Owning a vacation home or second home is very popular in Southwest Florida. Here at Program Realty, roughly half of our buyer side business is selling properties where their new owners only intend to use the property for 3-9 months per year.
Many people like the idea of having two properties in different locations. The primary home is typically up north where the weather gets cold in the winter. The secondary or vacation home is here in sunny Florida where it is used maybe three to six months out of the year. These buyers enjoy the prospect of having a fantastic vacation home and then they want to spend the rest of their time in their familiar hometown setting wherever that may be. It’s a great idea and I know many people who really enjoy this type of living.
When someone comes to us looking for a vacation property to purchase, we often have the conversation of home vs condo and which one makes more sense. Sometimes the client will decide to go with something like a villa or maintenance free home meeting some of the criteria for both. There are discussions of privacy, security, location, access to amenities, ease of maintenance, etcetera. There are pros and cons to both homes and condos of course; let’s take a look as some of the more important ones:
So You Are Thinking of Buying a Home?
Single Family Home Advantages
- Best for privacy
- Less rules to follow
- Less noise
- Ability to make modifications to the property
- Usually larger
- Fewer rules regarding pets
- More storage
- Private enclosed garages
- Less maintenance fees to pay
- Outside cooking on gas grill
Single Family Home Cons
- Homeowner responsible for all maintenance
- Higher utility bills
- Less social atmosphere
- Less access to amenities
- Less security
- Generally not located in the most ideal locations
Maybe a Condo is More Your Style?
- Typically in more exclusive locations
- Better views from the unit
- More of a walkable lifestyle
- Zero maintenance outside of the unit
- Built in amenities like pools, clubhouse, gyms, hot tubs, tennis, etc.
- More social atmosphere
- Lower utility bills
- Safety inside community
- Less privacy
- Less storage
- Condo fees if you don’t take advantage of amenities
- Strict rules regarding pets, rentals, and parking
- Decisions regarding community are voted on by owners
- Association meetings
- No gas or charcoal outside grilling
One of the biggest misconceptions I see regarding owning a condo are the supposedly exorbitant fees charged by the condo association. Many buyers see a monthly fee of $500 and just can’t fathom paying that much money to the condo association. What they do not realize is if you actually do the math on condo fees, condo living is generally cheaper than living in a similar stature home with similar amenities. The amount of amenities offered by each type of community is where the prices can go one way or the other.
Here is a breakdown of the costs associated with a condo and a single family home in Englewood Florida. In this example we will assume each property is of similar stature and value. The home we are comparing to is not in a HOA so there are no amenities included and therefore no fees. We could also have a comparison on gated communities with maintenance free homes but that would be for another article.
Estimated Home Expenses:
- Electric Bill: 200 per month (average with heated pool)
- Water and sewer bill: 85 per month
- Basic cable: 50 per month
- Home insurance: 150 per month
- Grounds Maintenance: 100 per month
- Extra landscaping like mulching, weeding and trimming: 100 per month
- Pool maintenance: 100 per month
- Reserves for repair: (most people don’t save monthly for new items like a new roof, painting, or pool equipment on a home) For comparison purposes it might cost 100 per month
- Property taxes: 175 per month
- Family gym membership: 60 per month
Total monthly expenses for a home: $1120
Estimated Condo Expenses:
- Condo fee $500 per month
- Electric bill $120 per month
- Water and sewer is usually included in condo fee
- Basic condo building insurance is included in condo fee
- Interior insurance $40 per month
- Basic cable included in condo fee
- Grounds maintenance included in condo fee
- Pool maintenance included in condo fee
- Reserves for repair included in condo fee
- Property taxes $175 per month
- Gym membership included in condo fee if there is a gym on site
Total monthly expenses for a Condo: 835.00
So the home expenses are $1120 versus the condo at $835.
As you can see from the rough calculations above, all things being equal, condo living with its monthly fee can actually be cheaper than living in a single family home of similar quality and stature. The reason condos are cheaper is because of economies of scale. In a condo complex, everyone is paying an equal share to cover maintenance of the common areas. There are also volume pricing discounts for things like having one grounds maintenance company keeping up the landscaping in the entire complex.
What about Townhomes, Villas or Maintenance Free Homes?
To confuse matters even more, there are also townhomes and villas to consider. Townhomes don’t sell well in this part of Florida because of the average age of the population here. As people get older they generally do not like the prospect of climbing stairs. So townhomes are usually only attractive to younger buyers. We do sell a lot of Villas and Maintenance Free homes which blur the lines between home and condo. Villas are generally a duplex style home where two single family homes share a wall. They almost always come with a 2 car garage. Maintenance free homes are free standing single family homes located in gated communities where most of the outside maintenance is covered by the homeowners association.
Who Wins? The House or the Condominium?
There is no clear winner in the home vs condo debate. If you look at sales numbers, homes still greatly outsell condos in this region of Southwest Florida. We suggest you look at the pros and cons of owning both types of properties, and then form an opinion based off your individual needs and wants. As a general rule, if we have a client that is open to condo living and they really are not going to spend more than 3 months a year in Florida we recommend seriously looking at a condo, or villa. If the client seems like they will be spending more time here in Florida and the property will be a primary residence, we suggest the client look more at single family homes and maintenance free homes.
Feel free to leave us a comment on your thoughts regarding our home vs condo discussion below.