Question Details

Trulia Roger, Home Buyer in Alameda, CA

Should I buy a condo or a sfr?

Asked by Trulia Roger, Alameda, CA Mon Apr 30, 2007

I don't have kids or outdoor pets, and I don't like to mow the lawn, so a condo sounds pretty appealing. But I also value the privacy afforded by a single-family, detached residence. What's the better choice?

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consider a mashup of the two. Many communities offer single family residences with a community maintained landscaping. These communities are especially popular with the empty nester buyer and the young professional buyer, each of which have similar priorities to the ones you listed.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed May 16, 2007
I believe when faced with the choice of a condo vs. a single family, it depends on many lifestyle preferences. I n your instance, do you enjoy any outdoor activity? Even small day to day things like….sipping your morning coffee on the deck or cooking dinner on the grill? Certainly these are things allowed in most condo communities, but you may not have the privacy you desire. If your primary focus in your home search is to avoid landscaping and maintain privacy, you may want to consider a single family and hire a landscaper. The cost may be relative to what the contribution towards the landscaping budget would be in a monthly association fee. Additionally, you will have complete control over this expense and may even save yourself a few dollars each month.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 28, 2007
How about a site condo? These communities look like they are detached single family homes, but they are really condos with all of the exterior maintenance handled by the association.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 20, 2007
Maureen Fran…, Real Estate Pro in Birmingham, MI
Consider these important factoids:
1) Cost of the physical property
2) Yearly cost of insurance
3) Cost to mow, maintain, etc. the SFR...put a value on what you are worth an hour plus the cost of chemicals, fuel, mowing machines, etc, etc. and come up with a yearly cost
4) Now total up all the costs of living in this home and divide by 12 to come up with a true comparison of what the single family home hidden cost of "ownership"/ home monthly rate is and compare this with the condo fee.
5) Depending on where the condo is, it could be an end unit, or similar..this way you don't always have to feel you are in an apartment with no privacy.

The most important thing to consider has nothing to so with the physical interpretation of what you is understanding yourself as a person...what is your lifestyle? what do you do for a living? do you spend time in a gym each day, at friends? Do you travel alot? Consider these factors above all others, and then apply the numbers as shown above...this will really help clear your mind on making the right decision for you.
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2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2007
Many answers to that question. Let me propose a few ideas.

Time is an issue. How long do you plan to be there? Definitely a SFR over the long run will be more comfortable. Just look in my garage!

On the other hand, a condo can be more fun - providing more ammenities - pool, club house, spa, many new friends.

But a better and very realistic alternative might be buying a duplex or fourplex. This will give you many benefits. Your price per unit will be less than a condo. You will get appreciation leverage from rents and from the higher purchase price. This will also afford you the very real possibility of refinancing in a few years to buy you the next property - perhaps then the SFR of your dreams. This is possible because lenders will lend on the income generated from the rental units in addition to your purchasing power. Other people's money...
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 13, 2007
Mario Pinedo,…, Real Estate Pro in Cupertino, CA
Condos do not keep up with single family homes as an investment. I believe that if you watch closely to pricing and market conditions; when they are at or near the bottom a condo purchase could be a good financial move. In the mean time condos are crashing in price faster than single family residences just as history has taught us over and over again. Making a move in the condo direction should only be done with extreme caution or strong personal reasons.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 13, 2007
If you want privacy , the home is a better choice and you can always hire a lawn service. Once you got to know the neighborhood, an enterprising teenager might be interested in mowing your lawn. Have a Realtor do a CMA on both the SFH and Condo in your preferred areas to see what the market value is.
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2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 12, 2007
Roger, if you compare costs on both, whats the most comfortable for you? Remember one of the selling point for a condo is no maintence, however HOA fees broken down usually come out to be more then if you were to hire a landscaper and if need be someone to plow snow. I would advise going with a SFH if the condo didn't offer any amenities such as a pool, tennis etc. When the market goes down condos are the 1st to be hit and over the long term SFH's maintain a better value, at least here in New Jersey
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 3, 2007
There are pros and cons to either so look at the best of both. The Condo/Townhome does allow you the freedom from yardwork, just a patio in most cases, but the value of a SFR usually increases quicker so do not rule them out.....Just get a gardner for $20-$40 a week, which is less than most all HOA fees for the attached residence, sit back and enjoy your home. Whatever work best for you, Now is a great time to buy!!! Best of luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Aug 11, 2008
I've always been a fee simple ownership guy. I would go for the single family residential property. Single family properties sell for more and faster in general.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 6, 2007
You might want to consider a townhouse. It is similar to a SFR but has at least one common wall. Typically a townhouse has outdoor space but it wouldn't have to be a grass lawn to mow. Condos come in many different styles you might want to look for one in a building with only a few units to protect your privacy. A SFR doesn't have to have a grass lawn. There are great alternatives with no mowing required. Good luck!!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Oct 18, 2007
This would depend on what you value more. Not having a lawn to mow or the privacy a single-family home would offer. In our area there are subdivisions that have very little yards, but beautiful homes. You first need to decide on what means the most to you and go from there.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jul 26, 2008
You could look for a single family home subdivision with a homeowner association that takes care of the outside maintenance. This is rare but they do exist in many communities. You could also hire a landscape company to cut your grass on a regular basis. Also, look for a home that needs as little painting as possible....meaning all the siding and trim is either vinyl or aluminum clad.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 23, 2008
Have you considered a townhouse? wich will give you a little of both sides wich is privacy and as well as not too much yard up keep

