People looking to buy a home in the Philadelphia metro area have two major options: condos or single family homes. What type of home you decide to buy depends on an ever-changing number of factors, including your own preferences and the location you want to live in. Condos are more prevalent in certain parts of the city, such as Center City, while single family residences are much more common in the outer reaches of the city, such as Chestnut Hill, the Northeast, and South Philadelphia.

Land vs. Services

The major difference between a condo and a single family residence is the amount of land you purchase and the services, or amenities, offered. If a person isn’t used to yard work or to handling repairs on his own, a condo might be a better option. The maintenance or homeowner’s association fee that a condo owner pays covers services such as snow removal, plumbing repairs, and general upkeep of the common areas of the building.

Single family homes are more suited to people who are ready to handle all aspects of homeownership themselves. When a person buys a single family home, he is responsible for maintaining all areas of the property. If there is a small yard, he’ll have to keep it up. If there is a problem with plumbing or heating, the homeowner is responsible for fixing it or for calling a professional in.

Condos typically come with a wide range of amenities that are very rarely found in single family homes. For example, a condo building might have a doorman who acts as security and who only lets authorized people into the building. Some condo buildings also have gyms or indoor swimming pools for residents to use.


The board or homeowner’s association in a condo building has a say in what an owner can or can’t do with the house. Some buildings put restrictions on the number of pets a person can have in the home or prohibit pets entirely. A condo building might also require certain types of flooring, to muffle noise, or state what people can or cannot put on their balconies. Owners of single family homes have complete control over the number of pets they own, decorating decisions, and renovations.


Single family homes offer a level of privacy not found in condos. When you buy a condo, you are buying a set amount of space in a building. You’ll share walls, a ceiling, and a floor with your neighbors. While most condo owners respect others’ privacy, there is still the chance that you’ll be able to hear your neighbor’s television or stereo through the walls or their footsteps through the ceiling. The closeness of neighbors in a condo means people are more likely to run into each other while going in and out of their homes or entering and leaving the building. Some people like that, as they feel it builds a sense of community.


Condos are more common in certain areas of the city, such as Center City. People might choose to live in Center City for easy access to dining, boutiques, and the arts, such as the theaters along the Avenue of the Arts. In Center City, a condo is typically considerably more affordable than a single family home.

Single family homes are typically found on the edges of the city, such as in Girard Estates in South Philadelphia or in Chestnut Hill. These homes offer a number of suburban amenities, such as a big yard and more space. The downtown area is farther away, but still easy to travel to.