Although it may seem there are not many differences between buying a condominium and a house, every purchaser should be aware of some fundamental differences. These differences may factor into an individual’s decision on which type of resident to purchase.
The differences between purchasing a condominium and purchasing a home fall into three main categories:
- Defects and repairs; and
- Modification of the property.
There are several differences in ownership between a condominium, or condo for short, and a home. When an individual owns a condo, they only have exclusive rights to the property contained within the walls of the condo unit. The condo owner only has a shared interest in the common areas outside their condo unit. These may include areas such as a hall or a courtyard.
The condo owner must share this space along with every other condo owner in the complex.
In contrast, when an individual owns a home, they have the right to the exclusive ownership of all of the property they have purchased. This includes areas inside and outside the home. When an individual owns a home, any other individual who enters their property without permission is considered a trespasser.
When it comes to defects and repairs, there are differences in ownership between condos and homes. The owner of a condo is generally not solely responsible for repairs or upkeep of the property. Typically, a condo owner pays dues to a homeowner’s association or HOA. It is generally a requirement to be a member of the homeowner’s association at the complex where the condo is purchased. This association is responsible for the maintenance of common areas as well as property hazard insurance for the complex.
On the other hand, a homeowner is responsible for all maintenance and repairs of their home and property. A homeowner is also responsible for their own homeowner’s insurance, known as property insurance. In some cases, if an individual buys a home in a neighborhood, they will also be required to join a homeowner’s association and pay dues.
These often apply in a neighborhood that has a common pool area. There may also be rules regarding the upkeep of yards and the appearance of homes as well as security or gating, if applicable.
There are also differences in the modifications owners of condos and homes may apply to their properties. Typically, a condo owner is restricted in the types of modifications they can make to the exterior of their unit. In some cases, there are also restrictions on interior modifications. The appearance of the condo is usually governed by covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that are outlined in the homeowners’ association documents they receive when purchasing the condo.
It is important to request a copy of these regulations prior to purchasing a condo so that the individual can be sure they will be able to follow the rules. This is especially important for individuals who may have to park large vehicles, boats, or RVs at their residences. Some HOAs restrict the owner’s ability to park large vehicles in driveways or on the road.
In contrast, a homeowner is free to modify or repair their home as necessary. Local zoning ordinances may apply, so it is essential to check on those before a modification. This will usually apply in cases where an individual wants to modify the structure, such as adding a garage, deck, or room to the existing structure.
However, it is important to note that homes purchased in neighborhoods with HOAs will be required to follow the rules just like the condo owners. Some HOAs include rules that prohibit working on vehicles in the driveway, parking marked work trucks in a driveway, and some prohibit using garages as storage units. Some HOAs must approve additions such as fencing, decking, or storage sheds.
Before any purchase, especially one including an HOA, an individual should obtain a copy of the budget and notice of current dues assessment from the HOA. It is also important to be aware that an HOA has the ability to charge all residents an assessment when maintenance or repairs are needed for the complex. It is essential to examine and understand the rules and requirements prior to purchasing in order to ensure there will be no surprises. It may also be helpful to hire an attorney to review the documents as well prior to purchasing, as they may be aware of issues a non-lawyer would not recognize.