For the most, a house will be the single greatest purchase of their lifetime. This is particularly true in large cities where real-estate prices are much higher than rural areas. There is a significant amount of research, a well defined process, and necessary expertise to close real-estate transactions. But are there differences between single family home and townhouse / condo transactions?

Yes there is, and it’s more than just preference, but let’s start there.

Condominiums or townhomes offer a different lifestyle than single family homes. The appeal includes:

    * Location. Often inner-city neighborhood boast higher density properties.
    * Security. Home owner security that includes the potential of locked public areas and parking, and the proximity of neighbours.
    * Maintenance. Although the extent of management varies between properties, condo and townhome associations take care of general maintenance of the public areas, outdoor grounds, and overall building such as major plumbing and roofs.

Those who have no desire to manage upkeep, apart from their own dwelling, will be drawn to the shared common grounds lifestyle. However, it also means owners must acquiesce to the majority in the community for maintenance and major repairs. That means lack of control over costs and unforeseen circumstances.

Single family dwellings, on the other hand, allow the homeowner to decide how and who will do any upkeep or repairs. That also means responsibility for these expenses fall exclusively to the homeowner.

Size is another factor. More often than not, there is more square footage (space) in a single family dwelling, which makes them ideal for those who are future planners and intend to increase occupancy in the home. You get more bang for your buck sort of speak.

Just like any home, have an independent inspector visit the property and conduct an assessment.

Apart from personal preference and location, what are the legal aspects that differ between the two property types?

One of the critical aspects to consider before purchasing into a condo or townhome property that includes shared public spaces and building managers, and homeowner boards, is the health of the building and/or association as a whole. In the real-estate transaction there are extensive documents to review to ensure your potential transaction doesn’t have costly problems ongoing or upcoming. There are more documents and things to consider when buying an apartment/condo/townhome. Because of the additional pieces, getting an experienced lawyer to look over the paperwork is important. You don’t want to buy into a property only to discover you’ll be on the hook for special assessments because the reserve fund (the money on hand for repairs) is too low or non-existent.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of the home owner to make the final decision regarding the health of the building reserve fund, potential future upgrades, and the management of the building and association board. You can hire a lawyer to look over these docs and present you with an assessment of the overall health. That would go along way to ensure piece of mind when making a down payment on the largest purchase in your lifetime. To ignore this step could pose significant financial stresses in the longrun.

With notes from Taylor Real Estate Law.