Condo Vs. Single Family House: Which Is Better For You?

eillu condo vs single family homeAs recently reported by Outer Banks Association of Realtors, Condo sales for 2016 are trending at the highest level since 2005 and could surpass it should this trend continue into December.  Current condo sales of 164 units are not far behind the record condo sales of 178 units set in 2005.

Is an Outer Banks condo the right choice for you?  Read the tips below to decide the right choice for you and your goals.


The fee simple form of ownership is where the dwelling and the land is owned by the home owner.  In contrast, a condo owner owns the interior space of the unit and a share in the common elements.  The condo owner does not have the full ownership of exterior walls of their unit, for example.

A hybrid exists where some single family detached communities have a Home Owner Association to maintain and manage community amenities or features, like security and garbage collection in the community.


The shared ownership of a condo typically includes additional amenities found in a resort.  Recreational facilities, like an indoor or outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna, tennis courts, and a gym may be included.  Also, common is a clubhouse or large meeting area popular for entertaining or booking for functions.

Single family homes typically cannot offer the same amenities at the same purchase price point.  If your lifestyle values the additional amenities and you would use them frequently then the convenience of these features can’t be beat; consider the cost of a gym membership and the inconvenience of traveling to and from the gym.

Freedom & Independence

Most condos regulate the use and appearance of common areas and the outside of the units.  A condo owner can decorate and update the interior but not the exterior of the dwelling.  Some restrictions on interior changes may also apply as structural changes would impact other unit owners. 

On the other hand, a fee simple homeowner owns the land and the structure and has more freedom to make changes, choose colors, landscape, remodel and use the property as they see fit subject to general town, state regulations depending on the area the home is located.


Typically, condos appeal to first time home buyers who want to get their feet wet in the real estate market without jumping in and getting over their head.  Similarly, they appeal to the mature market who do not want to be responsible for exterior maintenance and have the ability to travel on short notice. 

In the Outer Banks, condos are a great way to have a second home or an investment property where the unit can be rented while it is not being used by the owners.

A single family home is great for couples intending to start a family needing room to grow and a private yard to play and entertain in.

Home Owner Association (HOA)

A condo HOA is the management group to actively manage the common areas, amenities, roof, garbage collection and exterior maintenance.  Condo owners pay an additional monthly fee to the association.  The fees can be quite steep.  Since the monthly fees are supposed to be paid by all owners, a high delinquency rate of other owners will impact the ability to maintain the complex.  Fees can also increase drastically if enough set-asides or reserves are not adequate for the unexpected and require a special assessment.  At least 10% of the HOA annual budget should go into the reserve fund. That is why the management and financial statements of the HOA should be carefully examined before purchase. 

While some single family communities may also have homeowner association for any shared amenities; the pure fee simple ownership does not have this element.  The home owner actively manages and budgets for all maintenance and services.


The exterior maintenance and the common areas are maintained by the condo association and the owner is only responsible for interior unit maintenance.  This can be a real plus for a second home owner, a mature buyer or a first time homebuyer to keep projects and expenses to a minimum. 

In contrast, a single family homeowner is responsible for all interior and exterior maintenance.  This can be a time consuming amount of work depending on the age of the home and the prior maintenance and repairs that have been performed.  For the buyer who is handy and hands on do-it-yourselfer, this may be manageable but for the type that requires help for any task, the maintenance expense could add up.


A single family home buyer has much more flexibility to remodel the space, dwelling, and landscaping to their design preferences.  Some communities may have restrictive covenants regarding community standards and most do require obtaining a building permit.

In the Outer Banks, some older homes are “grandfathered” for flood insurance purposes.  The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires that if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value (building, not the building plus land under it), then the building must meet the same construction and elevation requirements as a new building under FEMA guidelines.  This can significantly impact the cost to remodel the home.

In contrast, a condo owner has little control over the exterior or common areas without getting a consensus from the whole community.

A single family home tends to have more storage space available in the home closets, garage, basement and attic.  A condo owner can also be restricted from converting space, like the basement portion into another bedroom.


Condo insurance is typically less than a single family home since the condo owner is only paying to insure the interior space and belongings.  However, the condo association purchases a policy for the complex and a portion of condo owners monthly fees cover the cost. 

Another key insurance factor for the Outer Banks is the cost of flood insurance.  Depending on the location of the condo or the single family home, flood insurance may be required by the mortgage company. 


Generally, single family homes appreciate more than condos.  Many condos were purchased as an investment before the real estate bubble burst and this segment was hit harder with foreclosures since many were not primary residences of the investor.  However, every market area is different and can even vary from complex to complex.  Your real estate agent can show you past historical performance comparisons for the area you are considering.


A single family home is separated from its neighbors by at least a bit of space where in a condo adjacent units share a wall.  If privacy is important to you, then a single family home will be a better choice.

Pets, RV, Boats or other restrictions

A condo typically restricts the number and types of vehicles that can be parked at the unit.  The number and types of pets may also be restricted or only allowed in designated areas.  The bylaws of the condo can also list many other restrictions to the unit.  Some of the condo restrictions can be quite rigid.  Read the fine print of the condos covenants and restrictions before making a purchase offer to be certain you will be able to enjoy activities important to you.

A home buyer should take the time to list the goals and reasons for purchasing Outer Banks real estate before deciding which form of ownership is best for them.  Talk to the agents at Eillu to get the area statistics and the inside scoop about the various Outer Banks Communities and Condos.

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