Real Estate

Expected expenses of detached house vs condo fees: who 'wins' in the end?

  • Last Updated:
  • Feb 22nd, 2019 2:24 pm

Poll: Which property will cost less in the end to maintain?

  • Total votes: 83. You have voted on this poll.
detached house
 
66
80%
condo
 
17
20%
[OP]
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 21, 2010
11659 posts
2681 upvotes
Montréal

Expected expenses of detached house vs condo fees: who 'wins' in the end?

Just purely re minimizing expenses (not re which is better living arrangement), in the end which one would cost less? Not sure if there are studies done on this comparison. All I know is that I pay hundreds of dollars each month for 'nothing' (ofc it's something i.e. maintenance, security, insurance, facilities, etc) but I dunno if I had a detached house would it be less in the end? Anyone facing this dilemma and which home did you end up w and why?

EDIT: poll added (can change mind to hopefully allow more accurate results)
Last edited by tranquility922 on Aug 28th, 2017 7:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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66 replies
Sr. Member
Feb 18, 2006
897 posts
33 upvotes
Freehold will ALWAYS come out ahead. If you haven't caught on already, condo's are a cash cow for contractors, plain and simple. If you were the president of a condo board, would you rather pay $50,000 for a new roof, or $55,000 for a new roof plus $5,000 of that coming back to you through hidden deals that no one else could ever find out about? Why do you think these guys are even on the condo board, like who the hell would want that job anyways since it's unpaid? Because it's actually not unpaid... not directly anyway. Having said this, I'm about to buy a condo soon, because, well, there's no way I can fork over enough for a house, so I don't really have a choice. While condo's and associated maintenance fees might actually be preferred by some at certain points in their lives, I'm inclined to believe that a condo fee is somewhat just like another tax on the poor. At least this is my own personal opinion. If I could afford freehold I'd definitely choose it over bullshit "condo associations" where even though I'm the owner of my unit I still need to pay my "rent" every month. Lastly I just wanted to add, of course I do think paying some costs would be needed for upkeep and possibly some minimal landscaping etc, but nowhere near $500 per month for less than 700 sq feet in buildings with hundreds of apartments are you kidding me?
Deal Fanatic
Jul 3, 2011
5328 posts
2404 upvotes
Thornhill
It depends because a case can be made for condos.

It is rather shortsighted to think that freehold will always win and the reason for that is a lack of a reasoned analysis. Consider the following:

A condo's fees is a forced savings plan to cover major expenses such as anything structural and mechanical as with roof, garage, parking, balcony, hvac, windows and also for updating.

Homeowners generally do not set aside extra funds every year for such incidences so when they do happen they occur in one-off expenses but which when you think of it can be more expensive as the cost has not been set aside.

It can also be argued that some condos will be better kept than individual freeholds and so will hold value better.

Then there is the measure of value in any changes done where in a condo it is a reasonable expectation that the board has hired competent trades to perform the necessary work/upgrades whereas I wouldn't trust a homeowner who couldn't produce a permit or an invoice to show who did any of those major works.
Member
User avatar
Feb 16, 2017
316 posts
107 upvotes
Detached and i guess same for freehold u just have to pay Utilities bill for water heater ,ac rental which is 20 or 25$ and insurance which can be starting from 300$ to anywhere up to 1k per annum depending on the house .. roof (every 15 years) beware now a days they are coming with metal roof which will even last long for 30 years !

additional hardwork u need buy a lawn mower for 200-500$ range just onetime investment and do your lawn twice or thrice in a year ! there was also thread by someone how freehold values raise fast and they sell like hot cakes in the market 2 guys bought 450k properties one condo and another freehold they said after 8 yrs when they kept on market freehold one sold for 850k and the other one sold for 670k just an example
Deal Fanatic
Dec 11, 2008
9567 posts
1265 upvotes
Just do the math, how much would it cost you to hire someone to clean your windows, do your yard work, shovel your snow, cover all exterior maintenance/costs and even some issues above your ceiling line, clean, service and maintain your pool, gym equipment and have security.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2001
15924 posts
6111 upvotes
The challenge is that with a condo you have little to no input into the spending of your money. Where as with a detached you have the ability to say "I can get another year out of the roof" or "Oh that's OK the windows don't close great, I don't want to spend $20,000 to change them out".

This is why it is so difficult to compare.
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Dec 13, 2016
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jperras wrote:
Aug 28th, 2017 7:59 pm
. At least this is my own personal opinion. If I could afford freehold I'd definitely choose it over bullshit "condo associations" where even though I'm the owner of my unit I still need to pay my "rent" every month.
Yeah, right. As IF you don't pay the same rent to the government in form of property taxes.

House or Condo - in Canada you don't own it - period. The maintenance fees you are paying are called convenience fees. For example, I would never want to own a house and have to remember hundreds of regulations that come with owning a house in Canada like shoveling snow, proper garbage disposal or other pleasantries that I just don't want to deal with. I also don't have to worry about replacing the roof and other major required repairs you have to do to be up to the code. If you choose a condo with decent management repairs like this will not require special assessments.

