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Condo vs townhouse vs single family home: What are the differences? (with pros and cons of buying)

“Always pick your yard based on your Summer lifetstyle.”


June 17, 2019 - Karl Yeh

What are the differences between a condo, townhome and a single-family home? What are the pros and cons of living in each home type? In this episode, we look at the differences between each and the scenarios when you would buy one over the other. 

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Hi everyone. I'm Karl. Welcome to another Homebuyer's School video. A channel where you get the latest strategies, tactics, and tips from home-buying experts. Remember, if this is your first time on this channel, and you want to get the latest strategies from the experts, hit the subscription button below, [00:00:30] hit the little notification bell so you don't miss anything.

Today I'm joined by Kevin French, Realtor with RE/MAX. The question we're going to answer today is:

What's the difference between a condo, a single-family home, and a townhouse?

Kevin, what are those differences, and ... Yeah. Let's go with that one first.

Kevin French:               

A condo is a type of ownership, so it's not necessarily the property, it's an ownership type.

But typically in Calgary you're going to see apartment-style condominiums, and then townhouse-style condominiums. [00:01:00] Row towns would have their own entrance and exit.

Apartment-style condos would have common areas such as hallways, often they have elevators.

Then the other two property types are semi-detached or duplex homes, and then single family homes, which are of course fully detached.

Karl Yeh:                      

Fully detached. From I guess the condo and the town home perspective, when we typically say "condo", it's apartment-style, so it's usually typically higher. Right?

Kevin French:                Yeah.

Karl Yeh:                       You don't really see that many townhouses that are multiple levels, or do you?

Kevin French:                [00:01:30] No. No, it wouldn't be classified as a townhouse then.

Karl Yeh:                       Okay. So it's just one house, but it's all connected I guess [crosstalk 00:01:37].

Kevin French:               

Yeah. Well, there are some townhouses within Calgary that are three or four levels, but they'd have a walkup from the outside. So you'd still have your own front door that you enter and exit from, that doesn't go into a common area other than just a stairway. Yeah.

Semi-detached (Duplex) vs Single Family

Karl Yeh:                      

You mentioned semi-detached versus single family. Can you explain a little bit difference between that?

Kevin French:               

Yeah [00:02:00].

Semi-detached is basically a single-family home that shares a party wall with the neighbor. So you have a wall that divides the two spaces, making them two legally different properties. Typically, price point's of course a bit lower.

Then detached is fully detached, so it's a stand-alone property, and so on.

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Karl Yeh:                      

Are there specific scenarios when you would buy one over the other?

Again, I know you mentioned lifestyle, and that's probably one thing that you want to really definitely consider, right?

Kevin French:               

Yeah. Lifestyle is obviously a big factor there. [00:02:30]

Condominium living is typically for those who want maintenance-free lifestyle. They want to be able to lock and leave. An apartment-style condo gives you the comfort of having attached neighbors, common hallways, a lot more security comfort there.

Then a townhouse gives you more privacy. It allows you to come and go as you please. You don't have to see people in common hallways. You don't have to take care of general areas in the building, which would be included in your condo fees. Of course, those always have to get cleaned, lights have to be on, [00:03:00] and paid for. Then there's often elevators, which are costly for condo buildings as well.

Then semi-detached living would be those who want a detached home for more of a private lifestyle where they have a private backyard and their own space, but it's at a lower price point.

Karl Yeh:                      

If you want to know more about the differences between a duplex or a semi-detached home and a single-family home, watch our video above, and in the description below.


Pros and cons of buying a condo, townhome or single family home

What are some of the pros and cons I guess of buying [00:03:30] one over the other?

Because I know we've talked about the scenario where you buy one, but what are some of the pros and cons?

I think you mentioned from a condo, you're living with a lot of different people in one space. Right?

Kevin French:                Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Karl Yeh:                      

Versus a single-family home where it's yours, but you have to do a lot more maintenance than the condo. But then you have the condo fees versus single-family home although, you also have the HOA fees. Right?

Kevin French:               


A condo the advantages would be, if you were talking apartment style, [00:04:00] everything's included in there. You have your heat utilities, often you pay for your own electricity.

But other than that, you'd pay for your reserve fund contributions, the snow removal, the lawn care, the elevator, the building, the lobby, any amenities that it'd have would be included.

That's all in one condo fee in addition to, of course, your mortgage.

That's a lifestyle where, if you had a gym in the building, maybe a pool in the building, you don't have to leave for a lot of the things that you may [00:04:30] use on a daily basis.


