You like to remodel every few years and have big plans to do so.

Sfrs are the choice here as you do not have shared walls. It is hard to knock out a wall in a condo as it may be load-bearing and holding up your upstairs neighbor’s place.

Finally, you want to build equity.

This may surprise you, but both types of properties retain value and increase in value equally well, unless their respective neighborhoods are undergoing downward transitions.

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Justin Hemker

Justin Hemker is a North Carolina licensed real estate broker whose real estate experience dates back to 2003 when he was first licensed in Michigan as a real estate salesperson. Almost two decades later, Justin has seen how the industry has changed from paper MLS books and print-marketing, to the digital-dominant marketing of today. Putting his Web Technologies background to work, Justin strives to bring the highest caliber of real estate service to Triangle-area home buyers and home sellers of every price point.