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Buying a Second Home: Condo vs. Single Family?

Buying a Second Home: Condo vs. Single Family?

mountain home real estate

Even though many mountain properties are well-removed from large urban areas, you’ll be pleased to know that there are still plenty of choices when it comes to single family homes vs. multi-family developments. In particular, ski towns and communities close to recreation offer great diversity in housing options.

Most people have a budget when it comes to buying a second home, much like when they purchased their primary residence. And there are certainly other nuances when it comes to considering a vacation home. Will it be rented out when you aren’t using it? What are your requirements in the home? Are amenities important to you?

These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself to help determine whether a single-family home, or condominium or townhouse will be an appropriate choice. The type of lifestyle you are trying to gain should help narrow your choices and make your future purchase straightforward and one that doesn’t produce regrets. 

When a Single-Family Home is the Best Choice

Without a doubt, a single-family home provides the utmost in privacy, security, space and comfort. A free-standing structure has the advantage of less noise from neighbors (and no shared walls) and often a backyard/outdoor space where you can entertain your family and friends. Many single-family homes have attached or detached garages, which comes in handy when it’s cold and snowing. 

In most circumstances, single-family homes tend to appreciate and serve as a valuable tool to diversify your investment portfolio. Depending upon the location and the market, homeowners often seek double-digit returns on their investment. Furthermore, if you decide to rent out your home when it’s not being used, you can take advantage of the passive income and put it towards the mortgage or home improvements. 

Many people prefer having control over the costs associated with their second home. If you own a single-family home, you can choose your own insurance company, internet provider and sometimes even the garbage collector. Also, you can decide on appropriate exterior finishes you want on your home and what additions would be advantageous to give it your personal touch. Sometimes, homeowners’ associations have regulations regarding what  can and can’t be done in the community so keep that in mind as well.

Finally, if you’re a pet lover, a single-family home may be a better choice. If you’re planning to travel with your furry friend, having a backyard is often a requirement for both you and your best friend.

Pros of Single-Family Summarized:

  • No HOA costs
  • No HOA rules or special assessments
  • Privacy and security
  • Space and comfort
  • Quieter
  • Garage for parking or storage
  • Appreciation
  • Yard space
  • More pet friendly
  • Flexibility on choosing providers/vendors
  • Flexibility on renting out your property

When a Condo Makes More Sense

Condominium living has become more and more popular, especially among people looking for amenities, an easy lifestyle and less stress when owning a second-home. Whether you’re looking for a home near the slopes, close to downtown or featuring amenities you don’t have with your primary residence, a condo often fills the need.

When escaping to a mountain home, many people want conveniences that improve their experience and allow them to relax. Condominium or townhome developments often include fitness centers, swimming pools, common areas and other amenities that make for easy living. You can focus on your outdoor activities and pursuits without thinking about repairs, upkeep, cleaning or shoveling. A condo provides a great way of “downsizing” and physically bringing your family and friends closer together.

Many condos are close to the downtown area and provide easy access to restaurants, parks, bike/walking trails and entertainment.

Keep in mind that the majority of multi-family homes come with homeowners’ association fees. These fees cover the pool and common grounds maintenance, trash removal, some utilities and other costs. Make sure you understand the fees and do your own research. How often have the fees increased? Have there been regular assessments (extra fees to cover special building projects or unexpected repairs)? Who heads up the homeowners’ association and how reputable is the organization? 

Keep in mind there may be rules about pet ownership and the ability to sublease a space, especially as it relates to short-term rentals via Airbnb or VRBO.

Pros of a Condo Summarized:

  • Amenities like pools, fitness centers, concierge desks, business centers, and hot tubs
  • Stress-free maintenance (no shoveling, roof care, etc.)
  • Can have great views
  • Typically more centrally located and walkable with restaurants and retail close by
  • Great for downsizing or minimalism
  • Might be easier to rent out based on the property with on-site concierge or property management
  • Tailor to your desired features like being ski in /ski out
  • Typically more affordable

What’s Best for You?

Regardless of the type of residence, a mountain home should be a place that is comfortable and provides the type of lifestyle you are hoping to attain. Spend time in the community to help determine what type of home and location will work out best for you. Figure out the primary activities in which you’ll be participating and where you’ll be spending the majority of your time. Those activities alone may end up determining what the best residence will be for you and your family. 

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