Author Topic: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?  (Read 3841 times)

lifejoy

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My situation:

DH and I will likely buy some kind of home 1-2 years from now. I am starting to do my research now. We would like to retire in 10 years or so.

My current salary: $65,000
DH: $69,000

DH will either maintain current salary or make up to $200,000-400,000. It depends on some career choices that he will be making soon.

We have $200,000 ready for a down payment. DH and I are minimalists and prefer smaller spaces for many logical reasons. But we are young and do not have kids yet... who knows? Preferences can change. My parents have a large farm in an area we would like to live in. One thought is that we could live close to my parents so that if we need free babysitting or access to a big house or fields then hey - we have access!

Homes in the area we are looking at range from $100,000-300,000 for a condo, around $500,000 for a townhouse, and $800,000 to $1,000,000+ for acreage.

Questions:

We want one or two kids. Part of me thinks we should buy an apartment near a park, and raise the kids and take them to the park or the farm any time they need some green space. Living in town has the added benefit of being able to walk many many places. I hate cleaning and mowing the lawn and all kinds of home maintenance, so the idea of a small place REALLY appeals to me. I have concerns about neighbours being just a wall away, but that could be fine. I live in an apartment now and I like it. If we moved, we could use the condo as a rental investment. I also like the idea of living close to work which would probably mean city living as opposed to the country life. I hate commuting and I hate commuting costs!

Another school of thought is that DH and I should buy some acreage, as an long term investment, and raise our kids in that environment. The real estate is a lot more expensive, definitely, but it may be worth it for quality of life.

Do we buy a condo and then use the extra money to get active on our retirement savings? Do we buy acreage, and be house poor? Is there happy medium that we need to strongly consider? This is new territory for me, and I would love to know how people go about figuring these things out. My preference is to buy a place I do not have to move from. Perhaps this is unrealistic.

Thanks in advance for all of your advice!

bestname

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2016, 02:51:58 PM »
Live where you would like to live, your kids will be fine either way.

Kroaler

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2016, 02:55:22 PM »
Live where you would like to live, your kids will be fine either way.

I vote this!   But also, I have no kids, so take it with a grain of salt.


IF it was me, Id be partial to the small city space near a green space maintained by someone else.....   

I rule out the 1,000,000$ places with acreage lol.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2016, 03:13:11 PM »
We're raising two kids in an inner city apartment. Sure, it'd be nice to be able to yell "Just go out in the backyard!" at times, but the bigger benefit is that we have short commutes and a smaller mortgage meaning that both of us have gone to part time work. Our kids have more of us while they're young, and we spend a lot of time in parks and playgrounds. My 4 year old is also more confident in urban environments than her suburban cousins - I have no concerns with her in traffic etc. Plus, we go everywhere by foot, bike or PT, meaning that she could ride a pedalled bike without training wheels by the time she was 3 1/2 and she's really quite good at navigating. We do a lot of little things together (stop for ice cream, watch the ducks, discuss shop windows) because all of it is on the way somewhere and we're not locked into cars.

This may all change by the time they're teenagers and I'll probably wish for more space between me and their stroppiness, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it :D

mxt0133

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2016, 03:48:43 PM »
We are in an apartment and we live 10 minutes from Golden Gate park so that is the kids back yard.  Since we don't have a mortgage and our utilities are under $150 a month, my wife can stay home and take them to park, beach, museum, zoo pretty much every day.

If you want your kids to have the experience of playing in a farm spend the summers with your parents.  That's what we do.  We go back once or twice a year to the east coast to experience suburban living by staying with relatives.  After two or three weeks we normally get homesick and can't wait to get back home.  Best of both worlds really.  My kids get to run around a big house and back yard a few weeks a year and I don't have to spend my weekends maintain a house.  Instead I get to take them to the park, museums, the beach, go hiking, ect.  We are going to sign up for a plot at a community garden so we can teach them about plans and stuff.

The irony is that my kids spend more time playing in nature living in the city than some of their cousins that live in more suburban/rural areas.  Their cousins are constantly shuffled to organized activities and indoor activities because that's all they time for.  They either go on weekends or at night because both parents work.

