I’m A “House Person”

Oh, who, me?  No, I’m not.

But I figured that I may as well post a the retort to yesterday’s blog about being a condo person, as one of my readers suggested.

After all, if somebody is trying to choose between a house and a condo, isn’t it only fair to show both sides?

Is it just me – or are the wife and two children in this photo far more attractive than the guy?  I zoomed right in, so trust me – I’m not wrong.

Okay, so I pulled that photo off Google Images and it’s a house in Australia, but that could just as easily be me and my family in a few years, once I move into a HOUSE.  I’m not looking forward to giving up the condo life, but I acknowledge that it will happen eventually.

Having just posted a blog yesterday called “I’m A Condo Person,” I don’t think I’d be qualified to pen the obvious retort from a pro-house viewpoint.  Instead, I’m going to turn things over to my good friend (and alter ego), Joseph Gnimelf.

Take it away, Joseph!

I’m a “House Person.”

I feel sad for people that live in their silly little boxes in the sky; with their tiny spaces, cramped rooms, low ceilings, and lack of light.

It seems to me to be an existence not worth living, and perhaps it’s fitting that they live in a tall building so it’ll make it easier for them to jump off one…

The obvious argument for a house is a financial one.

Sure, you can point to pockets of downtown or specific buildings that have out-appreciated other areas where freehold homes prevail, but on the whole – houses out-appreciate condos, plain and simple.

I get the whole “lifestyle” argument, but don’t forget that you’re paying for your lifestyle, and not just via the maintenance fees.

If your condo is worth $500,000 and you pay $500/month maintenance fees, it’s more than just the $6,000 that you’re losing out on.

Consider that if condos “average” a 10% appreciation across the board during the time you own yours, then houses might average DOUBLE that of condos.  It’s area specific, but they’re not making any more land to build houses, and they sure have enough sky to continue building houses!  Suddenly that $50,000 appreciation in value for the house versus the condo looks pretty significant!  Is that what you pay to uphold your “lifestyle?”

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back deck watching my kids play on the lawn.  My son, Wheeler, is kicking a soccer ball back and forth across our 60-foot-long backyard, and my two twin daughters, Brooklyn and Narnia, are playing with our puppy.

Have you ever taken your dog to “do its business” while living in a condo?  Imagine taking the elevator down 50-storeys, walking your dog out through the lobby and down the block, and then having him squat about ten feet from Lake Shore Boulevard to do his thing.

We just had a nice family barbecue, and it reminded me of how deprived those downtown condo-dwellers truly are.  Imagine not being able to BBQ during those four glorious warm-weather months in Canada!  Oh sure – you can get an electric barbecue, or try hiding your propane from property management for a year, but it’s a pain.  And I’m sorry – going to use the communal rooftop barbecue is just not the same thing as inviting your next-door neighbours over to your back deck for an impromptu burger bounty on the Weber Genesis.

Maybe I’m different, but gardening isn’t a chore for me – it’s  a hobby.  And I don’t think I’m alone, or why else would Home Depot be flooded every Saturday & Sunday from May to September?  It’s all about pride of ownership!  But tell that to every bachelor who has a lonely plant in the corner of his living room that’s been dead for eight months.

Condo living doesn’t allow people to smell the roses, literally or figuratively.

Painting your walls with bright colours is about as much sunshine as you get, living in a concrete box, and I for one want to enjoy mother nature’s beauty in my backyard, and on my front porch.  I like to sit on the porch and watch the world go by!

Of course, condo-dwellers can watch the world go by as well, but it’s at an entirely different speed.  I can’t imagine living on the third floor of a condo and almost being able to touch the cars, trucks, and buses below.  I’d feel like I’m sucking exhaust directly from the tailpipe of whichever of the hundred cars per minute passes by my window.  Maybe if I was really lucky, I’d live next to the Gardiner Expressway like half the city…

What passes for a “den” these days is amazing.

In our den, we have about forty framed photos of our kids, and my wife and I each have a desk where we can work.  The room is modest in size – about twelve feet by fourteen, but it has a large picture window that overlooks the Japanese Red Maple in the front yard.

In the “den” belonging to my friend Jed down at CityPlace, he keeps his shoes.

Yes, his shoes.  It’s barely large enough for eight pairs, but the floor plan he bought from clearly showed “den” as a space, so he paid for it!

