Condo vs. Home Ownership


As a new homebuyer, you have likely already heard many terms used to describe different types of homes. Some of these phrases are used interchanged and can be confusing, especially considering many people use terms inaccurately.

We’ll start with breaking down the two primary classifications of homes: freehold, and condominium.

Freehold Homes

A freehold home is a home that is not part of a larger body, where you own the land and structure of the home.

With a freehold home, you are typically granted more rights and freedom to make alterations to the property when compared to a condominium. Note that if your home is built in an area with architectural controls or homeowners associations that you may be bound by certain terms or restrictions regarding the types of exterior changes you may be able to make to your property.

In Calgary, the most common types of freehold homes 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 a duplex, which typically shares one wall with an adjacent neighbour. Most duplexes have their own front/rear yard, fences, and other amenities.

Owners of a freehold home are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the property, from shoveling snow and mowing lawns to repairing damaged siding or replacing shingles.

Condominiums

Also called “condos” or “stratas”, a condominium refers to residences where you do not own the land or structure, but rather the interior of the condominium.

For many people, a condo is an excellent first purchase as condos are typically less expensive than freehold homes but still offer an opportunity 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 condo, the owner is responsible for the interior of the condo itself. The building is typically professionally managed and maintained by a dedicated property management firm.
  • Townhouses – Also called a “row”, a townhouse is different from an apartment in that you may have multiple floors, an attached or detached garage, a back yard, and other features not present in an apartment.

Note that duplexes and other multi-family dwellings can also be part of a condominium arrangement, even if the buildings are not attached.

In a typical condominium arrangement you are not responsible the maintenance or upkeep of the building or grounds. In a freehold condominium, you will own a portion of the building/grounds but will still be bound by the bylaws enacted by the condominium board.

Condominium owners pay monthly condo fees that are used to fund the operation of the condominium complex. These fees typically pay for exterior maintenance, snow removal, lawn care, and other upkeep.