Dabl at Home
What’s The Difference Between Townhouses And Condos?
Here’s what you need to know before moving into a townhouse or condo!
In big cities and metropolitan areas, condos and townhomes are becoming increasingly more popular. These versatile dwellings are typically less expensive than a traditional single-family home and are often located in prime locations near entertainment, office hubs, and culture within cities. With housing shortages accompanied by rising costs for land and building permits, condos and townhouses are a viable solution because builders can build multiple units on one plot of land.
But what exactly are townhouses and condos, and how do you tell the difference? While townhouses and condos can either be rented or purchased, the difference between the two is typically defined by what you own. Living in a condominium, or condo, is a lot like living in an apartment building with rented-out units. But instead of one company renting out each apartment, each unit is owned by different residents of the building. Condos are typically only one floor and you only own the interior of your unit. Meanwhile, townhomes are attached homes that share walls with next-door properties. They are typically two to three stories tall. Unlike a condo, the townhome may also have land attached to it, such as back, front, or side yards.
Types Of Ownership:
As mentioned above, the real difference between condominiums and townhomes comes down to what you own. If you live in a condo, you only own the interior of your unit and share joint ownership of the building with the other residents. Therefore, you will likely only be responsible for maintaining the interior of your unit. The building your condo is in will be governed by a homeowner’s association (HOA), and the HOA will be responsible for maintaining the exterior of the building, amenities, and common areas.
While some townhouses function like condominiums where you only own the interior of the home, most act more like detached single-family homes. You would personally own the structure and the land the home sits on, including the exterior spaces. You would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of both the interior and exterior of the townhome, including the backyard or front yard. The only real difference from a standard single-family home is that your home’s walls are attached to those of another property. If you are considering buying a townhome, make sure to ask what the ownership rights are as they can vary.
Freedom & Autonomy:
Both condos and townhomes are governed by homeowner’s associations. The HOA will be in charge of overseeing shared property maintenance and enforcing rules, restrictions, and policies that are put in place to protect all the residents of the community. While the HOA is present to protect the best interests of the community, it can impact your freedom and autonomy as a homeowner. Examples of rules that may be put in place may include guidelines for proper usage of shared amenities and the times they are available, exterior paint colors, when holiday lights can be displayed, how trash and recyclables will be handled, and what kinds of pets are allowed. Before moving into your townhome or condo, make sure you are aware of the existing HOA policies and that you are comfortable abiding by them. In general, rules will be stricter for condos because the HOA will play a larger role in the community.
Of course, the HOA does not work for free. You will be required to pay monthly dues to your homeowner’s association. But even with monthly HOA fees, owning a condo or a townhouse is usually significantly more affordable than owning a single-family home. Your budget will also stretch farther, typically allowing you to choose a townhome or condo in a more desirable location. Condos in particular are an extremely affordable choice for first-time homebuyers as long as you watch out for hidden fees.
In general, the purchase price for condos is going to be cheaper than townhouses because you aren’t investing in any land. That said, HOA fees may be higher because of access to amenities and greater requirements for maintenance. Conversely, the purchase price for townhomes is usually higher, but then monthly HOA fees are lower. This is because townhomes don’t usually come with as many shared community amenities, and the HOA isn’t responsible for as much maintenance. That said, you may be paying more to maintain your home and property in a townhome than in a condo since you will also be responsible for maintaining your land. Even if the HOA arranges maintenance at your townhome on your behalf, such as gardening, you’ll still be responsible for paying for the service. When you find a condo or townhome you’re interested in, make sure to crunch the numbers to see what your monthly HOA and maintenance expenses would be before you commit.
Last but not least, make sure to find out what your home insurance will cost for you to live in a condo or townhome. In general, condos will be cheaper to insure because you only need to insure the interior of your unit. Your policy would be fairly similar to a renter’s insurance policy you would need if you leased an apartment. On the flip side, townhome owners may need to invest in a home insurance policy if the homeowners’ association doesn’t provide insurance for the structures.
Amenities & Privacy:
Condos are a lot like fancy apartment complexes and will provide access to shared amenities for everyone who lives in the community. You can typically find amenities like clubhouses, swimming pools, outdoor grilling areas, dog parks, and fitness centers. Some townhomes also provide similar amenities, but they don’t have to.
It can be extremely convenient to take advantage of the public amenities, especially when you aren’t responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. For example, using a community pool instead of having a private swimming pool can potentially save you thousands of dollars. But at the same time, you are also going to be giving up some privacy. In addition to sharing the walls of your townhome or condo with other units, these amenities are all in common areas that will be shared with other residents. This inherently limits your privacy. If privacy is a concern for you, opting to live in a townhome instead of a condo may be a smart choice. Even if the townhome community has shared amenities, you’ll likely still have some private backyard space to relax or for your children and pets to play that is separate from the shared areas.
With the real estate market constantly changing, there is no way to guarantee that your condo or townhome will maintain or increase its value. But based on current market conditions at the time of this writing, there is no reason to believe you’d have difficulty reselling your condo or townhome in the future. In general, the resale value of a condo is higher than townhomes because condos tend to be better at retaining their value. When the condo is located in a well-kept community, condos are extremely attractive to potential buyers and developers. One study by Trulia even found that condos appreciated in value significantly faster than detached single-family homes over the course of a five-year period. But at the same time, owning land and having more privacy also makes townhomes hot commodities in the housing market. But townhouses still don’t tend to appreciate in value as much, so lots of factors would need to be considered to determine if the townhouse you are interested in would be a good investment or not.
It’s important to know that the legal status of condos and townhomes differ in the United States. Condos are managed under specific laws set by both the local and federal governments. Meanwhile, townhomes are governed in the same ways as detached single-family homes.
The Key Takeaway:
Living in a condo or townhome can be a wonderful choice for the right person! They typically feature lots of convenient amenities, are located in prime locations, and are more affordable, especially for first-time buyers. But once you know the difference between townhomes and condos, you have to decide which type of environment is best for you and make sure you are happy with that lifestyle. Since both townhomes and condos are often available for lease, it’s always a good idea to rent one for a while before you buy so you can make sure you are happy in that type of environment.
Learn more tips and tricks for buying or selling homes at the Dabl Real Estate Hub!