When it comes to comparing a condo and a townhouse, there are some significant variances between the two types of living spaces that you should be aware of. These differences, as well as the upsides and downsides of each unit type, are essential in helping you make the decision on which home best suits your needs. Here is a comprehensive comparison as well as the positive and negative aspects of the two types of dwelling.
What’s the difference between a condo and a townhouse? While condo owners only own the interior of their home, townhouse owners own the interior of the unit, the exterior, the lawn, the driveway, and the general land on which the property is situated.
Condos typically come in a variety of styles, while townhouses are designed in rows with almost identical interiors. In a condo complex, the homeowners share communal spaces such as pools and other similar amenities as well as all exteriors, whereas townhouses have fewer common spaces and individually owned yards and lawns. Although condos come in a variety of sizes and styles, they generally cover less square feet than townhouses.
Condos and townhouses are types of housing that you will find more frequently in urban areas. Here are the notable differences between these living spaces.
Table of Contents
1. Structure and design
A condo is similar to an apartment in that it is a distinct unit that is situated within a complex. However, unlike an apartment, a condo is owned by the occupant rather than rented from a landlord.
On the other hand, a townhouse is a type of unit that is found in a row of other independent and identical houses. Condos come in a variety of styles while townhouses tend to mimic the design of traditional family homes. Both condos and townhouses typically share walls with adjacent units.
When you buy a condo, you individually own the apartment that you live in. All other areas, including the exterior of the building, the communal areas, the lawn, and all other exterior spaces are managed by the Homeowners Association (HOA)
As for a townhouse, in addition to owning the interior of the unit, you also own the exterior, including the roof, as well as the land the property sits on.
3. Common areas
In a complex that comprises of condos, homeowners communally own and share the use of common areas such as golf courses, pools, gyms, and any other facilities that may be present. Homeowners in the condo complex are therefore jointly responsible for keeping these shared areas clean and in top shape.
While townhouses have common areas that are similar to those of condos, townhouses have private more spaces such as yards (which may be fenced) and driveways. However, some townhouses are usually part of a bigger neighborhood which may have communal areas such as parks, a small playground, or pool.
4. Homeowner Association (HOA)
HOA is a body run by an elected executive board which is in charge of managing and maintaining amenities and general standards in a neighborhood or a complex. Homeowners within the community are expected to pay monthly or annual fees in order to fund these activities. HOAs tend to how big or small they are, the amount that homeowners are expected to pay, and how strict or flexible they are when it comes to the rules and regulations. If you intend to buy a unit that is covered by an HOA, you don’t have the option to reject membership.
- Maintenance and repairs under an HOA – Condo HOAs typically take care of the repairs and maintenance of the common areas within the complex. As an owner of a townhouse, you will have more responsibilities when it comes to repairs and maintenance even with the presence of a HOA.
- HOA fees – In most cases, the HOA fees for condos tend to be higher than for townhouses. This is because condos generally have more shared spaces an amenities, so they will have to pay for exterior maintenance, such as lawn care, pest control, and trash removal among others.
Townhouses also have HOA fees but they are not as high since the owners pay for a significant portion of their own upkeep.
- HOA rules and stipulations – Before you buy a condo or a townhouse, ensure that you ask for a copy of the rules and regulations that you will be expected to follow as a member of the community. There is no agreed upon standard for these stipulations and may vary depending on where you live.
Location plays a big role in determining the value of both condos and townhouses. Other factors that are taken into consideration include property taxes, HOA fees, and home inspection costs. In terms of the purchase price, condos tend to be cheaper since you won’t be investing in any land. However, the HOA fees and mortgage interest rates for condos are higher, so they may not be as cheap in the long run.
6. Resale value
The resale value of the unit you live in, whether it is a townhouse or a condo, will depend on a variety of market factors, most of which you can’t control.
However, when you consider factors such as a well-managed HOA, there are some benefits for both townhouse and condo owners in terms of the resale value. The fees that you pay to the HOA in your community become investments that ensure the common areas and the neighborhood, in general, are well-maintained. As an owner, you may be able to use this as leverage when selling your unit, effectively cutting down on the amount of time your property will have to sit on the market. Condos generally have slower appreciation rates than other property types, but this may change in the future.
7. Home insurance rates
Condos typically have lower insurance rates since owners only need insurance that covers the interior of their property. On the other hand, owners of townhouses need insurance that will cover both the interior and exterior of their property, hence the relatively higher insurance rates.
Although condos come in a variety of styles and sizes, they are generally smaller in size as compared to townhouses. Most townhouses are spacious and may consist of two to three stories
Privacy is an important factor to consider when choosing what type of unit you want to live in. Both condos and townhouses have shared walls, but only condos have shared floors. If you have ever lived below a noisy neighbor, then you know how big of a deal this is. All the same, if you live on the top floor of a condo complex, then this might not be a concern for you since you don’t have to worry about a noisy upstairs neighbor. On the other hand, you will still have to be considerate of the residents who live below you, so it might still be a disadvantage.
While both types of units are viable living options, there are some important factors to take into consideration and almost as many downsides as there are benefits.
Pros of condos
- Less maintenance – As a condo owner, you won’t have to take care of the common areas because you will be paying a HOA to take care of most of your maintenance and repairs. This is ideal if you are too busy with work, in poor health, travel a lot, or you simply just don’t want to deal with maintenance tasks.
- Amenities – A majority of condo communities offer their residents amenities such as swimming pools and gyms which may not available to an average homeowner.
- Conveniently located in urban areas – More often than not, condos are located close to or within the city, which generally makes life easier if you have to commute on a daily basis.
Cons of condo
- HOA dues – As a condo owner, you have no option but to pay the HOA fees as required for the benefit of the community. Depending on your location, you could pay anywhere from $100 a month to $1000. This expense could make a significant dent in your finances.
- Lack of privacy – In addition to sharing a wall with your neighbor, you also have to share a floor which may result in the disturbance of peace and quiet.
- Potentially strict HOA rules and regulations – HOAs for condos can have unreasonably strict rules and regulations that owners have to abide by, which may prove to be limiting for some.
Pros of townhouses
- Typically spacious – Townhouses are generally bigger in size, with most of them featuring multiple stories. This makes them attractive to people who desire space.
- Entire ownership of your property – As the owner of a townhouse, you also own land on which the property sits as well as the exterior of the home. This gives you more freedom when it comes to renovating your home.
Cons of townhouses
- They are too similar to one another – Townhouses usually occur in rows, sharing the same design and similar layouts. This may be a deal breaker for those who want a property that stands out.
- High home insurance rates – The rates of insurance for a townhouse is higher since you will need insurance that covers the exterior of your home in addition to the interior.
Whether you should go for a condo or a townhouse ultimately comes down to weighing the differences between the two and determining which is the best fit for your budget, your future plans, and your family. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and both have a fair share of similarities. Find out as much as you can about both property types in order to make an informed decision.