Many prospective home buyers in Toronto will face the same conundrum: which is better, a condo or a house? Both options are widely available at almost every price point, and choosing between them is not a trivial matter. If you’re not sure what property type will best suit your needs, read on to understand how the two compare.
A Quick Definition
Before we dive into the advantages and disadvantages of condos and houses, we should be clear what we’re talking about. A condo is defined as a privately-owned apartment in a shared building or complex. You wholly own the interior of the apartment, but only own a share of the exterior and common spaces in the building. In contrast, a detached house is a standalone structure; when you purchase a detached house, you wholly own all aspects of the building and the land it sits on.
Comparing the Pros and Cons of Condos and Houses
Let’s look at how condos and houses compare in some key areas of concern:
1. Purchase Price
The average cost of a condo in Toronto is just over $700,000, while the average cost of a detached house is double that - over $1.4 million. There’s no two ways about it: condos are typically cheaper to purchase than a detached home, and so are a better option for those on a budget.
Data source: WOWA August 2023
If you’re on a really tight budget and home-hunting in the GTA, take a look at our article on finding discounted properties in the area.
With a condo, you are only responsible for the maintenance of the interior of your home. The exterior (including building structure, shared spaces, outdoor areas, etc.) is the responsibility of the condo association. This is in contrast to detached homeowners, who are solely responsible for the entirety of the maintenance and upkeep of their home. So condo owners have less to worry about, and less to do (a particular boon in winter - no shovelling!).
In a related area, it’s worth noting that when purchasing a property, condos are simpler than houses. Most condo buyers do not worry about performing a home inspection, as they can rely on the certification of the condo’s condition provided by the condo board. House buyers, on the other hand, have quite a bit to keep track of to ensure the home has been properly maintained. For more on this, take a look at our Home Inspection Checklist for Toronto Buyers.
House owners are responsible for the cost of all of the services the home enjoys, while most condo fees include essential services like water supply and garbage collection. Just these two items alone will cost the typical Toronto detached house owner $600-900 a year! Different demographics may require different services for their home. For example, a family with children will have different needs than a young professional living in Toronto.
Higher-end and newer condo buildings often have shared spaces with desirable amenities for use by residents. This can include things like a pool, gym, storage lockers, a garden or rooftop terrace, meeting rooms, and so on. Houses, however, have no additional amenities beyond those included with the house’s structure. So if you’re a fan of perks, condos are a great bet. Be aware though - the more amenities offered, the higher your condo fees will be.
Many condo buildings have security measures that you won’t find in most houses. This can be as simple as a secure entranceway for the complex, or as robust as high-tech security measures and 24 hour doormen. Securing the same level of protection for a house can be very expensive.
A condo is cheaper to insure than a home, simply because home insurance covers the structure of the house, while condo insurance does not. Again, this can mean cheaper running costs for a condo than a house.
The offset of all the amenities and reduced responsibility of owning a condo is condo fees. Condo fees are typically payable monthly, and all owners in a building must pay them to help cover the cost of the condo board’s activities - which includes all of the upkeep and maintenance of the building.
The average condo fee in Toronto in 2022 was $0.64 per square foot per month - or $416 per month. Higher-end buildings have higher fees, with some coming in at over $1000 a month. Houses, on the other hand, have no ongoing fees associated with them, and so can potentially work out as cheaper on a monthly basis.
There’s no two ways about it - condos are typically smaller than detached houses. You get what you pay for, and if you’re looking for a very spacious condo, this will mean searching in the expensive end of the market, and potentially spending more per square foot than you would on a detached home. Houses are naturally larger.
With your own house you have the freedom to make alterations - both inside and out - as you see fit. But with a condo, you will not be able to make any alterations to outside or shared spaces, and there may be restrictions on what you’re allowed to do inside your home. In some cases, changes are allowed, but permission to make them must be sought from the condo board. In any case, you are not 100% free to do whatever you like to your home with a condo.
Living in a condo building means living in close proximity to your neighbours. You will share walls with others, and encounter others in shared spaces of the building. This is inherently a less private arrangement than in a detached home, where you can come and go in total privacy, and do not share any aspect of your home with anyone else.
In a Nutshell
Condos typically cost less to buy and are easier to live in, but houses are bigger and offer more independence.
Other Property Options in Toronto
Although detached houses and condos are the most common types of property in Toronto, they are by no means the only options. Canada’s biggest real estate market is also home to:
Data source: 2021 Census
With so much choice, it’s possible for everyone to find the perfect home in the Big Smoke. If you need some help finding the right balance between your budget and needs, a reputable realtor can make all the difference.