Friday, January 24, 2020

Condo versus House

Many people ask about the differences between owning a condo versus a house and this is a very important question. There are multiple differences and they impact ownership on a legal level as well as a personal utility perspective. Neither is actually better or worse they both have a place in our system and one may be definitively better depending on your situation.

Owning a home versus renting is a different issue. Both houses and condos offer the equity opportunity and the ability to own outright the property. The value of the property will most likely increase over time and this adds an investment angle to the utility of a house. Condos are no different in this regard than a house.

First difference between a condo and a house is the legal difference. How ownership is held is very different in a condo than in most detached houses. When you own a condominium you have two types of ownership. You own the physical interior space in a condo much like you own the entirely of the property with most detached homes. However the physical structure and the underlying land property in a condo is co-owned collectively by all the homeowners. In most situations there is a home owners association with elected board members that manage the property including the maintenance of structures and common areas outside of the units themselves. This collective ownership has benefits and consequences that effect the use of the property. With a tradition house, the owner owns thee land and structures as well as the land rights beneath the surface and the airspace above (with a few government exceptions). With a condo you have limited ownership rights outside the interior walls of the unit.

Legal benefits to condo ownership:

  • Limited personal liability outside of your interior space 
  • Voting rights to the control and use of common areas, effectively allowing for some limited control of neighbors external use of property.   
Legal consequences to condo ownership:

  • Limited legal control over exterior use and utility of property
  • Severely limited structural use of property
  • Reliance on external ownership body for structural and external maintenance.
Second difference in a condo versus a house is the utility of the property. this is touched on above in the legal differences, but utility is the owners use of property. Inside the walls of the unit a condo has the same utility as a detached home. Outside the building however is a more cooperative setting whereby you have a fractional ownership and thus a shared usage of the exterior property.

Utility benefits to a condo:

  • Little or no exterior maintenance or yard work for homeowners
  • Shared ownership of entire community (within condominium complex or building)
  • Homeowners Insurance is typically less expensive since structural fire damage is covered by the HOA
Utility consequences to a condo:

  • HOA has control over the use of exterior and common areas that may limit owners use of that space.
  • Maintenance of structure subject to HOA timelines, funding, and efficiency.
These are just a few concepts but the biggest advantage to a condo is the ability to have the equity ownership in real property without the structural maintenance and exterior yard work. The primary disadvantage is the opposite whereby wanting a garden or yard, or to make exterior modifications is usually difficult or impossible with condo.

There is something to be said for both and each has a welcome place in the real estate universe.

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