What's more important for you and your husband?  Even if you did get the bigger house with acreage, how much time will your kids get to spend enjoying it?  Will they have to sent to daycare or be in school during the day?

lifejoy

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2016, 04:09:56 PM »
Live where you would like to live, your kids will be fine either way.

Ooooooo thank you for this extremely true and grounding advice! I grew up on a farm so I think my parents (and me?) have a bit of a bias towards green space being better, country life being better... but it is simply that, a bias. And I love my city friends!

You are going to get a million different answers on this, based on people's personal experiences/biases.

My perspective:  my kids have been raised in apartments and are perfectly fine.  Living in a more densely populated area has huge advantages from a convenience perspective, and is also great for some quality of life issues.  Since you will have access to your parents land, I personally would lean toward a townhouse in a more urban area.  Lower cost of housing would make it easy for you to make the decision to SAH if that is something you are interested in.  Living in a rural area and two parents commuting to urban jobs, even with grandparents helping with childcare, is going to be a huge drain on your time and possibly also finances (commuting costs, extra money spent on conveniences since you and DH will both have long days, etc.)

These are some excellent points. Thank you!

We are in an apartment and we live 10 minutes from Golden Gate park so that is the kids back yard.  Since we don't have a mortgage and our utilities are under $150 a month, my wife can stay home and take them to park, beach, museum, zoo pretty much every day.

If you want your kids to have the experience of playing in a farm spend the summers with your parents.  That's what we do.  We go back once or twice a year to the east coast to experience suburban living by staying with relatives.  After two or three weeks we normally get homesick and can't wait to get back home.  Best of both worlds really.  My kids get to run around a big house and back yard a few weeks a year and I don't have to spend my weekends maintain a house.  Instead I get to take them to the park, museums, the beach, go hiking, ect.  We are going to sign up for a plot at a community garden so we can teach them about plans and stuff.

The irony is that my kids spend more time playing in nature living in the city than some of their cousins that live in more suburban/rural areas.  Their cousins are constantly shuffled to organized activities and indoor activities because that's all they time for.  They either go on weekends or at night because both parents work.

What's more important for you and your husband?  Even if you did get the bigger house with acreage, how much time will your kids get to spend enjoying it?  Will they have to sent to daycare or be in school during the day?

This is so accurate. I like this perspective. I had to bus to school and my parents were constantly driving me to things because everything was at least 20 min away. City living sounds to have perks! I like this consideration.

My parents say that land is the only thing they are not making more of. That investing in a condo or townhouse, it does not appreciate as quickly and that land is a better investment. Should I consider that angle?

mxt0133

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2016, 04:26:45 PM »
This is so accurate. I like this perspective. I had to bus to school and my parents were constantly driving me to things because everything was at least 20 min away. City living sounds to have perks! I like this consideration.

My parents say that land is the only thing they are not making more of. That investing in a condo or townhouse, it does not appreciate as quickly and that land is a better investment. Should I consider that angle?

I completely agree that a condo or townhouse as an investment does not appreciate better than a SFH or some types of land.  But I would first separate out the two issues at hand, one is quality of life and the other is investing.  First tackle one at a time.

For the investment angle I would so the math on the appreciation of land where you want to buy.  How much did you parents buy their land for? What is it's current apparisal value? How much demand is there?  Some condo's or townhouses might appreciate more than land simply because of demand look at SF, Seattle, or Vancouver.  Then compare that to the savings you would have because you don't have such a large space to maintain, head, clean, or transportation costs because you don't have to drive everywhere.  Plug those yearly savings into a calculator and see what they look like if you just invested it.  That should give you a rough idea of what each investment is better.

In my experience, like one of the replies, is it is mostly a emotional decision rather than a rational based on numbers.  If you like living on the farm then what's a hundred grand or two in the grand scheme of things.  If you hate having to clean space that you don't even use, like I do, I don't really care if I would have come out a head by half a million in 40 years if I just bought a house vs renting.

lifejoy

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2016, 05:50:29 PM »
This is so accurate. I like this perspective. I had to bus to school and my parents were constantly driving me to things because everything was at least 20 min away. City living sounds to have perks! I like this consideration.

My parents say that land is the only thing they are not making more of. That investing in a condo or townhouse, it does not appreciate as quickly and that land is a better investment. Should I consider that angle?

