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What are the differences when you buy a condo or a house? (so you make the right decision)

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


May 24, 2018 - Karl Yeh

Need to know the difference when buying a condo or house? Which one is right for you? In this episode, we discuss what differs when purchasing a condo, townhome or house. We also explore what exactly you own in terms of space and what can you change/renovate between the three home types.


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Karl Yeh:

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Homebuyer's School.

Today, I'm joined by Karen McDonald, Community Manager with Brookfield Residential.

Today, the question we're gonna answer is:

Is there a difference between buying a condo and buying a house?

Karen McDonald:            

Yes, there is.

It really depends on the level of ownership that you have within your condo or townhome versus a single-family home.

When you're buying a condo or a townhome, there's really three levels [00:01:00] of ownership.

There's three types of multi-family homes within Alberta:

  1. Say if you're buying an apartment-style condo, your ownership is really, technically the space or the air within your unit's parameters, I guess.

  2. When you're buying a townhome, it's generally from drywall to drywall, stud to stud. So, the space in between drywall that your ownership is, and everything else is [00:01:30] common property.

    Then, when you're buying a bare land townhome, your level of ownership is from the pegs in the ground. The land that you own as well, too.

  3. When you're buying a single-family home, you're buying the home, the land, everything in there.

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What do you own when buying a condo, townhome or house?

Karl Yeh:                             

Okay. You kind of mentioned this already, what exactly do you own. So, a condo, you own the space, townhome, you own peg to peg, and if you bare land townhome, you own-

Karen McDonald:            

[00:02:00] Well, really what it is is apartment-style, it's called conventional, and that's the space in between.

A townhome can be redivided, barely blended, so that is stud to stud. Bare land condo is the bare land, peg to peg within there.

The home would be essentially the same thing, peg to peg. You own everything within there.

What can you change, alter or renovate when owning a condo, townhome or house?

Karl Yeh:                             

What is the level of, I guess, changes I can make to those three different types?

Karen McDonald:            

Yeah. I would say you would have to refer [00:02:30] your bylaws in advance for that because it'll vary depending on what kind of home ownership you have.

Really, there would be changes that can be made with board approval to a lot of condo townhome developments.

As long as you have condo board approval on that, that you're getting somebody that can do the work responsibly, that is not changing any of the party walls or the structure of the home that would change any [00:03:00] of the other structure of anybody else's home within that.

Doing things like painting, changing your floor, doing kitchen renos, you should be able to do all of that with board approval in a condo townhome.

There's no strict restrictions on that, but again, consult your bylaws in advance. Know what you're buying because it may restrict you in the future from them.

Karl Yeh:                             

So, if I wanted to paint my walls or change my kitchen, I always have to go ask board approval [00:03:30] or-

Karen McDonald:            

Not necessarily all the time. If you're painting a wall, that doesn't really affect anybody, it's not going to change the structure of the home. It's painting a wall.

Things like that, I wouldn't necessarily worry about.

Again, consult your bylaws, making sure that they don't require you to consult them for changing your paint color.

Any of the large ones, it's going to create noise or it's gonna change the overall structure of the home, you need to get approval on.

Karl Yeh:                             

How about for [00:04:00] bare land townhomes? How much flexibility would somebody have in terms of changes there?

Karen McDonald:            

Well, you own everything within that land.

Typically, there's fairly few restrictions on anything in a bare land condo. But again, bylaws, they reign supreme. Check those ones out first.

Karl Yeh:                              Perfect. Do you have anything else to add?

Karen McDonald:            

I think it's a good idea to review bylaws in advance.

Think about how you're living within your home, [00:04:30] making sure that any kind of changes you want to make down the road would be approved, that it wouldn't be something that would cause you strife.

In the future, check the bylaws.

Karl Yeh:                             

Before, I guess, I finish off, is there some sort of a legal protection that condo owners have in Alberta?

Karen McDonald:            

For your ownership, I would say check out Condo Law for Albertans. Check their website. It has all sorts of information that you need to make your decision.

Karl Yeh:                             

Perfect. Well, thank you very much, Karen. Thank you very much for joining us, [00:05:00] and we'll catch you next time.

Recommended Watch

So of our other videos that you may be interested in watching related to this topic are:

When buying a home, do you own the land it's built on?

What do condo fees include (and how do they impact your next home purchase?)

What are the roles and responsibilities of a condo board?

What are proven tips for first time home buyer's in Canada? (to help you make the best decision)



Your turn:

Let us know if you have additional condo questions or home buying 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 homebuying experts.  

About Karen McDonald:

This is my 12th year with Brookfield Residential.  I have been involved in 8 sites now with 7 in multi-family and 1 Single Family.  I received my certification as a New Home Sales Professional from PHBIA in 2008. 

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