When it comes to deciding where you want to set up a home, you actually have a couple of different options. There are many different types of living spaces out there, but there are few that cause as much confusion as apartments and townhouses since they are virtually similar in many aspects, yet there are quite a few differences that set them apart. If you are considering moving into one of these unit types, here is what you need to know in order to make an informed decision.
What is the difference between a townhouse and an apartment? The main difference between a townhouse and an apartment is ownership. As a townhouse owner, in addition to owning the housing unit, you also own the land on which the property is located as well as any backyard or front area that comes with the townhouse. On the other hand, when you own an apartment, while the unit belongs to you, ownership of the rest of the property is shared with other owners.
Another notable difference between these two living spaces is the fees you pay as a property owner. For townhouses, you can expect to pay Home Owners Association (HOA) as an owner of a townhouse since townhouse communities typically have HOAs, while for an apartment, you may or may not be part of a body corporate where you will have to pay fees to cover the cost of maintenance and repairs of common areas.
What to expect from townhouses
A townhouse is a narrow multilevel unit that is attached to other residences on the same street. They are commonly found in urban areas, although they vary in size and design from one area to another. You are likely to encounter whole blocks that are lined with townhouses in major east coast cities as well as San Francisco. However, townhouses can also occur as standalone units.
When you own a townhouse, you also own the land on which the property is situated, including the lawn at the front of the unit and the backyard area that comes with the house. In addition to this, you also own the exterior of the home.
A majority of townhouse communities have Home Owners Associations (HOAs). Homeowners are expected to pay monthly fees that are meant to cover the cost of maintenance and repair of the common areas. Some HOAs even go to the extent of enforcing aesthetic policies such as the types of fencing that owners of the various units can install and the color they can paint the exterior of their homes. You also remain financially responsible for maintaining and repairing the exterior of their townhouses.
When you rent a townhouse, you get to enjoy the flexibility that comes with living in a rental unit without having to give up space. Renting a townhouse also allows you to enjoy the homelike feel of living in a traditional house.
While a townhouse may seem like an ideal space, there are both upsides and downsides to keep in mind whether you are an owner or a renter:
Pros of townhouse
- They are spacious – Townhouses generally offer more living space than apartments. As a result, a townhouse is more open and spacious, with a separate kitchen and dining space as well as two or more bedrooms. The accommodating size of townhouses is one of the main reasons why they are popular with families.
- Townhouses include amenities – Townhouses typically include amenities such as a laundry area that includes a washer and dryer hookup, a gym, a pool facility, a backyard, a lawn, etc. Townhouse owners in a community can even opt to pool funds in order to add new amenities such as tennis courts to the neighborhood. Such features make townhouse living feel like a traditional house.
- Usually in convenient locations – Townhouses are common in urban areas, which make them a viable option when you intend to live within the city. Furthermore, they are more affordable than purchasing a house in the city.
- Often newly constructed – Townhouses are often newly constructed, which eliminates the need for remodeling. You get to save on basic maintenance and repairs since everything is relatively new and in great working condition.
- You have entire ownership of the property – The townhouse unit, as well as the land on which it sits, is legally owned by the owner. This may mean more freedom to do whatever you want in your own space-you can renovate it as you deem fit without having to answer to anyone.
Cons of townhouse
- They are expensive – Townhouses do not come cheap, especially when you factor in the cost of amenities, HOA fees, home insurance rates, property taxes, as well as utility fees. HOA fees, in particular, can ramp up especially when the HOA in a townhouse community requires the owners to help fund major investments such as security upgrades and repaving. In some cases, the HOA can also charge special assessment fees in order to cover large unanticipated expenses such as emergency repairs and legal fees.
- They may be too uniform for some – While the uniform design of townhouses may be ideal for some, having a similar layout and design as the neighboring units may be the deal breaker for others.
- You share a wall with your neighbors – One of the biggest turnoffs of townhouses is having to share a wall with your neighbors. This may not be a problem unless the walls are not soundproof and noises easily filter in from one unit to another.
- They may have some unreasonable restrictions – Before you go for a townhouse, ensure that you ask for a copy of the HOA rules and regulations, sometimes known as CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions). They usually contain information on how restrictive living in the given townhouse may be. Depending on the location of your unit, some of the rules you may come across may cover trash and recycling rules and decoration restrictions.
What to expect from apartments
When defining an apartment, the most obvious thing that comes to mind is a rental unit that is within an apartment building. However, when you take into apartment types such as co-ops into consideration, this definition may not apply. Apartments can, therefore, be defined in two ways:
- An apartment is a self-contained unit that is found within a residential building. An apartment consists of one or more rooms, and it may be one of a few or several such units within a complex. Therefore, whether the unit is owned or rented by an occupant, it is still considered to be an apartment.
- The term “apartment’ can be used to define any rental unit. This definition does not include living spaces that are owned by their occupants such as co-ops.
Pros of apartments
- They are cheaper to purchase – Apartments are generally cheaper to purchase than standalone units such as townhouses.
- Don’t require as much maintenance – Unlike for a townhouse, when you own an apartment, you won’t be responsible for every single aspect of the residence since you only own the interior of your unit. If present, the body corporate will be in charge of the exterior areas of the unit if they exist.
- Free of ownership responsibilities as a renter – When you rent an apartment, you won’t have to worry about the responsibilities of an owner such as repairing structural issues and building maintenance.
- They include amenities – Depending on where you live, apartments typically include amenities such as backyards, gardens, porches, and many more in order to attract prospective renters.
- Usually conveniently located – Due to their high demand, apartments are virtually everywhere, whether you are within the city center of a major city, a suburban area, or even a rural town.
Cons of apartments
- Less space – Apartments are generally smaller than townhouses in size. Consequently, the living space is not as open, and you may also miss out on outdoor spaces such as backyards which are more common in townhouses.
- Rules and stipulations to be followed – If there is a body corporate in place, you will be required to follow the provided rules and regulations as an owner of a unit within a given building.
- Fewer parking spaces – One of the amenities that may be included in a townhouse is a driveway for vehicles. On the other hand, apartment complexes rely on parking spaces, which may be limited in availability.
- Body corporate fees – Some apartment buildings require you to regularly pay body corporate fees which may end up being quite costly especially if there are a lot of amenities in the complex.
When it comes to picking a living space, it is important to take into consideration both the positive and negative aspects. As an owner of a townhouse, you are not only responsible for the unit but also the land on which it is located and the exterior of the house, while for an apartment, you only own the interior of the home. As a townhouse owner, you have more responsibilities and expenses when it comes to basic maintenance and repairs than an apartment owner. On the flipside, apartments generally have less square feet than townhouses, which may be a deal breaker for some. All in all, weighing these differences may help you make up your mind on what unit to go for.