When it comes to buying real estate, there two primary ownership choices: condominium living or freehold housing. If you’re in the process of navigating the housing market, you're choosing between one of these options. But what do these terms mean? We have the definitions for you, plus a few things to consider when it comes to these ownership types.
What Is A Condominium?
When most people think of condominiums, their minds automatically turn to flashy high-rises lining a cityscape. While there are styles like apartment-style low rise condos, townhomes and attached bungalows, condominiums have nothing to do with a housing style, and everything to do with the structure of ownership.
Condos are all about a division of ownership. In a condominium, you typically own your personal unit, but little more. Any parking, storage and lobby space that might exist in multi-unit buildings, as well as amenity rooms and outdoor spaces, are owned equally by all unit owners. This is known as common property. So you have full ownership and flexibility over the interior of your unit, but there are restrictions on what can be changed or improved on the outside of the unit and in common areas.
What Is A Freehold?
Simply put, freehold housing means full ownership. Think of a traditional family home. It’s conventional home ownership, meaning the owner is fully responsible for the interior and exterior of the home, as well as the property it sits on. Freehold housing permits homeowners to maintain a home as they please, adding additions, tackling renovations and landscaping as desired – within municipal bylaws of course. The homeowner assumes full responsibility for the home and any maintenance that is needed.
It’s All About Maintenance
When it comes to condo living versus freehold living, it’s easy to see the main difference; it really comes down to maintenance. Unless you consider some decorating or cleaning to be maintenance, condominium living is an effectively maintenance-free lifestyle. Everything beyond your personal unit is taken care of. So what’s the trade-off?
Condo living comes with condo fees. This monthly cost contributes to employing teams of people to take care of the maintenance and upkeep for you! The building property, common space, and condo grounds are managed by a condominium corporation, which is able to operate because of condo fees.
When it comes to freehold living, on the other hand, you are responsible for the maintenance of the interior, exterior and grounds around your home. There’s no monthly fee, but remember, the homeowner assumes the full cost of any maintenance or repairs that come up.
A Lifestyle Choice
So with the major difference surrounding home maintenance, which option is best for you? It might be more of a lifestyle question than anything else.
Condo living affords a freedom that freehold housing simply cannot guarantee. Not only is exterior maintenance taken care of, but seasonal care such as gutter cleaning, lawn mowing, and shovelling is erased from the to-do list. Condo living frees up the flexibility to come and go without worry.
Maybe you have a skiing weekend in Banff planned? Just lock-and-leave your home. Heading south for a winter vacation? Don’t worry, your pile of snow will be taken care of by the time you return. Visiting family for an extended period? Neighbours are close by to keep watch on your home. If you’re looking for a flexible, maintenance-free lifestyle, a condo may be the right choice for you.
Condominiums, like freeholds, are available in a number of different housing styles. Townhomes, duplexes and attached bungalows; developers build different styles to appeal to different needs. So with housing options being more or less equal, we return to the lifestyle factor. When considering your options, consider your future. Are home improvement and seasonal maintenance a lifestyle inhibitor or a real and pleasant part of your day-to-day? Considering your future priorities may be most helpful in choosing what’s best for you.