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Solving the homebuyer's condo or house dilemma

The choice between purchasing a condo or detached house can be difficult for first-time homebuyers and repeat homebuyers alike. Your decision will affect not only the price of your home, but also where you'll live, your home's initial condition, your responsibilities as a homeowner and even your lifestyle.

Here's a look at factors you should consider:

Personal control

Generally speaking, you'll have more freedom in a house, says Jane Peters, a Realtor at Power Brokers International in Los Angeles.

With a house, you can paint the walls any color you want and do extensive remodeling to make the house fit your needs. A house will also give you outdoor space for a garden, swimming pool or larger dog. Many houses also feature a garage, carport or driveway where you can park one or more cars and store bicycles or other outdoorsy or seldom-used belongings.

"You're your own boss in a house," Peters says. "You can do whatever you want."


Condos tend to be significantly less expensive, even half-off compared with houses in some locales.

"Where I live," Peters says, "you're not going to get into a decent house for less than $1.2 million. For a condo, you could get in at maybe in the $600,000s."

That differential means you probably could purchase a newer or nicer condo for the same price as an older house in the same neighborhood, says Hope Peek, an associate broker at Peek Properties in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

"Within the price range, typically the house needs more work or more updating," she says.


Houses typically require a lot more maintenance, and you'll be on the hook for all the time and money involved. If you buy an older house, you'll probably want to update it and you might have to take care of deferred maintenance the prior owner overlooked or couldn't afford.

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