With Toronto housing prices skyrocketing and a lack of available choices in practical location, many residents are choosing to forgo the traditional four-bedroom, two-bath home and seek alternatives. Affordability and luxury are not mutually exclusive when it comes to Toronto condos and townhouses—and whether you choose to buy in pre-construction or opt for a pre-owned unit, you can almost be certain you’ll find something that meets your practical and aesthetic needs.
It may come as a surprise to some that millennials who purchase condominiums and semi-detached houses, better known as townhouses, are the new normal. It can be more practical to own than rent in today’s economy. What’s more, many townhouses and condos are deliberately constructed within walking distance of major TTC stations and corporate offices that employ many Torontonians.
Benefits to Condos and Townhouses
If you are ready to own property for the first time or simply looking to improve your living situation, chances are you have considered what the Toronto condo market has to offer. Maybe you’re tired of paying monthly rent and would prefer to own, but like the idea of living in a residential building with a communal feel, much like a conventional apartment building. Or if you like the idea of owning a unit that looks and feels more like a traditional home, you may have considered that townhouses might be a better fit for you.
In spite of their apparent similarities, there are actually several significant differences between a condo and a townhouse that could easily sway a buyer one way or the other:
The Matter of Ownership
While condo owners only own their interior unit (with the maintenance and ownership of the exterior, grounds, and all communal areas falling on the Homeowners Association), townhouse communities tend to offer a bit more. Owners not only own the interior of their unit but also the exterior, including the roof, driveway, and lawn.
The communal areas, on the other hand, are the property of the Homeowners Association (HOA). If you are a gardener or landscaper, or you simply like the freedom of knowing you can do whatever you wish with your land, you may see more benefits to a townhouse.
Cabbagetown by Frank Hilzerman
The architectural differences between a condo and a townhouse are quite striking. There are generally more options available to condo buyers, but in Toronto, the most popular new condo units are typically part of a large high-rise building with many storeys. Keep in mind that while condo units often appear swanky and luxurious in photos, their interiors tend to be smaller than the interiors of townhomes. In comparison, townhouses are usually spacious, and some offer tenants multiple storeys, like a traditional home.
Since townhouses are built in rows—hence the fact they are sometimes referred to as a "rowhouses"—their communities are more spread out, and living conditions are more similar to that of a private residential street than an apartment. Townhouse communities tend to be fairly quiet and relaxed; if you are a parent of young children, for example, you might prefer the more laidback lifestyle. Condos tend to attract a more social crowd, and many offer amenities for residents.
Similarly, if you’re a student or young professional who is rarely home, the condo lifestyle might be a bit overwhelming for you. On the other hand, if you are a social butterfly, you might find the clubhouses, golf courses, pools, and gyms to be a great way of meeting other tenants.
One of the benefits of a townhome is the fact that units are all ground-level, so owners never have to worry about irritating upstairs or downstairs neighbours. However, since townhouses are built with practicality and conservation of space in mind, tenants usually share at least one wall with a neighbouring unit.
When it really comes down to it, many buyers are influenced by the cost disparity. While both condos and townhomes in Toronto are affordable, home insurance rates, HOA rates, maintenance fees, and transportation costs should all be taken into consideration before meeting with a realtor. As a general rule, condo tenants should expect to pay higher HOA fees, especially in comparison to the size of their unit. Townhomes typically have more square footage and less communal space, as mentioned previously, but have lower HOA fees.
The reason for condo’s notably higher HOA fees, of course, is the vast amount of communal space that is maintained by the HOA rather than the tenants. For tenants who are not home often, paying slightly higher HOA fees might seem like a fair trade-off for well-manicured lawns, an updated roof, and clean communal activity areas.
So how much should you actually expect to pay in HOA fees?
Toronto Realty Blog explains that HOA rates can vary quite drastically. Depending on your location in Toronto and the size of your property in total square feet, you may wind up paying much more or a bit less. According to Ratehub, determining factors include building size, age of the building, and the types of amenities offered by the building. If your building offers not much more than lawn care and snow removal, you might pay around $750 a month. On the other hand, if you live in a glamorous, amenity-filled condo in a highly desirable neighbourhood, you may be paying upwards of $2,000 CAD per month in HOA fees.
What about home insurance rates?
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that condos have lower home insurance rates due to the fact that tenants are only required to insure the interior of their individual unit, rather than the entire building. The good news is that Torontonians tend to pay less for condo insurance than residents of other cities. According to Insureye, the average cost of condo insurance in Toronto is $26 per month. This is actually quite low in comparison to other large Canadian cities, including Calgary and Edmonton.
Both the interior and exterior of townhomes must be insured, so insurance rates will inevitably be higher. Square One Insurance estimates that $40 per month is on the lower end of the spectrum. It is up to you to decide whether the freedom to landscape, garden, replace your own roof, or paint your front door is worth extra monthly insurance fees.