I completely agree that a condo or townhouse as an investment does not appreciate better than a SFH or some types of land.  But I would first separate out the two issues at hand, one is quality of life and the other is investing.  First tackle one at a time.

For the investment angle I would so the math on the appreciation of land where you want to buy.  How much did you parents buy their land for? What is it's current apparisal value? How much demand is there?  Some condo's or townhouses might appreciate more than land simply because of demand look at SF, Seattle, or Vancouver.  Then compare that to the savings you would have because you don't have such a large space to maintain, head, clean, or transportation costs because you don't have to drive everywhere.  Plug those yearly savings into a calculator and see what they look like if you just invested it.  That should give you a rough idea of what each investment is better.

In my experience, like one of the replies, is it is mostly a emotional decision rather than a rational based on numbers.  If you like living on the farm then what's a hundred grand or two in the grand scheme of things.  If you hate having to clean space that you don't even use, like I do, I don't really care if I would have come out a head by half a million in 40 years if I just bought a house vs renting.

Good points. I need to separate the issues.

I hate cleaning spaces I don't use!! Haha my parents say "oh just close the door to the messy rooms" and I laugh but daaaamn that would drive me crazy! :)


mxt0133

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2016, 12:04:55 AM »
It doesn't have to be one or the other too. You could get land and build a modest home on it.  For me it would be a ranch, something like 900sf for a family of 5 with a barn or workshop.

meg_shannon

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2016, 05:06:45 AM »
I agree that it doesn't have to be one or the other. We have an almost six year old daughter who has grown up in condos or townhouses. I also grew up on a farm, hiking in state parks, camping, etc.

What will matter more that what type of home grow home your children grow up will be their parents attitude towards the outdoors. I know kids with amazing backyards, but they're never out there because they're parents don't (or didn't when they were very small) go with them. Other kids, who live in apartments, get out every moment they can.

Buy whichever one will let you FIRE sooner, and let you spend the most time with your kids. And check out the book "How to Raise a Wild Child," it covers the benefits of unstructured outdoor time, and nature connection (and how to do this) for kids.

HappyHoya

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2016, 07:25:06 AM »
It sounds like for some PPs the downtown condo was the less expensive choice. For us that was absolutely not the case. What's the price comparison in the city where you are, OP? I agree with the other PPs that you should live where you want, but also that it may not be as stark a dichotomy as you're presenting. If you tell us what city you're in someone might be able to help with more specifics.

When I was initially looking to buy I was weighing the same factors. I loved the idea of a condo downtown but the prices for even a 2BR condo didn't make sense for us, and I didn't love the condo fees (in our area a lot of buildings have a lot of ridiculous luxury services we wouldn't use that drive fee costs way up). We ended up in a small house with a small yard in the city, with good public transit access and walkable to necessities and beautiful (maintained by someone else!) parks, but outside of downtown, so not as walkable to so many restaurants, bars, and the like. For us, it's the best of both worlds. Most cities have residential neighborhoods, but many people may not know about them unless they've visited someone's home there. In our neighborhood it's a mix of larger condos in garden-style buildings with small yards shared between a few units, townhouses/rowhouses, and small detached homes. Any of those types of housing might be a good compromise, if you're interested in something like that.

lifejoy

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2016, 11:41:00 AM »
We'll be looking in BC but it will depend on where we get our jobs once we move here.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2016, 03:08:37 PM »
I'd say that becoming a parent does change your life in many ways but doesn't change who you are. If you prefer efficient spaces and the buzz of an urban location now there's no reason to think you will suddenly become a suburban stepford wife as soon as the kids arrive.

My wife and I have been raising our three year old on a 600 square foot house boat in central London - this is a huge upsize from our last boat which was half the size. We've coped fine and love it, and plan to carry on doing so with our second who just joined us. Find what is right for you as a family and make it work, rather than trying to fit someone else's idea of what a family should look like.

Lastly while you're young and building careers there's a lot to be said for flexibility and the options you get from being able to move quickly or at least livong in a city with access to many employers, don't underestimate this.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2016, 03:09:41 PM »
Does Canada have the intense desire to buy more house than you might otherwise to get in a good school district funded by expensive property taxes that might push you to getting a detached home?  The worst thing about buying a house cheaper than you can afford is having neighbors who don't have that choice.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2016, 03:45:50 PM »
Does Canada have the intense desire to buy more house than you might otherwise to get in a good school district funded by expensive property taxes that might push you to getting a detached home?  The worst thing about buying a house cheaper than you can afford is having neighbors who don't have that choice.