Going to a townhouse style, you're going to have similar fees, but they're not going to include the utilities.               

You're going to pay for your own hot water tank, your own furnace, and you're only going to pay for the utilities you use. The fees are of course lower on a price per square foot basis, but you have two different styles.

An apartment-style condominium you can leave, and it's fully included but you pay ... Let's say you pay $500 a month. You pay $500 a month, and you're gone for six months, it's [00:05:00] all the same.

Townhouse though, you pay for the utilities that you use. It might be $150 a month for your fees, and then you leave, and then your utilities would decrease significantly if nobody's occupying the property.

You also save on not cleaning the common areas of the building, and then the snow removal of course would be dependent on the property.

Single Family

Karl Yeh:                      

Then I guess for a single-family home, pretty much you're responsible for everything but you have full customization of I guess [crosstalk 00:05:27].

Kevin French:               

Yeah. Single family and side-by-sides, or duplex [00:05:30] properties, they're going to be within, all their responsibilities are going to lie on the homeowner.

Karl Yeh:                      

The one thing I wanted to ask about duplexes though is, is there a specific, I wouldn't say requirements, or like let's say you wanted to paint one side of the house blue and the other person wanted to paint it green.

Is there an agreement that you want the house to kind of look the same? Are there agreements in terms of house maintenance or yard maintenance that you can't have one looking totally disheveled and one pristine? [00:06:00] Right? It doesn't make any sense.

Kevin French:                You can.

Karl Yeh:                       Oh yeah? Okay.

Kevin French:               


That's the realities of owning an attached home, and you got to think about in the future, so they're one property that I discourage, which is built throughout the city, that I discourage buyers from buying is attached homes that don't have condo fees, but they have six units typically.

It's basically a townhouse building, but it doesn't have condo fees. So imagine in 15 or 20 years when we need to replace the roof, and you need to get five other neighbours on board at the exact same time.

Karl Yeh:                       Oh my gosh. That [crosstalk 00:06:30]. Yeah. That would be bad. Yeah.

Kevin French:               

That's what [00:06:30] you're dealing with with a duplex.

It's just you and one neighbour so usually people can work together, and if one person cuts the lawn, or we paint together, or we replace the roof together, but that's not necessarily the reality.

Each property is individually owned, and they can do what they want, what they'd like with it.

Karl Yeh:                      

Do you have anything else to add in terms of the differences, and the pros and cons of the three?

Kevin French:               

Yeah. I would say that it all comes down to what the buyer's needs are and the lifestyle.

But [00:07:00] detached has weathered the storm the best across the board without a doubt in the last handful of years when property values have been decreasing.

Apartment-style condos, one of the reasons for them being so negatively affected, and the negative statistics around them that are shared through all the media is based on the fact that when you start let's say a 30-story condo building, when you start that it takes years and years from the initial design stages, to the actual development, to the sales, and then the building, and then the [00:07:30] occupancy.

When you're building something over three to five years, the market can change significantly.

So you might buy at X price today, and it might be worth significantly more or significantly less when you go to purchase.

Detached homes are, of course people like to own land, so having the ability to own their own property, or a duplex is in the similar category, those have maintained their value more.

Of course the values for those properties have adjusted and floated with the market.

It only takes six to eight months to build one of those homes, so it's [00:08:00] pretty fair market value at the current time that you're purchasing versus purchasing for the unknown that you'd occupy in 36 months.

Question of the day

Karl Yeh:                      

Got it. Got it. So the question of the day I have for you is,

Which did you buy, a condo, a townhouse, or a single-family, and why?

Let us know in the comment section below.

If you want to know more about home buying, check out these videos, and don't forget to hit the subscribe button and the notification bell just so you get information straight from the experts.

Thank you for watching.

We'll catch you next time.


Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional home buying related questions that we can answer by submitting them in the comments section below. 

Homebuyer's School publishes new content weekly so subscribe or check back regularly for the latest information, strategies and tips from home buying experts.  

About Kevin French:

Kevin French is a Calgary and area based realtor with a client focus.  He specializes in a stress free home selling process that is built on customer service.  Understanding that your home is one of your largest investments, Kevin employs a marketing mix that ensures you will maximize returns on your home sale. Diligent market research coupled with an in-depth understanding of the Calgary and area markets, allows Kevin to pinpoint the perfect price for your home.

In addition to perfect pricing, Kevin offers a suite of additional services such as professional photography  and an interior designer to ensure your home shows its best. Kevin French has become a trusted name in real estate because he is results driven and works closely with his clients to produce the best results.

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