But it’s not like Jed’s space is that large to begin with; 560 square feet with a long hallway, and he comes home to this every night.  I’m not bragging because I have a four bedroom, 3-bathroom house with a finished basement, it’s just that the cost per square foot in my home is about half of what it would be in most downtown condos.

Last weekend, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time: I installed a second hot-water tank in the basement.  Maybe I’m a bit selfish, but I connected the new tank to the plumbing at the back of the house, meaning my shower has it’s own hot water tank!  I’ll never have to battle my kids for a shower again.  It’s this kind of flexibility to make decision about my own home that I find most condo-owners go without.

Like last summer -when we re-designed the front of our house and installed this beautiful cedar shake in place of the tired old black shingles.  We added some copper eavestroughs and gave the house a really fresh look!

My friend Jed says he can’t use any shades or window coverings that aren’t “white or off-white” as per the rules and regulations of his condominium.

Where is the fun in that?

Talk about being your own person!

I guess I’m just more of a round peg trying to find its way into a square hole.  I like to do my own thing, whatever that may be.  Condo living is far too regimented for me, and I think I’d go crazy living with 300 “partners” in a building that is run by somebody who doesn’t even live there!

I cringe at the thought of the elevator rides, the dirty basement storage lockers, the small talk with the security guard (or anybody in the building, for that matter…), the days when the garbage chute gets jammed, or the sound of clanking bottles at 2AM when the rubbies are going through the giant recycling bins looking for empties.

Don’t get me wrong – I like downtown.  I like working there, going to restaurants there, and seeing plays and musicals.  But do I want to live in a tower, one block from my office?  Or do I want to retreat to my home every evening?  I don’t need a gated community, or even a gated lawn!  But I do need my own space, and not one that is shared with fourteen people per floor.

I know that there are thousands and thousands of condo owners in the city who prefer living there, but that doesn’t make them right.

It might mean that they have lack of better options, and they don’t have the money for a house.

But even between a million-dollar condo and a million-dollar house, I’d take the house any day.

I don’t buy the whole “lifestyle” argument.

Especially when that million-dollar condo comes with $1,300 per month maintenance fees…


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  1. Toronto Eavestrough Replacement says:

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  2. Krupo says:

    The answer to your question about “what do I do for an encore third post?” is easy – and Vincent raised it as I scrolled down tot he bottom there: “I’m a renter.”

    Wonder if you can flesh out a full post beyond his points on the state of the economy?

  3. Shome says:

    The one thing I would add about the condo vs. house debate is that over the long, long term (not 5 years, maybe not even 10 years): land will always win -if you care about the value of your investment (many don’t care that much)…sure, if you bought a condo in a developing area before it boomed than you hit the jackpot but someone else pointed out that land value appreciatex while the value of the structure on top of it tends to depreciate. And of course the big problem with condos is that the condo fee is ever-increasing and at some point, the value of the condo will start to move inversely with the condo fee. I’ve seen some massive (1,500 sf+) 30-40 yr old condos on the market for $300-350/sf with $1,200 condo fees. To the other poster, that’s like $200k on top of your mortgage.

  4. Vincent says:


    I have to say I can agree to you on the hostile replies haha.

    Luckily for me, I am not one of them. I recently sold my house and am now debt free and am choosing to rent a condo at free will because I believe the market is in a bubble and will crash. Not to mention I moved to a new city to be closer to work.

    Those who over-leverage themselves to buy a condo/home will be unhappy regardless and to justify their choice is the same way their justify taking out a LOC from their “equity” to pay for things.

    Sorry for going off topic. 🙂

  5. PGK says:

    Loved this set of posts. Unless they are downsizing, a buyer has a budget they can afford and have to look at house vs. condo under that constraint. Given that, the choice isn’t going to be a house vs condo in the same location, but a condo in a better location vs a house in a lesser location. So at this point it just becomes a lifestyle choice.

    My midtown condo costs about the same as a bungalow in Etobicoke, or maybe a rancher in Mississauga. It is probably about equivalent in interior sq ft too. However because of the size it also comes with a bigger fee (as one realtor I talked to, her opinion was my fee was equivalent to another $100K of mortgage.. lol)

    Here’s the thing. My fee covers all utilities, cable, building insurance, and I have no maintenance headaches. Also the location enables me a very walkable lifestyle, access to subway, and no need for a second vehicle, even our only vehicle isn’t totally necessary and could probably be replaced with car sharing.

