house versus condo

Three Reasons Why You Should Re-think Buying that Condo Unit

Lists. It seems that the in-thing these days in Google-world is to compile and publish lists. Many sites (this blog included) have resorted to compiling (for your convenience of course) every list conceivable to man.

Real estate has not been spared.

We did tips on buying your first condo unit here last year and I actually found a site purporting to list the top 5 condominium developments in the Philippines. Of late, lists, (most likely sponsored by real estate developers) listing down the merits of buying a condo over a house have also been going around.

Philippine condo

Condo living is not for everyone.

My take on these lists – take them with a grain of salt. Sometimes, lists simplify things the wrong way and when it’s as something as significant as buying real property, oversimplifying necessarily leaves out some of the important stuff.

If you ask me, the one thing that you should bear in mind when faced with the “condo vs. house” question is that ultimately, your decision should be driven by a realistic assessment of your current status in life.

Condominium living is a lifestyle by and in itself. And, if the lifestyle doesn’t suit you (or will not suit you for the next 5 years), then you have no business buying that condo (no matter how seemingly great the bargain on the table is).

Do a lifestyle check and see if condo living works for you. Here are some things you need to think about:

1. Condo living may not be for couples planning to start a family in the next 5 years (and this applies even when you only intend to have one kid).

Asian family

Real estate developers push condos as ideal starter homes. Well, depending on your personal goals, it may not be wise.

Remember that the space a condo provides a family is finite. It will not grow with your family. A one bedroom condo may be ideal for you and your wife, but once the baby comes, is there really space for that crib in the bedroom? How about the stroller and all those other cute baby stuff that all your friends will shower you with? Where will the house help sleep? Where will lolo and lola stay when they come to visit their apo? Where will you hold birthday parties? Unless you have a friend population of 4 (or less), you will need strike-off your condo as a possible venue for those memorable occasions you just have to share with friends and family.

Houses, on the other hand, are susceptible to vertical and horizontal expansion. And since you do not have strict building rules to contend with, the only limits to expanding your house are your imagination and your budget. Plus, you can hold that birthday party in your yard and transform the entire street into a free parking lot for your guests.

When you buy a condo, remember that the only thing that will separate you from your neighbors are walls. So yes, that heated argument which you will have with your spouse and/or your kids will be distinctly audible two or three units down. And the baby crying through the dead of the night will keep not just you but the entire floor awake.

The thing is, buying a condo will only work if you intend (for whatever reason or motivation) to keep the household population to about two or three people (maybe four if you don’t mind cramped space). Since condo space is finite, unit population should remain constant.

2. Condo living may not be for people who are control freaks, obsessive-compulsive or artistic.

SATC Modelizer

The “condo vs. house” lists say that condo living translates to cheaper repair and maintenance costs.

This is not entirely true. Condo buildings require a whole lot more repair and maintenance due to the sheer number of people using the common areas. The costs, while initially minimal, may add up to a considerable sum.

You must remember that condo living is like living in a subdivision compressed in a single horizontal structure. And, no matter how “exclusive” your condo building is, the truth is that there will be people going about the building 24/7 and using the facilities.

Condo living is also a democracy. Thus, no matter how strongly you believe that the elevators need to be replaced, it will not be replaced unless you get the association to agree. The bottom line is that even when repair and maintenance costs are pushed down, you will not be able to fully control the timing, the quality and the actual costs.

You should also forget about painting your door blue when you buy a condo since it’s probably absolutely prohibited in the building rules. While you retain full control of how your unit will look like inside, condo living means that your personal property will have to conform to certain “community standards” which your developer thought was appropriate when it conceptualized the development of the property. Did you know that some condos restrict the color of your light bulbs or require a certain type of color in order to maintain a unified night time façade for the building? That neon light you had dreamed of putting up in your room will simply not work.

On the other hand, you will truly be the master of you house. You can determine when repairs and maintenance should be made and work within a budget which you yourself will determine. You can even transform repair and maintenance work into “do-it-yourself” projects and bond with the kids in the process. And by all means, if you want to, you can paint your entire house green.

3. Condo living may not be for pet lovers.

101 dalmatians

I know that some condos actually allow pets (or small pets) but please, if you intend to keep a dog, buy a house. Pets need space and air to breathe and condo living simply won’t work for them.

I know a lot of responsible dog-owners that live in condos. They walk their dogs around parks or the streets on a regular basis. Some of them actually even pick-up after their dogs. But how often can you do this? What if work becomes impossible and you are unable to find the time for weeks?   On the other hand, your yard is a natural playground for your dogs. Just lock the gate and you can leave your dogs to run around.

The point is, whether you end up buying a condo or a house, the decision is, at the end, a lifestyle choice. Remember that for a period of time you will call that place your home and whether it’s a house or a condo, it should suit your lifestyle.

If you’re still undecided, try reading the other “condo vs. house” lists such as the Inquirer (Condo or House and Lot: 8 factors to help you decide) or Rappler (Buying Property: House vs. Condo). You can also check the “Property Advice” section of Lamudi ( where they give a lot of useful tips on buying (and even selling) property.

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