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House vs Condo: Which One Should You Buy?

row of multi-family houses

Homes for sale in San Francisco come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. In this diverse and highly competitive housing market, one of the most distinctive decisions you might have to make is choosing between a detached house and a condo unit.

If your San Francisco real estate journey is stuck on this proverbial fork in the road, answer these essential questions to arrive at a confident and satisfying decision:

How much space do you need or want?

Homebuyers who prioritize the size and comfort of their living spaces are better off choosing a detached, single-family house over a condominium unit. 

In the general sense, houses are better suited to accommodate larger household sizes, such as families. With houses, you can find more options for privately owned multi-story buildings with dedicated rooms for each member of the household. You will also have more storage space in a house compared to a condo. In addition, a detached house also offers the advantage of larger outdoor spaces that can be used for personal relaxation and recreation, as well as for occasional entertaining.

On the other hand, if you are single and have no plans of starting or raising a family in the near future, owning a condo unit can be the more practical choice. While most San Francisco condos are no less comfortable than houses, they are more compact and designed for efficiency rather than abundance.

What type of lifestyle do you currently—or plan to—lead?

Do you need to stay in the heart of the city so you can commute to your workplace faster each day? Or do you simply enjoy being close to the hottest local attractions and events? 

If your day-to-day routine demands convenient access to your most frequented destinations, then buying a condo located at or near them would be ideal. However, if serene and private neighborhoods are more your speed, then a house in a more suburban part of the city will likely be a better fit. 

Do you have plans to renovate or customize the property?

For many, owning a house is the dream scenario because of all the possibilities that it offers. Not only is a house a place of shelter, it can also be a canvas that an owner can use to create the perfect space according to their needs and interests.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about condos. Changes to condominium properties are significantly limited by guidelines and regulations established by the building or property’s owner and the condominium association. In the best-case scenario, you can decorate your interiors as you please, but you will not be allowed to make significant changes to its main structure and exterior design.

How much of the property’s maintenance needs are you willing to take on?

When it comes to upkeep, condos have the upper hand over detached houses. Because a condo unit is part of a centrally managed condominium association, it does not require extensive maintenance, especially with the exteriors and shared features. 

Aside from keeping your interior living spaces clean and orderly, you are only responsible for covering your monthly association dues. The majority of the work will be taken care of by the property manager (or their contractor partners). 

Condos also add the advantages of having special recreational amenities and versatile concierge services on-site. These are bonus features that can elevate the convenience of your day-to-day living even further.

Are you aiming for significant property value appreciation over the long term?

If you are the type of homebuyer who keeps a keen eye on the long-term value of the property, a house will be a more attractive investment vehicle compared to a condo unit.

When you buy a house, you own the land on which it was built, giving the property a better foundation for long-term appreciation. You can also make strategic renovations and upgrades on a house to increase its value.

With a condo property, appreciation potential tends to be more limited because you only own your unit; the land is still owned by the building owner or developer. A condo’s higher annual costs of ownership (the fees that go to your regular association dues, for instance) may also cancel out any long-term appreciation.

For more information and guidance as you shop for houses and condos for sale in the Bay Area, turn to Team Hatvany. Led by seasoned luxury property specialist Nina Hatvany, this firm is the gold standard in the San Francisco real estate scene. Learn more about Team Hatvany’s services and areas of expertise by calling 415.710.6462 or emailing team(at)teamhatvany(dotted)com

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