I'm pretty sure the quality of public schools in Canada is much more homogenous than in the US. There may be some variation between provinces, but by and large any public school in a given city is highly comparable to any other public school in that city. I think this is because education is funded at the provincial level, rather than at the municipal level. There is a big drive here for land, but that's driven more by our ridiculous housing market and is independent of which public school cachement a property is in.

OP - You won't become a completely different person when you become a parent. If you're a "city person" now, you'll still be a "city person" after kids. If you don't like mowing now, you'll probably only like it less when you're sleep deprived. Personally, I hate cities. I felt this way both before and after kids. When my kids are grown and gone, DH and I won't be moving into a city condo because that's just not the lifestyle we prefer.

There is a lot to be said for living in a small space with kids. In any enclosed space, they're like tornadoes. If the space is large, the mess will be large and it will require more energy to reverse the mess. If the space is small, the mess will be more contained and it won't take as much effort to clean up.

Sounds like you know yourself. That's more than half the battle. A nice option between condo and suburban SFH are townhouses that cater to families. Many of them have a central playground that acts as the meeting spot for all the kids in the complex. I think those are a fabulous option.

lifejoy

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2016, 04:42:38 PM »
All interesting points. You guys are giving me a lot to consider! I also believe that we could try one option for 5-10 years and if it didn't suit us, we could move.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2016, 06:05:27 PM »
Interested to see what you choose - but in the end, there's no right answer, just what feels right to you. And even then you may change your mind!

FWIW we bought a house with a small backyard (455sqm land all up) rather than staying in our apartment or buying a bigger apartment / townhouse because of: wanting to spend time outside every day with young kids without necessarily having to wear pants / drag them to a park, ability to plant out a garden and watch it grow over a few decades, never having to move again, wanting one home for our kids to grow up in, wanting to marry in our own backyard. More land would have been great, but would've required either paying an even more ridiculous sum of money and/or living much further out from our workplaces.

A lot of this is emotional or irrational reasoning (we REALLY value permanence and stability), which highlights just how subjective these decisions are and why everyone will have a different right answer.

MoonShadow

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2016, 06:17:09 PM »

We want one or two kids. Part of me thinks we should buy an apartment near a park, and raise the kids and take them to the park or the farm any time they need some green space. Living in town has the added benefit of being able to walk many many places. I hate cleaning and mowing the lawn and all kinds of home maintenance, so the idea of a small place REALLY appeals to me. I have concerns about neighbours being just a wall away, but that could be fine. I live in an apartment now and I like it. If we moved, we could use the condo as a rental investment. I also like the idea of living close to work which would probably mean city living as opposed to the country life. I hate commuting and I hate commuting costs!

Another school of thought is that DH and I should buy some acreage, as an long term investment, and raise our kids in that environment. The real estate is a lot more expensive, definitely, but it may be worth it for quality of life.

Do we buy a condo and then use the extra money to get active on our retirement savings? Do we buy acreage, and be house poor?

I have lived in the city in small spaces, and I have lived in the country with a huge house & a vast yard.  I will say up front, buying acreage is not an investment, unless you already know what you are doing.  Don't buy in the country because you think it will appreciate, because odds are that it won't beat the market fund anyway.  My advice is, if you like city living, buy the condo or rent.  Probably rent, because you have the option to move when your lease is up; selling a home is hard.  Kids, particularly while small, don't need much space to be happy.  Parks are wonderful, too; particularly if you can see the park from your window.  Smaller spaces are more energy efficient, as well, so if you buy the condo, you are only paying to heat the outer walls that contact your unit; the walls you share with neighbors are already heated and air conditioned from their side.  I once lived in an apartment that cost us $7 per month in electricity during the winter months, on average.  The monthly "access fee" they charged was $8 per month, so you can see how that irked me.  Now that I have a (rather large) country home, my electric bill is about $400 in an average month (all year) and my house is heated using propane & a woodstove.  Smallest living space you can put up with, for as long as your children are small, is the greenest way to live.  Once they are pre-teens, odds are good you will be ready for more space as well.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2016, 06:37:32 PM »
as others have said, kids can be fine wherever they are, be it urban, suburban or rural. As kids they just accept it, so decide what style of life you want.
Also, supposing you do have 2 kids, I expect that your lifestyle will change dramatically at different stages of their development.  FOr example, your life when they are toddlers will be much different from when they are young teenagers, which again will be very different one they become adults and move out. You can attempt to plan for this by looking for a place with an extra bedroom or two (if they are a boy and a girl, will they share a room? what if life throws you a curve and you have three? What if you wind up with none?) and be flexible with whatever happens, or you can just plan on finding the home that suits your current family situation by upsizing/downsizing as necessary.

