Condo vs. Townhouse: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Home

couple discussing their condo vs. townhouse options for their next home

Condo vs. Townhouse: Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Home

When you’re looking for the perfect home, you need to know all the details. There are a variety of traditional single-family popular home types, but if you’re planning to purchase a home and aren’t interested in a detached home, you still have choices. Condos and townhouses are soaring in popularity among all age groups. A townhouse and condo may seem exactly the same at first glance. However, there are some important differences. This guide provides all the details you need to have the ultimate condo vs. townhouse showdown that will determine your perfect home space.

Condo vs. Townhouse: The Basic Details

If you’re seeking an attached home to purchase, you’ve likely done a little research on both townhouses and condos. Both types of residences are attached homes, and they’re both governed by a board or HOA. While there are several similarities between the two, there are also a few important differences. Here are the basic details of both dwellings.

What Is a Condo?

A condo is similar to an apartment. It is an individual residence within a building or community of buildings.

A condo is typically owned by the resident, while the building or condominium complex is maintained by the group. A condo purchase can be described as buying the airspace inside your individual unit. The space you own is inside the walls that make up your living space. However, it’s important to remember that, like any home, the purchase of a condo is about much more than living space. As a resident in a condominium complex, you have partial ownership of common places like outdoor spaces, swimming pools, garages, gyms, and any other amenities.

If you live in a condo, you’ll be required to pay monthly dues to a board or HOA that oversees upkeep and repairs of common spaces and the exterior maintenance of the building. While monthly payments are rarely considered a plus, condo life means you’ll have little to no maintenance requirements outside your individual unit. Condos are often well maintained and have specific rules that increase safety. They can also prevent excessive noise and other behaviors that might make close neighbors difficult to tolerate.

What Is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is also an attached home. But it typically only shares outside walls with other structures.

A townhouse could be considered “less attached” than apartments and condos. Instead of a residence inside a communal building, a townhouse is a home that shares at least one wall with neighboring homes and has a conjoined rooftop. A townhouse is likely to feel more private than a condo and doesn’t have common spaces shared by multiple residents.

Townhouses are often located in desirable areas and offer a community feel without the daily close interaction experienced in apartments and condos.

Townhouses are typically designed in a row, and each residence has its own front and back entrance. A townhouse often provides you with ownership of a front and back yard, though there might be some restrictions about how you use your outdoor space. Living in a townhouse typically requires you to pay HOA dues, but the HOA is likely to be less involved and has fewer regulations. A townhouse is a sort of middle-ground between owning a free-standing single-family residence and owning a condo.

Pro Tip:

When trying to make the condo vs. townhouse distinction, find an opportunity to visit both types of homes. Asking questions might provide the information you need to make a final decision.

Attached Homes and HOAs

If you’ve always lived in a single-family residence, it is essential to understand the role of a homeowners association (HOA) before purchasing a condo or townhouse. An HOA is an organization within a planned community that makes and enforces rules for the properties and its residents. The HOA in a townhouse or condo community is typically made up of residents within the community, and all residents have the opportunity to join. The HOA in any community is designed to keep the local property value intact. A great HOA can provide luxurious living in any community. A bad one can turn your dream home into a nightmare.

Always ask questions about the HOA before making a condo or townhouse purchase.

When you become an owner of a condo or townhouse, you’ll automatically be subject to HOA dues each month. The HOA takes care of certain responsibilities, including:

  • Outdoor maintenance and maintenance of common areas shared by all residents
  • Creating and enforcing structural restrictions, rules, and building regulations
  • Overseeing fee collection and plans for necessary repairs and upgrades

Benefits Shared by Condos and Townhouses

For decades, single-family homes have topped the list in desirable living spaces. Today, due to a variety of reasons, townhouses and condos are growing in popularity. From first-time homebuyers seeking an affordable starter home to empty-nesters looking for a more convenient lifestyle as they downsize, individuals from all walks of life find benefits in both condos and townhouses. Here are some perks that these dwellings share.

Affordability

While prices vary among the styles of attached homes, they are typically priced lower than a single-family home. Without the cost of additional land, townhomes and condos offer a residence that young families and individuals on a budget can more easily afford. As real estate prices continue to rise in practically every location, residents see condos and townhouses as an affordable alternative.

Community

Friendly neighbors make every home more enjoyable. While there are distinct styles between the two, both condos and townhouses offer a sense of community to every resident. For individuals living alone or newcomers to any area, a way to surround yourself with instant friends is a big advantage. Close-knit neighbors provide a sense of belonging and safety to any type of living space.

If you have the opportunity to choose between a townhouse and a condo, you can even dictate exactly how close you really want to get to your neighbors. A condo offers very involved community living where neighbors share common spaces each day. They may even sponsor gatherings, parties, and events. Conversely, a townhouse provides you with your own outdoor space and neighbors that are always a shout away.

