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Ask Sherry: Which is better? Debating a condo apartment versus a house

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

How do you organize photos of Baby Bun, both digital and hard copy? Also, what camera do you use?

I organize them by month before 1 year, and then by year afterwards. Within each year, I put folders with events like “Baby Bun birthday“, or “Baby Bun outing to ____“. I also sort it by activities depending on how many pictures there are like: “Baby Bun Yoga“, or “Baby Bun eating” (tons of these photos exist, obviously).

I don’t do hard copy photos unless it is to mail to family and friends, but I am considering a hardcopy memory book of all of his pictures from pre-Birth to 1-year, then 1-year to 2-years, etc.

I have yet to do this. It was on my To Do list the entire time I was off, and I only got enough photos for his first and second years, but wanted to wait because of the cost of these photobooks.

Then I re-thought it again and I don’t want to spend $100 a book. Maybe I can just do a digital photobook and show it on a big screen to people, or give it to Baby Bun on a USB key as he gets older.

OMG. SO MUCH I WANT TO DO. *Mommy parenting guilt*

I used to use a Canon G12 which I have since sold, then had a Canon S12 which I loved as it was very small and portable, but I sold that too. I like the whole Canon series, don’t get me wrong, but definitely buy a PORTABLE camera. You are NOT going to lug a professional one around to take shots at the park unless it is for a specific shoot (my partner has one of these and he rarely brings it out, what a waste of $3000…)

I now use a Sony RX100 but am definitely eying an upgrade to the latest Sony RX (they are INCREDIBLE, light, and easy to carry for the park and grabbing quick shots of a very fast toddler).

I reviewed all three of the cameras side by side here.

You can set it on multi-burst shots and just snap a whole crapload of shots of your kid as he/she runs, and ONE of the 100 photos may turn out to be sharp. I delete the rest.

Otherwise, sometimes I just snap videos or photos with my iPod Touch which is crappy but.. hey. I have something quick and easy to grab when I see him in the moment.

Will you miss your child now that you are going to start working again? Have you told him yet that he’ll go to daycare? How did he take the news?

I will miss Baby Bun very much. I complain a lot, but I love that we cuddle, we read books, I hold his hand, we go on walks, and we are together. I miss him when I am not with him (feel a pang in my heart), and I always get this urge to hug and kiss him every hour.

Yet, I have not told him he will go to daycare.

We will see how it takes it on the first day. I am wary about warning him ahead of time because I don’t want to have a meltdown before it even begins.

Update: I took him to daycare (his old one) when I started working, and he became very depressed and listless, even at home. He turned into a bit of a monster.

He became clingy, he cried, he woke up several times a night, and I had to DRAG HIM OUT by his legs and arms to get him to go in the car to go to daycare.

He sobbed the entire way there and screamed in the car. It was not pleasant but I grit my teeth and said he would get used to it.

My partner was alarmed at the end of the first day when he picked him up and said there was something wrong with our baby. He said Baby Bun was just standing there in the room, depressed, when he saw him, he RAN to him, hugged his legs, and didn’t want to let go.

Baby Bun they said, had sobbed the entire time, clung to the workers for 2 days before we decided to pull the plug on “daycare” completely.

Ultimately, it was my partner who decided it was too much for his baby. He really felt terrible, and then I felt guilt for going back to work and putting my child in this emotional wreck.

My partner only soothed me by saying: Well don’t feel guilty. You need to work, end of discussion. He just has to get used to it, but we will find a better environment for him.

So instead of hiring a nanny or anything like that, we decided to upgrade the daycare to something a little more educational and stimulating, to pay for pre-school.

Perhaps that was the issue, or he just needed a new environment that isn’t “daycare”. Whatever it is, it is working to call it “school”, and he is WAY happier now, although still very much a lone wolf who doesn’t like to play with other kids.

It is still like a daycare but WAY more structured with actual activities instead of having just someone to watch him, like cattle on a range. LOL.

They have activities in the morning, free play, more activities, and do fun things to learn about how seeds grow, go on walks to observe the birds and weather, and play a lot of puzzles and with blocks, including spelling, letters and numbers which he LOVES.

He is now learning and is liking the idea of school, and is obsessed with buses (which he sees takes kids to school and now he wants to ride one like a big boy). He asked me on the third day to “go to school“, but still sobbed when I left him.