0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jul 16, 2008
Buy now, then sit back and enjoy the ride up of the sweet equity,
If you continue to wait, your going to miss the best time to buy...
Denise Stuart
Coldwell Banker
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jul 10, 2008
Based on what your desires are it sound like you are a good candidate for condo living.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 11, 2008
I tend to always side on the SFR side. While maintenance may be an issue for some, the joys of "unattached" living are wonderful!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 10, 2008
As a condo owner myself, here is what I love, the outdoors is maintained, the snow is plowed before going to work, landscaping is wonderful. If you're lucky to have a pool and tennis courts and a clubhouse, this is a plus and no extra expense to you. People in condos are usually working people where I live and I rarely see a neighbor, so privacy is very good. Some people love to have their own home, but with that comes all the maintenance, so I would suggest you weigh the pros and cons before making your decision.
Good Luck
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 10, 2008
Everyone has different needs! Only the buyer can determine what's best for their family. A real estate professional can help answer questions about how owning a condo compared to a single family home works so that a buyer will know all that is involved!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 10, 2008
Depending on the area you are planning on purchasing in "condo" will mean different things. Here on Cape Cod, especially the Outer Cape, almost all our condos are free standing properties. Many times old cottage colonies were "condo'd" because of zoning regulations. Often landscaping is included with these condos and may be a good choice for you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 6, 2008
If you do not care to mow the lawn than a condo is the way to go. If privacy is a bigger issue and you want a single family residence than you can always hire a landscaper. Only you can decide what is best for your lifestyle.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 27, 2008
We are currently building maintenance free condos (homes). The homes are under the condo by laws. The condos are actually free standing homes with large landscaped lots. Our homes offer the advantage of condo living and yet you have a single family home and the privacy you indicated you were looking for.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 25, 2008
I think the sfr is the better buy because you not only own the dwelling but also the land and you state that you value your privacy which the sfr gives you a little more of.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 25, 2008
Roger roger,sfm vs cnd, you could find a patio home where thet cut the grass,or you could find a single fam w/small yd and around the same payment (excludeing the condo fee) and have service cut it.


