This article was contributed by financial expert and blogger Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP(r), author, speaker, and founder of Workable Wealth. She provides financial coaching for individuals and couples in their 20s to 40s across the country, helping them make smart, educated choices with their money.
Congratulations, you’re ready to start thinking about your first home purchase! Depending on your budget, your lifestyle, and the responsibilities you’re prepared to take on, you could find yourself debating a single-family home or a condo.
If you’re just starting to dive into the type of home options available to you, here are some considerations when weighing the purchase of a single-family home versus a condo:
How much space do you need now and do you anticipate needing over the next few years? While a two-bedroom condo could be great today, if you foresee growing your family, needing to work from home, or having frequent guests, it could get pretty tight, pretty quickly.
Consider what the next 3 to 5 years will look like for you, your family, and your career when determining the amount of square-footage you need.
Homeowners Associations (HOAs)
Depending on the area you purchase in and the year of the build, your single-family home may come with HOA dues, just like the condo you’re considering. Look into what the dues cover, how often they’re adjusted and by what percentage, and be sure you’re OK with having a lack of control over any annual increases.
Many cities have strict restrictions and permits required for pets. And even if you own your condo, you still may be at the mercy of strict HOA rules around pets. Do your research ahead of time, determine if pets are limited or restricted in any way, and decide on how important they are as a part of the home purchase equation.
If you’re looking at a single-family home, consider who will take care of the yard, pool, roof, and more. How much home maintenance do you want to be responsible for managing yourself or for hiring out to someone else? If you’re looking for minimal maintenance and time commitment, a condo or townhome may be a better option.
If city living is more your style and you want to be within walking distance to a plethora of dining options and activities, a condo is likely your best option. Ensure you’re willing to sacrifice in the square footage in order to have a more preferential location.
Related: How to Choose a Neighborhood
If you’re looking for a private garage to house your vehicles and aren’t a fan of underground structures or parking on the street or in the open, a single-family home will better suit your needs.
Are you a private person who likes peace and quiet? Are you OK if you hear a neighbor through the walls or if someone possibly overhears you and your spouse in an argument? Depending on the amount of privacy you’re looking for, having a shared fence around a backyard instead of sharing a dining room wall may be best for you.
Future Rental Plans for Your Home
If this is a home that you anticipate eventually turning into a rental property, determine what type of rent you could obtain for it at current rates and calculate whether it’ll cover added-in costs like HOA dues, insurance, and maintenance.
Type of Mortgage
Planning to put less than 20% down on your new home? You might consider a Federal Housing Administration loan. The FHA is a government-backed agency providing mortgage assistance to home buyers using loan qualifiers that are lower than those required by independent mortgage outlets.
Keep in mind that when it comes to purchasing a condo unit with an FHA loan, both the lender and the condo community must be FHA-approved for FHA-backed loans. You can determine if the property you’re looking at is FHA approved by looking it up on the HUD website.
Whether you opt for a single-family home or a condo, make sure you do your research and pick the style of home that’s most conducive to your budget and your lifestyle. The numbers matter when it comes to a purchase this big, but so does your comfort, so don’t settle for something that you won’t find yourself enjoying.