A first-time home buyer may not know the difference between a condo and a townhouse, as they share many similarities. If you’re thinking about either one as a new home, you’ll want to keep reading.
Not to be confused with apartments or duplexes, condos, and townhouses offer a higher-end living experience. These single-family homes are located in prime real estate areas and cater to those who want to invest in property or own a home.
History Of The Condo
Condo is short for “condominium.” It’s a combination of “con,” which means “together,” and “dominium,” which means “ownership’. It essentially means “co-ownership.”
Graystone Manor, built-in 1960 is cited as the first modern condominium in the US. Recently, historical accounts traced the condominium back to New York City in the 1800s. Condominiums can be large high-rise buildings with several units or a one-story row of houses.
Condos became popular in the United States in the 1980s. In large cities, condo buildings are several stories high, taking advantage of vertical space where land is limited.
Today, you can buy a condo and live in it or rent it. Many property investors purchase condos and rent them on the short-term market through sites like Airbnb.
History Of The Townhouse
The townhouse debuted in London and Paris in the 1600s. The word “townhouse” originated in early England, where it referred to a dwelling a family kept “in town” when their main residence was in the country.
Townhomes later emerged in the United States after Europeans immigrated to New York City. Townhomes became a form of middle-class housing. Today, townhouses provide housing to those who want to live in urban areas or large cities. Since these homes share at least one wall with neighboring homes, they maximize acreage, allowing more housing in areas with less space.
A condo, or condominium, is a building that has many different living areas in it. Each area has its own entrance, sometimes through a hallway, and its own amenities, such as a bathroom and kitchen.
The difference between a condo and an apartment is that you can purchase a condo rather than only rent it. Condos and apartments look very similar.
Each unit has an owner, but the building is owned by the condo owners. Contracts ensure equal rights within the community.
Some condos come with amenities like tennis courts, fitness centers, and swimming pools. Owning a condo requires paying a monthly condo fee. These fees pay for the amenities and the maintenance and repair of the building and lawn. Owning a condo also involves paying a mortgage, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.
What Is A Townhouse?
A townhouse is a home that shares at least one side wall with a neighboring house. Townhouses are attached or semi-detached.
Most townhouses are located in urban areas where land is limited. To take advantage of space, townhouses are narrow but several stories high. A townhouse usually comes equipped with a small backyard.
Some townhouses have HOAs that require a monthly fee, while others do not. In the case a townhouse doesn’t have an HOA, you’ll have more freedom in the design and decor of your home’s exterior but will also be responsible for all landscaping, lawn maintenance, and exterior maintenance of your home.
Major Difference Between A Condo vs Townhouse
Here’s a look at some of the biggest differences between condos and townhouses.
Condo Owners And Townhouse Owners: Responsibilities
A condo owner deals with fewer responsibilities because their property is part of a building. On the other hand, a townhouse owner is typically responsible for the maintenance of the exterior of their home and landscaping. Condo owners don’t need to worry about exterior repairs, mowing, or maintenance of any amenities.
A townhouse owner might have to pay HOA fees, but a condo owner will always pay condo fees.
Condo owners have full ownership of their unit yet share joint ownership of the building. Condo owners have common areas with other building residents. Before you move in, make sure it’s the right fit.
As a condo owner, you own part of the gym, pool, and any other amenities like trash pickup, snow removal, and snow plowing. You even own part of the hallway, yard, and airspace.
In a townhouse, you’ll share a wall with neighboring homes, but there are no shared common areas.
How Much Does A Condo Or Townhouse Cost?
Cost is always a factor, whether you’re building a house or buying. Both condos and townhouses are cheaper than detached homes in the same area.
In most cases, a condo is cheaper than a townhouse. Not only is the condo purchasing price less expensive but so is the property tax and homeowner insurance. Of course, prices vary by area, so contact a realtor for accurate information in your city.
The Right Fit
Condos are great for those who don’t want to perform any maintenance, are looking for amenities, and don’t mind shared common areas. Higher-end condo buildings often provide security as well.
Townhomes are best for people who want their own plot of land and a home setup similar to a detached style. The downside is that townhomes come with more maintenance.
Condo vs Townhouse Communities
Even with HOA involved, you’ll have more community living in a condo. On that same note, you’ll have more privacy in a townhouse. Each of these has a list of pros and cons.
If you have children with who you want to interact with other children safely, a condo may be great because you can keep it local. However, forced interaction may happen with a condo which isn’t great if you value privacy.
Where Can I Have A Yard?
If having your own yard is important, don’t even consider a condo. You have a courtyard, but it’s shared with other tenants. If you choose a condo, you won’t have any personal outdoor space. When it comes to townhouses, you can have your own backyard and occasionally a small front yard.
Investing In Condos And Townhouses
Wondering if a condo or a townhouse is a better investment? The answer depends on the area you live in and the local economy.
Owning A Condo
Condos are less expensive, and in most cases, you can rent out your unit if you desire. In tourist areas, condo rentals are a great investment bringing in several thousand dollars a year for their owners.
The downside of investing in a condo is that they appreciate at a slower rate than detached homes. A good purchase price will ensure a good investment.
Investing In A Townhouse
With a townhouse, you have more freedom and the ability to put sweat equity into the home. For example, you can purchase an outdated townhouse, fix it up, live in it, and when you’re ready to sell, make a profit. Of course, this also depends on the market. In a down market, it’s difficult to sell any type of property at a large profit.
Short Term Rentals
Short-term rentals (STRs) are skyrocketing. You could buy a condo or townhouse and list the property on Airbnb, where it would generate money. Retired homeowners and first-time homebuyers have been rushing to get in on the STR game.
With more people working from home, the business travel experience has changed, fueling major growth within the STR industry. However, like most things that are popular and lucrative, there are benefits and drawbacks to real estate investing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
What Are Homeowners Associations?
Homeowners associations, known as HOAs, manage common or shared property, protect owners’ property values, provide services to residents, and develop a sense of community through social activities and amenities.
Homeowners association fees are monthly dues collected by the HOA from property owners. These fees are standard for most purchased condominiums, apartments, and planned communities. Some neighborhoods that consist of single-family homes also have HOA fees.
Which Floor Is Best In Condo?
Buying a unit on one of the middle floors is the ideal choice if you want to avoid the extremes of the upper and lower levels. You can still use the stairs with ease, and traffic noise is tolerable at this level. On a higher floor, you won’t have to have to deal with street noise.
Can You Change The Floors In Condo?
Many HOAs require permission only where a homeowner is making structural changes to their unit. New flooring is generally not considered a structural change to a unit, especially if the finished flooring material is not being changed, say from carpeting to wood.
Can You Put Hardwood In Condos?
As most condos have a concrete subfloor, engineered hardwood flooring is required for your home. Concrete subfloors also absorb airborne and structural noises and will require a sound barrier underlayment or glue with a sound barrier with your hardwood flooring.
Why Are Townhouses Cheaper?
Privacy: you have less private space than in a house and typically share walls with your neighbors. Land: smaller lot size. Resale value: townhouses usually experience less capital growth than a house, roughly the same as an apartment.
Lawn maintenance isn’t an issue. This is usually covered in your HOA fee. Be sure to check the HOA rules and regulations before you agree to anything. Some townhouses are detached houses, but as we’ve said, it depends on your area.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Townhouse
A single-family home, the national average cost for building a single townhouse is between $115,500 to $237,500, with most people paying around $175,000 per square foot.