Safety

Love it or hate it, both condos and townhouses mean you are involved with an HOA. While this means there are some rules and regulations, it also means that the community is governed by a group with the best interests of residents in mind. Safety is a big priority in attached homes, so you can expect to have the convenience of security cameras, safe parking areas, and plenty of outdoor lighting. You may even have some nosy neighbors watching your back!

Location

Townhouses and condos provide builders with a way to fit multiple family homes into a small area. In densely populated spaces, single-family homes are hard to find. However, nice condos and townhouses are available in cities and suburbs that boast easy travel and highly praised schools. For young homebuyers, the conveniences provided by easy access to a close job, public transportation, and other amenities outweigh the allure of the privacy provided by a single-family home.

Maintenance

The idea of a single-family ranch home or bungalow with an expansive yard and private space has long been considered desirable. However, the maintenance and cost that goes along with this ownership is a burden.

Condos provide a nice home ownership option with a variety of outdoor amenities and little to no maintenance responsibilities for owners. The catch, of course, is that you have to share that space. If you prefer a little more privacy, townhouse living still offers some maintenance perks like snow removal and trash removal. Some modern townhouse developments include parks and swimming pools that are HOA-maintained. Whether you choose a condo or townhouse, you’re likely to avoid maintenance tasks like pest control and major landscaping.

Condo vs. Townhouse: The Defining Features

man looking at potential condos with a real estate agent

The living space in a condo and townhouse are fairly similar. However, a home is about more than the space you inhabit. It’s about your lifestyle and the perks you enjoy or find most convenient. When you look at the pros and cons of condos and townhouses, these features are most often the ones that influence the final decision.

Condo vs. Townhouse: How Much You Own

This is perhaps the biggest factor in the condo vs. townhouse debate. When you own a condo, you own the space inside your unit. You’re also a co-owner of common spaces. This includes hallways, outdoor space, a pool, a gym, and any other common rooms in the building. Townhouse ownership is more like owning a single-family home. While your townhouse shares a wall (or two) with the homes beside it, you own the structure itself and the land it sits on.

Simply put, in a condo, you share all the space outside your home with other residents. In a townhouse, you own your front and back yard, but you likely won’t have any of the extras that come with a condo. As with most things in the townhouse vs. condo debate, it comes down to which lifestyle you ultimately prefer.

Pro Tip:

If you’re seeking a townhouse, make sure to get a firm understanding of your ownership rights. Some dwellings have a townhouse appearance but the ownership rights of a condo. If you’re interested in owning the yard, ask if ownership rights include the land your structure sits on.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Homeowners Associations (HOAs)

You will likely be subject to homeowners association regulations with both a townhouse and condo. A homeowners association (HOA) is run by tenants of the building, and you will have an opportunity to join if you choose to do so. Whether you join your HOA or not, you’ll be required to pay monthly fees that are used for the maintenance of shared property.
While both condos and townhouses are overseen by HOAs, the monthly HOA fees and restrictions imposed by one can be very different from another. Consider these HOA differences when facing the condo vs. townhouse debate.

  • Responsibilities: The HOA maintains common spaces used by all residents. This means, in a condo, you’ll have few maintenance responsibilities outside your home. A townhouse has minimal shared space. It provides more privacy, but it can also mean more work.
  • Cost: Since the HOA has more to take care of in a condominium complex, you can expect monthly HOA dues to higher. Still, it’s important to inquire about HOA costs no matter which type of home you choose (including single-family homes).
  • Regulations: Restrictions and regulations can vary widely from one condo to another or between townhouse communities. While you may expect many restrictions related to the outdoor space of a condo, you may be surprised to find restrictions in townhouses, too. Even though you own the exterior space surrounding your townhouse, HOA rules might dictate the paint colors you can use, if you can have a shed on the property, and even what type of mailbox you have.

Pro Tip:

When you are seriously considering purchasing a townhouse or condo, take the time to talk to the townhome owners and condo owners instead of just the real estate agent. Ask neighbors about the HOA costs and regulations. They can also tell you about the frequency of one-time fees for improvements.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Ownership Costs

The costs of a townhouse and condo are both likely to be lower than the costs of owning individual homes. However, for those on a budget, it’s important to consider both the purchase price and monthly costs of living in a condo vs. a townhouse. Consider these costs for both townhouses and condos.

Purchase Price

The initial cost of a condo is often cheaper than that of a townhouse simply because you’re only paying for the inside of the unit. However, the interest rate on a condo mortgage is typically higher when you’re paying over time.

Insurance Premiums

In a condo, your HOA will typically have a master policy that insures everything outside the walls of your home. If you own your townhouse, you may need a regular homeowners insurance policy. You can typically expect your monthly insurance bill to be cheaper in a condo.

Property Taxes

One of the major factors in the cost of property taxed is square footage. Since you only own the space inside your condo, you can expect property taxes to be cheaper for a condo than a townhouse.

