There are a few high-level decisions you’ll have to make when looking at homes: Detached or townhouse? Condo or co-op? These choices fall into two simple categories of style and ownership.
Categorically, the most expensive homes—and typically most desired—detached homes offer privacy, space, and renovation flexibility. The separation from your neighbours can allow for quieter living, a great sense of ownership, and makes home renovations easier (since you don’t share a wall with a neighbour!).
This means that the home shares one “party wall” with a neighbour; they’re very popular in high-density building areas where land is scarce and valuable.
Townhouses are many homes attached in a row. They have historically been, and continue to be, popular in high-density areas and allow for large living spaces with relatively small land allotments.
Duplexes, triplexes, and similar multi-unit homes are owned as investment properties. You can purchase the entire building, then rent out the units. It’s also common for a buyer to purchase a multi-unit and live in one portion and rent out the remainder to tenants.
Just like houses, no two units are the same, even suites with the exact same layout and finish will have a different view. There are small bachelor condos, industrial converted lofts, palatial penthouse suites—you name it. All major Canadian cities have condo developments in progress with 1 in 8 households living in condos across the country.1
There are also combinations of these categories, like condo townhomes; typically at the bottom of large condo developments, these have small outdoor areas, but are attached to the condo building.
The style of home you own should match your lifestyle. A house requires a lot of upkeep and care, compared to the relatively maintenance-free ownership of a condo.
In the case of detached homes, semi-detached homes, and most townhouses, you purchase a plot of land and the building that sits on it.
In a condo building, you own a specific part of the building. This is exclusive to your own unit, as well as shared ownership of any common areas, which include amenities, hallways, etc.
Instead of owning an exact portion of the building, in a co-op you own a percentage of the entire building based on your purchase in the building—and have the exclusive use of your specific unit.
Don’t mistake co-op ownership with co-op subsidized buildings. City or charity-run co-ops are government subsidized and (typically) don’t include any sort of tenant ownership.