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Condo vs. Home Ownership: Knowing the Difference

Buying your first home is an exciting time in your life, but the language surrounding purchasing a home can be confusing. You have likely heard many different terms used to describe the different types of homes that exist. Some of these phrases are used interchangeably, which can be particularly confusing because many people don’t use the terms correctly.

To help clear up some of the confusion we will start by breaking down the two primary classifications of homes: freehold homes and condominiums.

Freehold Homes

A freehold home refers to a home where you own both the structure itself and the land underneath it. A freehold home is not part of a larger body.

With a freehold home, you are typically granted more rights and freedoms when it comes to making alterations to the property than you would if you owned a condominium. However, if your home is built in an area that has architectural controls or a homeowners association you may still be bound by certain terms and restrictions governing what sort of exterior changes you are allowed to make to your property.

The most common types of freehold homes in Calgary are:

  • Detached homes – also called “single family homes” or, more simply, a house. This is the most popular type of freehold residence in Calgary.
  • Semi-attached homes – this most commonly refers to duplexes, which typically shares one wall with an adjacent neighbour. Most duplexes have their own front/rear yard, fences, and other amenities.

Freehold homeowners are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their properties. This includes shovelling snow, mowing lawns, repairing damaged siding, and replacing shingles as necessary.

Condominiums

Condominiums, also called “condos” or “stratas”, refer to residences where you own the interior of the condominium but not the structure or the land.

Many people find that condominiums are a great choice for first-time purchases, as condominiums are typically less expensive than freehold homes but still allow buyers to own property and build equity.

In Calgary, the most common types of condominiums are:

  • Apartment-style condos: This is typically what most people think of when they hear the term “condo”. In an apartment condominium, the owner is responsible for the interior of the condominium itself. The building is usually professionally managed and maintained by a dedicated property management firm.
  • Townhouses: Townhouses, also called “row houses”, are different from an apartment in that your unit may have multiple floors, an attached or detached garage, a backyard, and other features not present in an apartment-style condominium.

Duplexes and other multi-family dwellings may also be part of a condominium arrangement, even if the buildings are not physically attached to one another.

Most condominium agreements state that you are not responsible for the maintenance or upkeep of the building or grounds. In a freehold condominium, you own a portion of the building and the grounds, but you still have to obey the rules and regulations set out by the condominium board.

In order to fund the operation of the condominium complex condominium owners pay monthly condo fees. These fees are typically used to cover the cost of exterior maintenance, snow removal, lawn care, and other upkeep.


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