I don't have any firm answers, because we're going through something very similar right now. G'luck.

.  Smaller spaces are more energy efficient, as well, so if you buy the condo, you are only paying to heat the outer walls that contact your unit; the walls you share with neighbors are already heated and air conditioned from their side.  I once lived in an apartment that cost us $7 per month in electricity during the winter months, on average.  The monthly "access fee" they charged was $8 per month, so you can see how that irked me. 

This was an unexpected bonus of our current apartment.  Our neighbors keep our apartment warm on all but the coldest of days because we are essentially getting free heat from above and below.  Another huge advantage of our current urban living is that our 'backyard' is one of the biggest public parks, and yet we never have to spend the weekend mowing the lawn or removing tree limbs.  We get all the advantages of a huge (shared) green space with none of the upkeep.  When we lived in the country we'd spend fully half our free time doing yardwork and repairs.  I enjoyed it... but not nearly as much as I enjoy just waking up each saturday with no outside obligations.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2016, 06:42:00 PM by nereo »

MoonShadow

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #19 on: June 21, 2016, 07:53:13 PM »
When we lived in the country we'd spend fully half our free time doing yardwork and repairs.  I enjoyed it... but not nearly as much as I enjoy just waking up each saturday with no outside obligations.

I know what you mean here.  Currently I have a front yard that is 2 acres cut, large enough for a baseball game.  This turned out to be rather beneficial.  Two of my boys were on the same rookie little league team.  One is 7 and the other 6.  They just won the local league championship in their age group yesterday.  However, the little league baseball park, with 5 fields plus two batting cages, is only 1.2 miles from my huge front yard; so we still could have succeeded without the yard.

The really cool thing is, I was never on a team that got anywhere near the championship game as a child, and they were on one together!

simplertimes

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2016, 09:20:56 PM »
We live in a house in town with a backyard, and DH takes the bus to work while we walk many places (just walked to the library today).  I would say our backyard is invaluable!  We have a park just down the block, and yet we just built a play structure in our backyard for the kids.  This may sound ridiculous but in reality, the kids are enjoying the back yard so much more, and are getting more play time/exercise on a daily basis now because they can play out there when I can't take them to the park. 

They play out there in the morning after breakfast and before they go to school.  They play out there while I'm making dinner.  They play out there while their little brother is napping in his crib.

My overall point is that nearby parks are NOT true substitutes for a back yard.  Yes a back yard is a nice-to-have and not a necessity when it comes to raising children, but as a stay-at-home mom I truly find it invaluable and my friends raising kids in town homes have expressed longing for their own yard for their kids when they come over.

We are home all summer, the kids are not in day care or day camp all day, and an hour's trip to the park or a morning at the zoo does not make up for the time the kids get to play in the back yard.  These other activities just don't make up for the lack of a yard.

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2016, 04:34:24 AM »
After 6+ agonising months and seeing how happy HappierAtHome is in her lovely house, we came to the brilliant-for-us decision to keep renting. I know you have a huge stash set aside for the house, but it might be worthwhile moving and renting for 6+ months, particularly since you don't actually know where your or DH's jobs will be when you move there (or you might!), and the kids haven't arrived yet. The options might be more diverse once you've had time to settle back into the area, too. Between "townhouse" and "acreage", is there "cute small home" as an option? Also, in my city the cost of a cute, small home varies by several hundred thousand depending on exactly what and where you want it.

But will kids be fine? If you're happy, they'll be brilliant :)

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Re: How to decide if I should raise kids in a condo or a detached home?
« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2016, 06:26:31 AM »
This is so helpful, especially all the international perspectives!