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0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 25, 2008
The better choice, in my opinion, is to purchase property with land. In this crazy real estate market with the property values fluctuating, you will always have the value in your land. In a condo/townhouse all you are purchasing is the dwelling, in a SFR you are purchasing the dwelling plus land. Beside privacy, you are obtaining a greater investment. April Leavy, Re/Max Greater Princeton, 732 266 2079. Get additional information from my website,, or send me an email Thanks for the question.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 25, 2008
Try a combination of both in a maintanence free villa or zero lot line smaller residence. Usually these maintanence free properties are less than condominiums and afford the best of both worlds.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 1, 2008
It would depend on where you live and what the resale values are in your area. Here in Phoenix, there seems to be a glut of condos and more being built all the time. The convenience of having everything done for you can't be denied but having a townhouse with a small backyard will take away that feeling that you're living in an apartment. It all depends on how you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Apr 28, 2008
Your decision will be based on several factors. The most important factor is your location and particular market. Hire a true buyer's agent to give you the most sound advice and options.
In many cases, depending on the particular supply in your market place, you may be able to negotiate a very nice price on a newer condo w/ relatively low condo fees, than a single fam. home. Remember, location, location, location. Have your agent do a comparative market analysis on both your local condo market and sfh market so that you can make the most informed decision & invest wisely.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 23, 2008
It depends on several factors... some of the personal factors you have already addressed. There are also some economic factors, that should be considered. For example I live in South Florida where we have an oversupply of condos.

Right now I probably would suggest buying SFR if you could afford a good location or neighborhood. We have an oversupply of condos, but a shortage of land in central location. In this area the land can be as much as 70% of the value of the property. The improvements (building) depreciate with time as the building ages, but land goes up in value if it is in high demand. The fact that we have limited amount of land means that land in good central locations will go up again soon.

Also if you decide to buy a condo, it may be better to buy a newer building. In our area, condos went up in value faster than SFR, therefore they were a bit overpriced. Since maintenance costs in older buildings tend to be higher than newer buildings, they will likely depreciate faster during this cycle and most likely will not return to their previous value levels.

If you are looking for increased value over the next five years, I would put my money into SFR. If you are looking for a certain quality of life that is better served by a condo, then you already have your answer. If you are going to buy a condo, focus on newer buildings with lower maintenance costs. Good luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 23, 2008
I think it mainly depends on the life style you have or that you are looking for. You also need to consider the market for condo resales in your area vs single family, if there is a possibility that you will need to sell in the near future as in some areas, condos are a hard sell.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 23, 2008
I think it all boils down to a "Quality of life" issue. As far as a lawn - there are many places to live where desert landscape is an option for easy maintenance; also drought resistant plants that don't require much attention. Do you want common walls with a possible noisy neighbor? I encourage my Buyers to consider thier lifestyle and components that create a good experience for their personal life. Happy hunting!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 23, 2008
Your choices are many. You can consider condos, townhomes, and planned unit developments (P.U.D.'s). All three types involve a home owners association and monthly homeowner fees. The latest entry in the condo field are "air" condos. This means they are detached-stand alone buildings, but very very close to your neighbors. They are usually 2-3 stories tall. If you don't like stairs, don't consider these. Townhomes and P.U.D.'s are great because usually you will have an attached 2-car garage and a fenced yard/patio. Most of the time these are two stories. When you are looking at larger complexes that include lots of common areas, club house, pool, etc, the larger your home owner dues will be. The home owners' association absorbs the maintenance and insurance costs for these areas. Most condo associations (except for air condos) insure the buildings and maintain the common areas and may include garbage and/or water service. Many townhome and P.U.D. complexes only maintain the common area you are responsible for insuring your building and paying all utilities. In this instance, your homeowner fees will be smaller. Which is a better investment will depend upon your area. In my area, condos are selling extremely well because of the price point and have achieved very good appreciation. A good qualified realtor in your area should be able to compile stats on condo sales versus single family home sales over the last few years and show what the appreciation of both has been. Should you choose the this route, you want complex with a strong home owners' association that enforces the covenants and restrictions. This is what helps the complex hold value and maintain the property characteristics. You will also want to find out whether there are any pending law suits and/or any large assessments coming due for a large project (reroofing the entire complex for example). Banks will shy away from financing a unit in a complex where law suits are pending. A large upcoming assessment may (but not always) indicate that the complex has not set up enough reserves to handle scheduled and unschedule complex maintenance. Monthly homeowners fees can vary from $40/month to $350/month. You need to factor this cost into your budget. I can tell you that I purchased a townhome in 1991. It was a 2/bed and 2 1/2 bath with 2 car garage. I had a good sized fenced and very private back yard. My monthly home owner dues were $57 per month but I paid all utilities and home insurance. I bought the home for $275K and sold it in 2003 for $530K. I did live in an area of high home appreciation so these results cannot be expected everywhere.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2008
It depends where your live, but here in the Tri-Cities we have condos that are detached from each other. Meaning they look like single family, but they are part of a condo association. Which means all the outside maintenance is done for you, including snow removal and window washing. This might be a perfect match for you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2008
Depends on whether you like neighbors so close that their interior sounds flow into yours.

