Should a new immigrant family choose a single house or condo when settling in Canada?
Tuesday Jun 21st, 2022
Many new immigrants get confused when it comes to choosing their first home between buying a condo or a detached house. As an immigrant and a realtor in Toronto, I will share my experiences with you so you may learn from my past mistakes.
I moved to Canada twice. The first time was in the year 2000 as a young skilled immigrant and the second time was in 2017, coming back with my husband and two daughters. I would like to share some helpful tips and insights that will be useful to new immigrants like you.
Two Major Factors Regarding The Choice Between Detached House and Apartment
When considering between a detached house and an apartment. you must take into consideration the two major factors: your budget and lifestyle.
Living in a Condo apartment:
Immigrants from Mainland China are very familiar with and have plenty of experience living in an apartment.
In Toronto, condo apartments are usually located in more central areas near amenities such as supermarkets, community centers, libraries, and schools, etc. Public transportation such as bus stations or subway stations are within walking distance. Some condos are built directly above a subway. Most condo facilities include a gym, swimming pool/jacuzzi, meeting room, office facilities, and children's activity centre. The more luxurious condos even have a billiard room, movie theatre, bowling alleys, and more. During the coldest days of Winter, residents can stay inside and never have to get outside to shovel snow, or maintain their property. They can rely on building management as long as they pay their monthly building maintenance fee. The maintenance fee is calculated by your condo square footage at CAD $6 per square meter, or $0.6 per square foot. For example, for a 600 sq ft apartment, the maintenance fee will cost approximately CAD $360 per month.
Overall, apartment living offers a convenient and busy lifestyle that is the most familiar to those living in Mainland China.
Living in Detached House:
As a realtor, I have discovered that many of my clients and friends have decided to immigrated to Canada due to their desire for a more spacious living spaces. They want to indulge on their passion for the outdoors like gardening and being close to nature. A detached house has front and back yards, and the interior area of a typical detached house is at least 200 square meters (about 2000 sq ft), not including the basement.
People who are green thumbs could grow vegetables and flowers on their patio or backyard, while pets could run freely and children could safely ride their bikes or skateboards around the neighbourhood with their friends.
The detached house is usually located in suburbs where the population density is much lower than that of city centre apartments. Suburbs streets are spacious and lined by trees, and can offer a lot more privacy. Neighbours are friendly and helpful, such as offering to lend a tool if you’re fixing something in your driveway as my husband experienced with our neighbour. People are more friendly and down to earth.
One of the benefits of having a house is to host parties or a backyard BBQ in the Summer, have friends connect over cold beer and children play in the kiddie pool. If you’re not too loud, these social gatherings are welcomed by the neighbours, which would be nearly impossible to host when living in an apartment.
Do keep in mind, however, that having a car is a must if you want to live in a detached house. As suburbs are usually 30 minutes or 1 hour outside of the city center and not that convenient by public transit, some bus services only come once an hour. By choosing a detached house, you are choosing a quieter, peaceful family lifestyle with pets and gardening. Whereas if you want a loud and exciting city life with no hassles, then an apartment would be the better choice for you.
Budget & Finance
In terms of finances, buying a detached house is more expensive than buying an apartment. As of October 2020 in Toronto, the average selling price of a detached house is $1.91 million whereas the cost of an average apartment is $790,000. Of course, there are also other property types such as semi-detached houses and townhouses. Detached houses in Canada usually include the house and the land underneath it, which are called freehold properties. In contrast, the condominium apartment property rights only include the purchased unit, but does not include common areas or the land that the apartment builds on.
As a house owner, you are responsible for mowing your own lawn or you can hire a landscaping company to take care of it, or else your neighbour’s complaint will land you a fine from the city. You also must be responsible for shoveling the snow off of the walking path in front of your house, to prevent any slips and falls of pedestrians in the wintertime.
Apartment owners are only responsible for your own unit, and the building management company will take care of the maintenance of the condo’s communal areas such as the roof, hallway, garden, gym, etc. You won’t ever have to shovel snow or mow lawn, or be demanded to fix anything.
Well, that's the end of this blog post, we will continue the discussion on this topic of choosing between a detached house or an apartment; as there is a lot more to talk about, so look forward to our next blog post. See you then.
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