    A move to Etobicoke, would mean that my entire condo fee would now become a 2nd car payment / gas / insurance in order to maintain a reasonable suburban existence, and on top of that I would still have to pay for utilities, maintenance and what not. A move to Mississauga, would mean an increase in my property taxes (higher mill rate) in addition to a second car and everything else.

    I value my time with my loved ones, and my neighbourhood so my dollars voted for the condo.

  6. Vincent says:

    Haha I hated this post because of the tone. My biggest negative is regarding condos owners because they cannot afford to own a house. Well yeah if I wanted to live downtown Toronto in a house I won’t be able to afford it but I easily afforded my home in the burbs.

    For me, cost-wise, it’s cheaper to live in a condo (rent or own) than to own a house in the burbs. Save money on Go Train vs TTC, less home insurance, gas and more time time time. Not to mention my amenities I use are included and I dont have to get memberships elsewhere.

    I spent so much money when owning my home from fertilizer to grass seed to soil let alone painting exterior, grass waste bags etc. and having a home phone so I can have an alarm system. And the time it took to do this work. Can’t just DROP everything off and go on vacation whereas in a condo, I can.

    Not to mention your neighbours, like condos, there is no choice in neighbours. People come and go no matter where you live. Obviously I don’t rent at Cityplace so I would hope I don’t get too many drunken students, nor would I buy in a neighbourhood of homes where people park 5 cars on their driveway and never deweed their lawn.

    It’s a lifestyle choice and I agree owning a home can be good as I loved doing whatever I wanted in my home. I built a deck, did stone work out front, painted entire house and did anything I wanted but right now, I don’t see myself ever going back. Even with a family, I’d rather own a executive condo townhouse instead.

  7. jeff316 says:

    I think one of the reasons these two posts created such debate is that increasing costs are restricting the choices available to many buyers, and it is forcing them into situations that they didn’t envision themselves in.

    Don’t get me wrong, as we have seen in these threads there are lots of condo owners who are very happy with their arrangements.

    But there are also a bunch of other condo owners and renters who are in condos because they simply cannot afford a house. And at these prices it’s looking grim as to whether they’ll ever be able to afford a house, lest they give up 3 hours of their day to commute from Milton or Brooklin, or pay through the nose for a three-bedroom condo with hefty maintenance fees if they want to have room for kids.

    Similarly, a lot of the home owners are having to pretzel-twist their internal logic to justify taking on 400 000$ in debt, stranding a hundred thousands of dollars in a non-liquid asset and dealing with thousands of dollars of annual maintenance bills just to have three bedrooms, a parking spot and a 15 sq m backyard within 30 minutes of their work.

    That makes for two stressed-out and cranky groups of people who are not living the way they grew up, or at least now how they thought it might be.

  8. Cordelia Dias says:

    I live in the country in a large house on a 2 acre lot while my parents live in a condo in Mississauga. It’s just the two of them and since my mom became ill about a year ago and has trouble walking the condo suits them fine.
    When I’m visiting them, I totally relax. There is nothing to do there.

    when I come home, it’s totally the opposite. There is a million jobs waiting for me not to mention the work required on a large piece of land. We even had to hire someone to help with the extensive gardens. My kids, the dog and cat really love the property and the privacy is priceless but it comes at a very large cost.

  9. LC says:

    It’s funny how you always assume that everyone works downtown. I live in a house in the suburbs and commute 15 minutes to my office in the suburbs. No downtown in the equation and I’m not alone in this.

    But back to houses, it depends on “life stage” moreso than “lifestyle”. I was tired of the restrictive nature of condo living, and felt it was time to be the master of my domain. My condo served it’s purpose during a time of my life when I didn’t need/couldn’t afford more, but now I’ve moved on.

    As for “lifestyle”, I quite enjoy mine – bbq-ing on the patio with friends, playing ball with my dog in the yard, eating fruits and vegetables that I planted and have grown on my land, drinking wine by fire from my wood burning stove, working out in my own gym in my spare room, throwing dinner parties in a kitchen that is almost as big as my previous condo, being able to park more than one car in my driveway! Not to mention the abundance of space that comes with a house.

    It’s more work, yes, but if you love it, it’s not really work. And if you don’t love it, you can always hire someone to do it, like they do in condos!

