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Should I buy a condo or a house?

August 4, 2023
min read

Trying to decide whether to buy a condo or a house? There’s no easy answer; it all depends on your lifestyle, your budget, and your preferences.


First-time homebuyers are faced with a tough question: Is it better to buy a house or a condo?

While they might seem similar at first, there are a few important differences between the two.

“The primary difference between buying a condo vs a house is how you own it,” explains Blake Houston, Personal Banking Advisor at Cambrian.

A condo is a multi-unit structure. When you purchase a condo unit, you buy the unit itself, not the land or the rest of the building.
On the other hand, a house is a detached structure. When you buy a home, you don’t just purchase the structure—you also buy the land it sits on.

Let’s look at the current market and what you should consider before making your decision:

The Winnipeg condo market

Condo complexes are popping up all over Winnipeg, from high-rise buildings to side-by-side structures.

If you’re looking for a condo, you’ll have plenty to choose from in all areas of the city—and compared to houses, there are a wider variety of price ranges.

According to the June 2023 edition of Winnipeg Regional Real Estate News, the average sales price for a condo was $258,170. By comparison, the average sales price for a detached home was $418,158.

“Traditionally, condos are smaller in size with a cheaper purchasing price. However, you need to factor in the added expense of monthly condos fees,” explains Blake.

The differences between buying a home and buying a condo

If you’ve purchased a house in the past, you might think buying a condo is the same—but that’s not quite true.

“While a house doesn’t have a monthly maintenance fee, it can come with surprise expenses of its own—roofs leak, windows need replacing, and hot water tanks blow,” says Blake.

“In the case of a condo, you pay monthly fees for peace of mind. When the unexpected happens, your condo reserve fund should be able to cover those surprise expenses.”

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of buying a house vs a condo:


If you’re interested in buying a condo, think about what you want and what you need in a home.

Condos offer amenities like the ability to lock and leave. If you travel frequently, you can trust the building will be taken care of while you’re gone.

With a home, you need to have someone check up on your place every few days for security and insurance reasons.

Other popular condo amenities include:

  • Elevators
  • Gyms
  • Pools
  • Underground parking

But on the other hand, houses typically offer more privacy and freedom than a condo.

Condo fees

While condos come with more amenities than most houses, that convenience comes at a cost: monthly condo fees.

Make sure to check what the monthly condo fees are so you know what is and isn’t covered. When you’re budgeting, factor in that condo fees may increase over time.

Some common costs included in condo fees are:

  • Property insurance (which covers the building itself and is separate from your personal condo insurance)
  • Utilities like water, hydro, and natural gas
  • Reserve fund contributions (to pay for building repairs)
  • Property management fees
  • Common area maintenance & cleaning

Reserve fund study

With a home, you can hire a home inspector to determine the home’s current condition.

But when buying a condo, you have access to a reserve fund study. It’s a document outlining how the money collected through condo fees is managed.

With a reserve fund study, you’ll be able to estimate when the building will need major repairs.

A condo’s reserve fund study is updated every five years. When buying a condo, the buyer must receive the actual reserve fund total and the amount recommended by the reserve fund study.

“It’s also important to consider the age of the condo complex. Has it been well maintained and managed? Special assessments that cause financial strain if you aren’t prepared for them,” says Blake.

A special assessment is when the condo reserve fund doesn’t have enough money to cover a major repair. Each condo owner must pay a portion of the total cost.

If you’re buying a condo, review the reserve fund study carefully to estimate potential condo fee increases. At Cambrian, we can help you with that—contact us if you’re looking to buy a condo or a house!

Condos have a “cooling off” period

After you buy a condo in Manitoba, you get a 7-day cooling-off period once the offer is accepted.

During this period, you will be given disclosure documents, and you’ll have the opportunity to cancel your offer for any reason.

Take this time to carefully review the documents you receive to ensure you are comfortable with everything.

Condo association

Also known as a condo board, a condo association is responsible for the maintenance of the building.

The board manages how your condo fees are allocated for building maintenance and repairs.

If you are considering buying a condo, learn everything you can about how the condo board operates. You can review meeting notes or ask other condo owners about their experiences.

Condo bylaws

The condo bylaws outline what you can and can’t do within your unit.

For example, not all condos are pet friendly. The bylaws may state that unit owners cannot have pets, which may be a deal breaker for you.

And even if the building is pet-friendly, there may be weight or size limits about the type of pets you can have.

Planning a big renovation once you move in? There may be restrictions on the types of renovations you can do.

Other important bylaws to review include:

  • Garbage and recycling rules
  • Parking
  • Snow removal and lawn care
  • Noise restrictions
  • Use of common facilities like pools or meeting rooms

Condo insurance vs home insurance

Condos are insured a bit differently than houses.

The condo corporation typically insures the building itself, whereas the unit owner insures the contents within their condo. That’s why condo insurance tends to be cheaper than house insurance.

However, it’s worth reviewing the condo’s insurance policy—you may want to supplement it with additional coverage.


With a condo, you can choose a home that’s tailored to your lifestyle.

Don’t want to maintain a yard? The maintenance-free lifestyle of a condo will probably appeal to you.

With most condos, you don’t need to worry about the maintenance of common areas (such as the lobby, exterior of the building, lawn care, or snow removal).

However, you’ll have a limited say in how common areas are maintained or how amenities are replaced. Make sure to budget for potential increases in your condo fees.

Return on investment

You’ve heard it before: Buying a home or condo is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime.

It’s not just a place to live—it’s an investment in your future.

So, what kind of return on investment can you expect from either?

Condos don’t tend to appreciate as much as houses do. We asked Blake why that is:

“Typically, it comes down to Supply vs Demand!" he says.

"There are fees associated with living in a condo, and there are restrictions and limitations as to what you can do with a condo. This tends to make houses more attractive, which causes more of a demand for houses.”

Rental options

One day, you might outgrow the property you’re thinking of buying. And if that happens, you could sell it—or you could rent it out to a tenant and convert your home into a rental property.

Some condo buildings will prohibit you from renting out your unit. Be sure to check the bylaws of the building you’re looking at to know for sure.

How does buying a condo differ from buying a house?

Still undecided? Ask yourself what’s more important to you:

The privacy that a home offers, along with the freedom to renovate it however you want?

Or living in a condo that’s low maintenance, packed with amenities, and tends to have a smaller purchasing price?

Our advisors can help finance your mortgage, whether it’s your first home, your next home, or a rental property. If you decide to purchase a condo, we can help you review the condo reserve study and the current financial statements of the condo corporation.

Let’s talk about your options. Book a meeting with a Cambrian Advisor today!

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