Some condos are sound proof. Others are not.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Apr 6, 2008
I have heard of single family homes that are in communities set up like a condo association where they do the maintenance. I believe they have these in Greenville, SC. I have a link to an agent there that might be able to help you on my website under vacation properties.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Apr 3, 2008
see if you can get a loan first


good luck
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 1, 2008
How about an attached Villa? here in the jax area, this means a condo that is structured like the old duplex, a wall is shared. These are single story, very nice, cost about $100 per sq. ft. Condo fees, as always, are about $200 per month. You actually own the land and real estate, but the condo association does the maintenance.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 1, 2008
Both condos and single family homes offer you choices. It's up to your personal needs as to which is the better fit. If in fact you don't plan on having children or pets, and you don't want to be bothered with outdoor maintenance then, condo living is yours. Just be sure you can live with the condo restrictions and understand the concept of living within a community where a Board of Directors made up of residents makes the rules. Single family home living offers privacy along with greater responsibility for maintenance, upkeep, etc. Location is also so important. Whether you buy a condo or single family home, don't forget, location, location, location.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Mar 14, 2008
We are currently building freedom homes, free standing, maitenance free homes, built exactly like a traditional home but maintained like a villa.
visit our web page:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 16, 2008
Is that a condo or a single family? I'm not sure you read the question....
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 15, 2008 sound so self centered and lazy...a studio apartment in a 3 story walk up should suit you fine...Jacko
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Feb 2, 2008
If you buy a condo or townhouse just make sure the number of common walls is minimal
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 26, 2008
Happy New Year, Roger! I recommend a single family detached home on a postage stamp lot or within a community where the HOA fees include exterior lawn maintenance.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 2, 2008
Vicki Masell…, Real Estate Pro in Duluth, GA
How about getting a single family home and asking a management company to manage it for you, just like they would manage a condo or a rental? An unusual arrangement, but with the arrival of us Baby Boomers, a great niche market for those who want the privacy of an SFR and the convenience of managed property.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Oct 16, 2007
We are currently building single family maintenance free homes located in a small resort 60 miles south of St. Louis, MO. The homes come with two car garages, lg. landscaped yards. The homes provide people with privacy and yet they are not condos, town homes are apartments. The maintenance free provides more time for a person to enjoy their family and friends. We currently have people living in our maintenance free homes from 32 to 70 years old.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 27, 2007
It depends where in the country you New Orleans metro area, and parts of Florida it may be less expensive buying a condo, because insurance for a comparable SF of a single family home may be 2 to 3 times the condo fee.

Look at your lifestyle..if you travel alot, or are hardly home, the condo may be the way to go. With this current market however...depending on your locality, you may get a really good deal on a home.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 27, 2007
Privacy is gold: I will sugest a single- family, condos has a h.o.a. so you can put that many to lawn care.
You never know who is going to be next door and hope to god is not a teen, that likes to party.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Sep 27, 2007
Did they say "ET phone condo?"

NO! Buy a home.

This will "always" be your best investment.

I am honored Trulia Roger!

This is the first time I was able to answer a question posted by the "President!"
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 24, 2007
I suggest to my buyers to make a wish list and then prioritize the list. A simple pro vs con list would help as well. You may give up privacy for the conveniance of no lawn care in a condo but have less upkeep to worry about. Obviously most condos are less expensive than SFR are. You may concider looking for a xeroscaped home or a SFR in a HOA that takes care of your yard.. for a fee of course.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 24, 2007
Condo's are'nt for can find someone to cut grass cheap,unless you travel alot.sounds like sfm makes more sense,I always ask certain ?'s you have a cnd fee on top of your tx's so once you do the math,find a house for the same monthly paymt.Good hunting.

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0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 8, 2007
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