    1. David Fleming says:

      @ Everybody

      First of all, some of you are unaware that “Gnimelf” is Fleming backwards. I thought it was obvious. Oh – and Joseph is my middle name…

      Secondly, this post was MEANT to antagonize people. It clearly worked.

      The point here is one that Richard made abundantly clear with an excellent use of BOLD – there is no right or wrong answer. People will argue for or against condos or houses, be it the financial or lifestyle argument, until they’re blue in the face. But everybody is different, and so too is the appeal to both options.

      Richard goes on to say, “David Fleming is a bachelor who enjoys the urban lifestyle.” That is EXACTLY the point I’m trying to make. What works for some does not work for others.

      As LC pointed out – it’s not about lifestyle, it’s about “life cycle.” This helps dictate where and how you want to live your life.

      I can’t believe these two posts produced such a great debate!

      What can I possibly do for a third installment…

  10. JC says:

    “The obvious argument for a house is a financial one.” This always makes me laugh, partly because I used to think this way – why pay “rent” on a property you own?!? Yet at least half of the homeowners I know are complaining about how they have an “unexpected” bill for tens of thousands of dollars to replace the roof, renovated this, upgrade that… maintaining TWO water heaters. It’s not unexpected, its unplanned for.

    “I get double the square footage in the burbs!”… how were they to know that the commuting time would be 2-3 times the time it took them to drive on a Sunday??!? Or that there would be no seats left on the GO once the development farther down the line gets people leaving in it? They are paying with their time, and their mileage but often do not factor it into their calculations.

    Joseph says, “I don’t buy the whole “lifestyle” argument,” but then goes on to make an entirely lifestyle based argument in favour of a house! He also manages to be obnoxiously self-righteous in the process. Considering the tone of many of David’s posts… well congrats on looking like the well reasoned thoughtful one in this case David!

    I have no doubt that for many people a house is the right choice. My own preference would be for a small house in Toronto, but those don’t sell at a reasonable price that also meet my criteria for proximity to people, transportation, and various other things I will be looking at a condo.

  11. Richard says:

    These last two posts show that the entire argument boils down to a battle of lifestyles. Joseph Gnimelf is a family man who enjoys the suburban lifestyle. David Fleming is a bachelor who enjoys the convenience of an urban lifestyle. There is no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on what you want out of life.

    Regarding light, my home on Markham St. (The Annex) was pretty dingy. My home on St. Germain (Lawrence & Avenue) was somewhat dark on the main floor, even though it was a relatively new house. Much depends on the architecture.

    Regarding storage lockers, mine is pretty clean. My basement at the Markham St. house was old and filthy. You can’t generalize.

    Regarding gardening, I hated it. It was a damn chore. If you enjoy gardening, that’s fine, but don’t assume everyone should love it. That’s just plain idiotic.

    Personally, I don’t see the attraction of being married and raising a family. I’m a confirmed bachelor and perfectly happy to be so (I’m 57). And I don’t have a dog ‘cuz I’m 2LAZY2 to take care of one.

    It all depends on what you want out of life.

  12. Sam says:

    Interesting perspectives Dave & Joseph…For some people, the grass is always greener. My house-owning friends remind me that they get whacked with often-unexpected, usually-expensive repair bills annually at least -which I would say more than makes up for what they would save on a condo fee (ignoring the utility costs they also bear)…

    But I’m quick to point out (as a condo person), that I’d love to be able to park in my driveway, take 10 steps and unload my groceries vs loading myself up with 12 bags (because I’m not making 2 trips) and packing myself into a busy elevator…I’d love to be able to get a couch delivered or an appliance removed WHENEVER I WANT and not during the 1-hour window the concierge will allow me (despite the fact that delivery people the world over cannot give you an hour window for showing up)….The grass is always greener!

  13. Geoff says:

    What an emotional and unnecessary reply.

    I’ve lived in my parent’s house (18 years) condos (13 years) and now my own house (4 years). Both have advantages and disadvantages. In every case you pay for what you get. Condo living is easier especially if no dogs or kids are involved, no doubt about it. But once dogs and kids are, then houses get a lot more attractive. Houses generally have more space but cost more and have more variable costs; condos generally are actually easier just to ‘relax in’ and have more fixed costs but at a trade of less space and more neighbour involvement. This doesn’t make one better than the other. This is about as silly as people who argue that urban living is inferior to life in the burbs. You pick what appeals to you and what you can realistically afford (one hopes). It’s about choosing what appeals to you.