He still sobs when I leave him in the morning but it isn’t for an hour or two like in the other place, and it is only for 5 minutes, then he is FINE the rest of the day, and we can now watch him on the new preschool cameras to make sure he is happy (which he is).

Eventually in the old daycare he would have had to suck it up and get used to it because I am working and that is life, but we did make the decision to pretty much double our daycare costs to now pay for preschool, which he is far happier in.

In what currency are your numbers expressed, for example your net worth, expenses, budget, etc.? (Canadian dollars, US dollars?)

For the most part, CAD. My income is in USD because I am too lazy to convert it to CAD but I ought to, eh?

I’ll do that from now on. Great point.

Would you like to live, or would you have liked to live, in a house instead of a condo?

Yes and no.

Yes, I’d have loved the space, a garden to putter around in to grow some herbs (I hate paying so much for them), a composting pile, more rooms, and so on.

But ultimately, no, because I hate everything that comes with the personal upkeep of a house:

  • Garbage removal — I just walk to a chute and dump it, and recycling is in the garage, SO EASY.
  • Snow removal — I know you can pay people to do this for homes but they don’t do your steps or your walkway.
  • Maintenance — things leak, break, etc. In a condo you pay fees so that there is a set of reserve funds to cover things like a new garage ventilator, etc
  • Ease of use — Stairs? Hate them. I hate lugging groceries up steps and walkways and things. We have elevators, and even carts to carry heavy things back and forth easily.
  • Higher taxes — Bigger homes means more money paid
  • Lack of common amenities — pool, spa, if you’re into that stuff which we are not, and if you don’t pay for it you will end up without it or at the neighbours’ pool a lot (plus pool upkeep SUCKS)

I am sure there are more things I hate about the idea of a house, but those are pretty big ones for me to prefer a condo.

Of course, a condo is NOT PERFECT (ugh), but it still has more benefits than a home for the way we live.

Condos are often better located in big cities, but reading what you wrote about the neighbor’s dog barking and annoying you, I’m sometimes afraid of buying a condo and having annoying neighbors. That aspect is so unpredictable.

Yes it is, but you also have a condo association who can step in.

The dog has since stopped yapping. Maybe they gave it a stuffed penguin.

Other things we hate are the people stomping around upstairs like they’re in a rave but c’est la vie.

Also, what do you think? Are there more advantages than disadvantages to condo living compared to house living or vice versa?

More advantages I suspect, at least for us and the way we live, plus who we are personality-wise.

We don’t let a lot of junk in, we don’t want to accumulate crap, we are happier with a smaller space (easier and faster to clean too), etc.

On the noise aspect, it is also a crapshoot with neighbours if you live very close to them. Unless you buy 10-acre lots where you have woods and NO ONE will be near you to make noise, throw loud parties, or scream at each other within earshot, it is the same as living in a condo.

My parents live in a dense urban city, and so do my siblings. They own homes.

…but they can hear everything the neighbour does. I go there and I hear the noise they all make with their parties, the screaming, the loud family life, their omnipresent pool heaters, generators or air conditioners on 24/7….

It’s the same thing, just with more space, it seems. Their houses are RIGHT BESIDE each other (in detached homes, no less), so their neighbours live with them. If you are in a semi-detached place? Watch out, all that wood does conduct a heck of a lot of noise.

Compared to their homes, I feel like my condo apartment where it is, is VERY quiet and calm. We have a foot of concrete all the way around the apartment, insulating it from noise as best as it can, and it is far better than wood.

We barely hear our neighbours and when we do, we get annoyed because it means they must be making a lot of noise for us to be able to hear it.

My neighbours are not terrible, they’re pretty respectful save for a few incidents (like the Stompy McStompersons living above us, or that yappy dog who is now quiet at all times).

It also helps that we are all owners here, not renters. Renters suck. Don’t live in a renter-dominant building, they don’t care about anything. Owner-run buildings (majority) are what you have to look for because they won’t be as happy to have transient folks like renters either, and will put in place stoppages on things like Air BnB and put in processes to evict owners who don’t keep themselves or their tenants in line.