Also, a big thumbs up for a condo is if you ever decide to rent it out (like I did for the past 4 years) there is very little maintenance you will have to do. Basically if my tenant has a problem with an aircon unit, plumbing, electrical... all of that will be covered by my building management. For the past 4 years renting out my condo I haven't had a single issue with my tenant. House? I highly doubt it.

If I wanted a house, I would have bought a cheap one either in Montral or Ottawa. I am self employed and can work from any city in Canada or the world. A house is simply NOT for me and it never will be.

Now in Thailand where people don't pay property taxes and have no snow, garbage disposal and zillion regulations to worry about... maybe, but as a foreigner I am not allowed to own land.
Member
User avatar
Feb 16, 2017
316 posts
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BiegeToyota wrote:
Aug 28th, 2017 10:45 pm
Yeah, right. As IF you don't pay the same rent to the government in form of property taxes.

House or Condo - in Canada you don't own it - period. The maintenance fees you are paying are called convenience fees. For example, I would never want to own a house and have to remember hundreds of regulations that come with owning a house in Canada like shoveling snow, proper garbage disposal or other pleasantries that I just don't want to deal with. I also don't have to worry about replacing the roof and other major required repairs you have to do to be up to the code. If you choose a condo with decent management repairs like this will not require special assessments.

Also, a big thumbs up for a condo is if you ever decide to rent it out (like I did for the past 4 years) there is very little maintenance you will have to do. Basically if my tenant has a problem with an aircon unit, plumbing, electrical... all of that will be covered by my building management. For the past 4 years renting out my condo I haven't had a single issue with my tenant. House? I highly doubt it.

If I wanted a house, I would have bought a cheap one either in Montral or Ottawa. I am self employed and can work from any city in Canada or the world. A house is simply NOT for me and it never will be.

Now in Thailand where people don't pay property taxes and have no snow, garbage disposal and zillion regulations to worry about... maybe, but as a foreigner I am not allowed to own land.
I have very rarely seen a condo who sticks to the same convenience fees ..it keeps sky rocketing and take you to a level where you will start feeling that you are paying for another mortgage ! There are condos in GTA who just take maintenance fees alone 1200-1500$ per month minimum i found for decent one is 400$ maintenance fees
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jul 14, 2008
8167 posts
1802 upvotes
Ontario
It might be difficult to compare, but my opinion is coming from one who owns both freehold and condo property. IMO, freehold comes out ahead versus a condo most of the time.

When we say "costs less", are we comparing a smaller/cheaper condo unit, or one of comparable size/price? Of course a smaller home will cost less to maintain, heat, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if 2500 sqft home costs more to maintain than 800 sqft, for instance. If I were to tally the sum total of all my maintenance fees for the condo over, say, a decade or 15 years, and compare that with the freehold property, the freehold is ahead by a large margin. Both purchased new, so both have the benefit of the longest available lifespan of materials. I suppose one can handle the size difference by comparing cost to maintain per square foot, which I believe would only magnify the difference.

And of course, there are numerous variables. Without touching immaterial ones (lifestyle, etc), there is stark contrasts that contribute to variances. I have essentially no say with what is done to the condo. Loss of control usually costs more, not less. Not only that, you end up paying for things you don't necessarily need, use, or want. Perhaps your fees cover a gym, but it's not up to the task, so you have a gym membership as well. Maybe you hardly swim, and don't entertain a lot of people, utilizing party rooms and common spaces, etc. And things break down, like elevators. Or the pool heating system needs to be updated, etc.

With freehold, you have 100% control. Not everyone spends $30K+ on landscaping, some have nice but modest curb appeal. You can certainly pay private contractors to do yard work for you, and generally they will be cheaper as well (or, like most, you do it yourself, which like many DIY in here do, it saves money). Perhaps you "know a guy", or have connections to get things free or heavily discounted. And even if you don't, when you control the purchase process, you buy things on sale, haggle for better prices, wait another 1-2 years, etc.

Yes, huge costs may arise. But it's not like condos are not potentially at risk of huge levies either. It happens.
And many people move. Some people only live in new to relatively new properties, whose risk of major expenses is generally mitigated.

