Is my condo maintenance fee worth it?

So I live in a townhome and ever so often I worry about the maths of that decision. Does it make sense? Do the numbers add up? Am I better off owing a detached home and doing away with the maintenance fee based on the current market in Calgary?

The big worry-factor for me is that I think my maintenance fee is high. In Calgary, condo maintenance fees can vary from $100 to $1000+ and it can cover anything from bare bones insurance to cleaning to heating, landscaping and snow removal. Mine is $600+ and covers quite a bit but I still worried that I could be missing out on owning a detached home. After all, that money I spent on maintenance fee could easily go towards paying more mortgage equity...

I got tired of fretting over whether we had made the right decision buying a townhome or not so I decided to build my own spreadsheet. The spreadsheet helped me work on how much detached home I could afford without changing my current housing costs. It looks something like this

The example above shows that the cost of owning a $250K townhome/condo is equivalent to the cost of owning a $310K detached home if I hire people to do the landscaping and snow removal. If we self-maintain, then we can afford a  $332K detached house.

Next Steps
Once the numbers are in place, the next step is browsing the listing of homes for sale and seeing if it's possible to find a detached home with all the things you like about your townhome (size and location say). If the answer is yes, then maybe a move to a detached home is a smart idea. If the answer is no, then choose condo/townhome.

The main benefits of this exercise for me is whenever I find myself suffering from "detached home envy", I open my spreadsheet to remind myself of the perks of choosing this particular townhouse and staying put. Calgary seems to be heading the way of Toronto and Vancouver in terms of home-ownership costs (overpriced homes that don't match wage levels) so this exercise is critical to our staying within a space we can afford and not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Of course this is a simplistic numbers only exercise and there are other considerations for raising a family in a townhome vs detached house. That's fodder for another blogpost though.

If you have any questions about the numbers, drop me a line in the comments section and I'll be happy to address them.

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