Pro Tip:

If you’re paying a mortgage, all of these costs will likely be spread out into your monthly payment plan. Talk to your mortgage lender about the total cost you can expect after all expenses are included.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Resale Value

While you may be planning on living in the same home forever, it’s impossible to predict the future. There are various factors outside of your control that can influence the resale value of any home. However, both condos and townhouses include factors within your control that can increase the resale value of your home. For instance, a well-run HOA keeps the grounds in pristine condition, which can entice potential buyers. A condo with a variety of perks can provide similar enticement.

Pro Tip:

Both townhouses and condos have seen a significant increase in value over the last year. When purchasing a home, it’s a good idea to study trending market changes.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Community

Condos and townhouses both put you very close to your neighbors. However, the living experience of both places might not be as similar as you think. A townhouse is similar to a single-family home with close neighbors. In most cases, you still experience the level of privacy you want, though you might have a close community feel.

Within a condominium complex, there are a variety of shared spaces. This leads to an instant community where neighbors interact on a daily basis. Residents in a condo community often participate in organized events and parties, bringing neighbors closer together. Consider the amount of privacy or companionship you prefer when facing the condo vs. townhouse decision.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Architecture

Townhouses are row houses that have a predictable layout designed for convenient family living. The standard style of a townhouse is a narrow two-story home with living space downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. A front and backyard might be included, and you can expect your home to be in a neat row side-by-side with others that look just like it.

Condo styles can vary widely. Condo buildings and communities come in practically any shape and style to fit your personality and budget. Many condominium buildings are high-rises, but low-rise condo properties exist. If you don’t mind living above the first floor, individual condo units can provide practically limitless living space choices.

Condo vs. Townhouse: Quick Facts

Condo Pros and Cons

  • A condo provides a community of close neighbors.
  • You can expect all outdoor upkeep to be taken care of in a condo community.
  • You’ll likely pay higher HOA fees in a condo.
  • A condo might have more restrictions than most types of homes.
  • Condos often include a variety of amenities like a swimming pool, gym, and outdoor living spaces.
  • Most condos are high-rise buildings.

Townhouse Pros and Cons

  • A townhouse typically means you own your outdoor space, which is great if you’re planning a move with children who love the outdoors.
  • You’ll experience more privacy in a townhouse.
  • Townhouse owners generally have to pay HOA fees but don’t have as many benefits as condos.
  • A townhouse provides a similar experience to owning a single-family home at a more affordable price.
  • You have your own front and back entrance/exit in a townhouse.

Making Your Choice Between a Condo and a Townhome

couple sitting in front of their townhouse

Choosing between a condo and a townhouse basically comes down to which type of home fits your personality and your family’s needs best. Your unique lifestyle and personal needs are the defining factors about which features of a dwelling are enjoyable or downright annoying. For some individuals facing the condo vs. townhouse decision, the answer is clear. If you’re still on the fence, consider how each feature of a dwelling would impact your preferred lifestyle.

A Condo Might Be Best for You, If…

You’re a person that prefers a convenient lifestyle with plenty of structure.

There are a variety of reasons that people of all ages love condos. Many of the things that make condo living unappealing to some residents are clearly benefits for others. For example, strict regulations can represent a loss of freedom or a safer living space.

Your lifestyle might be suited to a condo if you:

  • Have an outgoing personality and enjoy socializing with your neighbors regularly.
  • Live alone and enjoy the security and company of living in a communal space.
  • Are unable to complete maintenance chores or simply want to avoid them.
  • Think rules and regulations make your neighbors more enjoyable and your life more convenient.
  • Are excited by the idea of amenities like a swimming pool, gym, tennis courts, outdoor living spaces, and any other perks your community can offer.
  • Like participating in making your community a better place and would enjoy regular interaction with, or joining, the HOA.
  • Enjoy community events like routine gatherings or parties.
  • Feel safer in an area with security cameras and a full-time front desk attendant.
  • Are happy to pay occasional extra fees to improve the community or building.

A Townhouse Might Be Best for You, If…

You enjoy having close neighbors but still value your personal space.

Townhouses offer the perks of a single-family home in a very close-knit community. Personal space is more defined than in other attached homes, and there are often fewer rules.

You might enjoy townhouse living if you:

  • Want your own yard.
  • Need a good property in a popular or urban area without the cost of a single-family home.
  • Think a few rules create a better neighborhood.
  • Like having close neighbors but prefer to avoid forced interactions.
  • Need more space than an apartment or condo but aren’t prepared for the responsibilities of traditional property ownership.
  • Think the idea of security cameras around every corner feels like an invasion of your privacy.
  • Want a single-family home lifestyle with the perks an HOA can offer like snow removal and pest control.

In the condo vs. townhouse debate, there are no right answers. What it really comes down to is what’s right for you. Learning all the information about both dwellings will help you understand which type of property best suits your personality, current needs, lifestyle, and budget. Visiting a variety of home styles, especially in your new city, will help you choose the right new home for you and your family.

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