Yet if you are more like my parents or my siblings, this is a hellish life to consider and they aren’t willing to live in a smaller place to get the rest of the great stuff that comes with less space.

They want everything and they want it to be BIG. Even what they have, they are telling me the house is too small and they need to move.

(To be fair, at least, the women aren’t willing to, it seems. The men on the whole tend to be more in favour of such a lifestyle, but not the women in my family. I’m just a weirdo.)

We are very much NOT into having to personally maintain a home (garbage, grass, pool, snow, etc), having a ton of furniture (as you may have been able to tell by my condo photos), and paying higher taxes as a result (and commuting to the suburbs from our jobs)…

So while we would have loved a big backyard, a garden, a place to compost, shed, room for storage, and more rooms for an office and so on, ultimately we do not care enough about those things to give it up for everything else we get – convenience, great location, etc.

Anyway, I am seeing all that space as not a great thing in the end, a double-edged sword as my parents and siblings hoard things like there is no tomorrow, and they waste a lot because they can.

What I hate the most though, is if people say: Don’t buy a condo, buy a house so you don’t have to pay condo fees.

In a house you STILL need to pay fees, the only difference is you’re just the only one footing and paying the entire bill because a house will need maintenance eventually – hot water heater, roof replacement, driveway paving, etc — so you can decide when/if to do that stuff.

It’s the same thing in the end, condo fees or home maintenance, perhaps worse in home maintenance depending on the construction although I suspect with condos it could be the same thing at the end of the day.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


  • Jamie

    We are currently renting a house and its kinda best of both worlds. We get the space, privacy, etc but we don’t pay for any upkeep which could be horrible but our landlords are great. We’ve been in the house for just over a year and they have fixed/replaced: downstairs fireplace, upstairs dishwasher, upstairs laundry pair, outside patio stones and helped with some minor landscaping (just put in some hardy shrubs and little trees). We have the whole house as my MIL lives in the basement (she helps take care of my LO – he’s 2 days at daycare, 2 days with her, and 1 day with my Mom). We pay in rent less than it would cost for us to own this house since its in Toronto (Mississauga) and the mortgage for us would be about $600K. I could see myself downsizing to a condo in retirement but so far, this has been a great arrangement.

  • raluca

    I love living in a house and I would never want to go back to an apartment. I absolutely love the privacy that I get with a large garden and I love having dogs and fruit trees and a hammock in the backyard.
    I do understand that taking care of a house takes more time, but I love spending time outside, so for me it’s a win.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      That all sounds so great, and I am wistful for it.. except I don’t have dogs (they would be better off in a home, I agree), and I really REALLY don’t want to maintain a house or a yard, particularly when we are already feeling stressed for time.

      I like the apartment life. There are tradeoffs to be sure, but the main thing for me is that nasty garbage business especially in the dead of winter, or shovelling all that snow all the time. *shiver*

      The “summer” here in Canada is so short, I don’t really get to enjoy the weather anyway, so having a house makes no sense for me.

      • raluca

        I don’t understand this problem with shoveling to be honest. We have our parking garage directly next to the street, so not really a huge amount of shoveling, maybe 10 minutes every time it snows. We don’t shovel our the walkways from the garage to the house because they’re sort of raised stones and a) the dogs create paths on them and b) the snow melts easier on the stones. We obviously don’t shovel the grass, which is like 99% of our surface area.
        We have serious winters here, but even if it snows, it’s maybe 20 times during 4 months, so we maybe spend 200 minutes all together. Not exactly back breaking work, but then again, it’s mostly my husband who does the work so maybe I’m underestimating it. Although, before, when we did not have a garage, he used to complain all the time about scraping the windshield every morning.

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          I used to park outside every day during winter and it was hell. I hate cold cars, ice and snow not to mention toddler wrangling…. Here it snows often and it is the constant shovelling I cannot handle. I’d be too tired and annoyed.

  • Adriana @MoneyJourney

    Seeing other people’s views on condo vs. house is interesting. We would prefer living in a house, although the costs and maintenance are indeed a big minus.

    On the other hand, having annoying neighbors is seriously getting on our nerves.
    Right now, we have a couple living upstairs, they’re musicians and have a party with their musician friends almost every weekend. Loud music and dancing and partying all night like it’s 1999 is not all that’s cracked up to be for those living downstairs..

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