Houses, Townhouses and Condos

With the number of housing options available, it can be hard to distinguish between them all.

Houses, condominiums and townhouses all offer a chance at homeownership but in a manner that is distinctly different. From size to costs, to location, each has advantages and disadvantages over the other. While houses offer the most amount of space, privacy condos and townhouses are more convenient and manageable. For more details on each type of home and information on how to decide on the best option, buyers can review the sections below.

What is a townhome?

Commonly characterized by narrow multilevel homes attached on two sides, townhouses differ from condos in that townhome owners typically own the land on which the townhouse sits as well as the unit’s interior and exterior. As such, owners are responsible for the upkeep of the home’s exterior, which includes yard work and removing snow from driveways. Townhome owners are also responsible for all maintenance and repair issues for their units. Whether it is a plumbing issue, roofing problem, or an issue with the HVAC system, townhome owners must foot the bill to correct the problem. Homeowners associations (HOAs) govern townhome communities by collecting fees for maintenance of common areas and for providing community services such as snow removal from common areas, trash pickup and maintenance of common grass areas. Townhouse owners pay a monthly fee to the HOA to help cover these costs. Many HOAs set and enforce rules regarding aesthetics of the home’s exterior.

The rules serve as a means to maintain a consistent look throughout the neighborhood and to help foster a visually appealing community. The HOA rules may include limiting the choice of paint colors, restrictions on the size and type of fencing, as well as regulations for on-street parking.

What is a condominium?

Condominiums offer a form of homeownership that does not come with the maintenance and upkeep of a townhouse or a single family home. Condos vary in style in that some look no different from apartments while others appear similar to a multilevel townhouse. Condo owners typically only own the interior of their unit, which means they are not responsible for upkeep and maintenance on the exterior of their unit. Also governed by HOAs, condo owners pay a monthly fee to cover common services such as trash removal and snow removal. Condos typically come with a higher HOA fee then townhouses because owners must also pay for the insurance required to cover major items such as maintenance of the roof and parking lot. Although condo owners pay a higher HOA fee, condominium communities offer amenities not found in many townhouse communities. Condo owners enjoy things such as a community pool, common BBQ area, onsite fitness facilities or a golf course. Many condos also provide guard service. Condos also tend to have more upgrades than townhouses, such as open concept floor plans, granite counters, hardwood flooring, and stainless steel appliances.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Condos

As the most convenient option for homeownership, condos are perfect for those seeking a luxurious lifestyle without all the upkeep. Condo owners enjoy impressive amenities and upgrades that are hard to find in townhouses or single family homes. Additionally, condo owners don’t have the worry, hassle and expense of exterior maintenance as it is all handled by the HOA. When it comes to insurance, condos are less expensive than townhouses as condo owners only need to insure the interior of their unit. Condominiums tend to be popular in urban areas close to a variety of entertainment, shopping and dining opportunities. The downside to condos is that the HOA fees for are typically much higher than the HOA fees for townhouses because condo owners pay for the convenience of maintenance and upkeep by a third party. Also, the convenience of condo ownership comes along with a smaller sized unit than townhouses, which may be a disadvantage for growing families. Anyone with specific home-size needs should make sure that the condo can accommodate these requirements when possible.

Advantages of & Disadvantages of Townhouses

With a townhouse, owners get the hands-on homeownership experience but on a much smaller scale. Owners do not just own their unit, but the land itself which offers a sense of pride in being able to maintain every aspect of their home at a fraction of the cost of a detached home. Further, townhouses tend to be bigger than condos, and often have more than one level. As such, they make great starter homes for new families that give them just the right amount of space they need starting out, without the expanse of a large home. One of the most significant drawbacks to townhouses, however, is that the insurance on a townhouse is typically more than that of condos. Townhouse owners must insure not only the interior of their unit but the exterior as well. In addition, due to the small yard size, homeowners may not get the chance to enjoy gardening and will have less landscaping options.

Advantages of Single-Family Homes Over Condos and Townhouses

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a house is that they offer the most privacy because they do not share adjoining walls. Single-family homes also tend to be much larger than condos and townhouses. As such, they provide the space a growing family needs to accommodate their needs. Houses also offer the outdoor space for children to play and for outdoor entertaining. Although HOAs govern some single-family homes, especially in living communities, homeowners have much more creative freedom when it comes to the exterior of their homes such as paint color and landscaping. Unlike condominiums, however, houses come with a great deal of maintenance and upkeep that can be expensive and time-consuming. Further, insurance rates for homes are typically higher than condos and townhouses due to their size. The insurance must cover major housing components such as the roof, which also accounts for the steeper insurance rates.

Which one is right for you?

Ultimately, the choice between the three comes down to lifestyle. Those looking for the most convenient form of homeownership will find that condos fit the bill. In addition, condos are popular in urban areas where entertainment, dining and shopping opportunities are within proximity. The condo lifestyle is perfect for young professionals who value a luxurious lifestyle and socializing over community living. Townhouses, however, are ideal for young families just starting out. New families will find the size of the townhouse ideal not only for the size of their family but for their budget. Townhouses are an excellent chance for young families to test their hand at homeownership before taking on the responsibility for a larger home. Townhouses and condos are also a popular choice for empty nesters and those looking to downsize for a more convenient and less cluttered lifestyle. Families who value a community and lots of space to raise a family will get the most significant benefit from a single-family house. Single-family homes are spacious and give homeowners the chance to customize their home’s interior and exterior in just about any manner they choose. Houses are also ideal for those who don’t mind handling repairs and yard work.

Houses, condos and townhouses are all excellent forms of homeownership. Each, however, has pros and cons that make each one ideal depending on the desired lifestyle. For those seeking the most convenience, condos and townhouses make for easy maintenance in a small package. For those interested in privacy and room to grow, a house fits the bill.

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