And then there are things freeholds just don't have. I don't have 24 hour security guard on premise, so of course that cost made the monthly maintenance condo fee bump up when implemented. I don't have elevators that need servicing, key fob entries, etc. And I don't have a management company running the place, that's just Me and Co. :)

But remember, cost is only one of the things people consider when deciding condo vs freehold, for instance. You can see already how comments quickly turn to other factors to justify each position. It's because as humans, we don't just do things that cost less. :)
Deal Fanatic
Dec 5, 2009
5136 posts
2903 upvotes
tranquility922 wrote:
Aug 28th, 2017 7:23 pm
Just purely re minimizing expenses (not re which is better living arrangement), in the end which one would cost less? Not sure if there are studies done on this comparison. All I know is that I pay hundreds of dollars each month for 'nothing' (ofc it's something i.e. maintenance, security, insurance, facilities, etc) but I dunno if I had a detached house would it be less in the end? Anyone facing this dilemma and which home did you end up w and why?
You can't compare an 800 sq ft condo to a 2500 sq ft house, or something like that. You need to compare apples to apples ... so similar sized homes. E.g. A 2000 sq foot condo vs. 2000 sq foot detached. And when you do, condo expenses will ALWAYS be higher. The only way to lower expenses is to live in a much smaller condo.
[OP]
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 21, 2010
11659 posts
2681 upvotes
Montréal
BiegeToyota wrote:
Aug 28th, 2017 10:45 pm

Yeah, right. As IF you don't pay the same rent to the government in form of property taxes.

House or Condo - in Canada you don't own it - period.
The maintenance fees you are paying are called convenience fees. For example, I would never want to own a house and have to remember hundreds of regulations that come with owning a house in Canada like shoveling snow, proper garbage disposal or other pleasantries that I just don't want to deal with. I also don't have to worry about replacing the roof and other major required repairs you have to do to be up to the code. If you choose a condo with decent management repairs like this will not require special assessments.

Also, a big thumbs up for a condo is if you ever decide to rent it out (like I did for the past 4 years) there is very little maintenance you will have to do. Basically if my tenant has a problem with an aircon unit, plumbing, electrical... all of that will be covered by my building management. For the past 4 years renting out my condo I haven't had a single issue with my tenant. House? I highly doubt it.

If I wanted a house, I would have bought a cheap one either in Montral or Ottawa. I am self employed and can work from any city in Canada or the world. A house is simply NOT for me and it never will be.

Now in Thailand where people don't pay property taxes and have no snow, garbage disposal and zillion regulations to worry about... maybe, but as a foreigner I am not allowed to own land.
Agree w/ the 1st bolded, paying taxes is crazy. We definitely don't 'own' our real estate in the realistic sense. So annoying.

Re 2nd bolded part, is that the norm? In my building, mgt doesn't give a crap and anything w/i one's flat's walls is solely the owner's concern.

fdl wrote:
Aug 28th, 2017 11:53 pm
You can't compare an 800 sq ft condo to a 2500 sq ft house, or something like that. You need to compare apples to apples ... so similar sized homes. E.g. A 2000 sq foot condo vs. 2000 sq foot detached. And when you do, condo expenses will ALWAYS be higher. The only way to lower expenses is to live in a much smaller condo.
True, it's quite tricky. Would a better comparison be what one can get for $x, in which case which one would generally be bigger, and then go from there?


I haven't given this topic much deep thought but I would tend to think that condo maintenance would be much more expensive, simply because there must be some sort of margins included for the various services, not to mention that part of the fees pay for the various staff salaries, so right there already says a lot. Right now I pay over $6,000/yr in fees (never mind it increasing yoy), I really doubt that I'd anywhere close to that in any averaged year of a detached house, even including roof repairs or what have you.

I've added a poll to gauge ppl's thoughts.
The richest 1% of this country owns half our country’s wealth, 5 trillion dollars, one-third of that comes from hard work, two-thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons, and what I do.. <find the rest>
Member
Mar 3, 2016
383 posts
228 upvotes
For me, condo fees are rip off for what we are getting, at least in Toronto. My house is 2,500 square feet and if it was a condo unit, maintenance fees would be more than $1,500 per month and I'm obliged to pay for stuff I really don't care to have. I maintained my detached house with some money set for repair/renovation for way less with the added bonus that I don't need to share my yard with anyone and with more privacy inside and outside. Many condo boards are as corrupt as the other levels of government. CBC did an investigation on this: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/c ... -1.4131732
Deal Fanatic
Dec 11, 2008
9567 posts
1265 upvotes
Perhaps a condo townhouse is better than a high rise? Odds are you are not paying for stuff you don't need like a gym or pool or concierge and other expensive items like elevators, garbage/recycling shafts etc.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 22, 2011
5890 posts
5589 upvotes
Toronto
It's really hard to compare. While you probably pay more for the condo in terms of maintenance you also get a lot more. If you had a pool, party room, sauna and 24 hr concierge at your house it would cost more.
Member
Oct 17, 2007
423 posts
63 upvotes
Mississauga
Freehold 99% of the time, because ALL work is outsourced, and 3rd party work will always be more expensive due to labour costs. With Freehold, you have the option to do all or some of the maintenance work yourself, and a great majority of homeowners do exactly that. You don't "pay" yourself when you mow your own lawn, shovel the driveway, etc.

You can use the same analogy for car maintenance. If you're able to change your own oil, tires, etc... and not have to go to a car shop to get all that done, it's going to cost you less. You have much more control over the work, and you're not paying for the mechanic's "industry book rate" labour costs.

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