If you’re looking to buy a home and single-family construction isn’t on your list, you may be looking at townhomes or condos. Here is a quick guide to understanding some of the differences and similarities when buying or owning one of these properties.
It can get confusing because there is some overlap. However, in the most basic terms, condos are single residential units housed in a larger building. They resemble apartments, but they are owned instead of rented. A townhome is kind of a hybrid between a single-family home and a condo. They can share walls with neighbors, but you aren’t likely to have units upstairs or downstairs from you.
In both cases, you own your living space. But differences start regarding what maintenance you’re responsible for as an owner. Condo owners are only responsible for maintenance inside the unit. You will likely pay dues to a homeowner’s association to cover common area and exterior maintenance. In townhomes, there are two possible options for ownership:
- Fee simple: you’re responsible for maintaining your home and the front, back, or side yard.
- Condominium: you own the inside of your townhome, so outdoor upkeep is covered with HOA fees.
You can see where things can start to feel a little convoluted because many people will refer to townhome condominium ownership agreements simply as “condos.”
Shared spaces and community amenities will often vary by location, but there are some typical arrangements whether you’re in a townhome or a condo. Condos usually have similar amenities to high-rise apartment communities, such as a pool or gym. There was a time when townhomes had fewer amenities, but that is changing. Community pools and playgrounds are common, but they may have some upscale amenities like tennis courts and clubhouses in some townhome communities.
Privacy is a crucial concern for anyone buying a new home. Some want to buy a single-family home because they dislike the idea of sharing walls or having neighbors above them. But some of the benefits, including maintenance, can offset this need. If a private yard is a concern for you, a townhome may be a better choice than a condo.
Both condos and townhomes will have HOA fees. However, the cost of these fees will depend on several factors. Townhomes often have lower fees because they have less outdoor maintenance and fewer amenities, but this doesn’t mean lower costs overall. You’ll still be responsible for paying for repairs. When buying a new home, it’s best to weigh all factors, including budgets for future work on the unit.
With HOAs come rules; it’s critical to know what they are for your specific community before buying a unit. Rules are often stricter for condos because the HOA has a more significant role, but that doesn’t mean anything goes in your townhome. Some allow for more freedom of expression with landscaping and exterior colors, but others will have very specific guidelines to follow.
Are you thinking about buying a townhome or condo?
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