The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Townhouses
Are you thinking about buying a townhouse? Townhouses are once again becoming popular with homebuyers. The increased popularity is thanks to buyers looking for low-maintenance homes, close to amenities that they can walk to, and offer better value.
Lots of folks choose to purchase a townhouse as a second home in vacation destinations.
A significant attraction for doing so is the lack of normal maintenance associated with owning a home. In the vast majority of instances, you will not be responsible for exterior maintenance with a townhouse. They are quite different in that respect to single-family homes.
It should be noted that townhouses and townhomes are interchangeable words that have the same meaning. Let’s take a look at the benefits of living in a townhouse so that you can decide if it’s right for you.
There are always going to be pros and cons with this style of housing choice.
What Are Townhouses?
Over my thirty-four years of being a real estate agent, many people have asked what’s a townhouse. Usually, they ask because they want to know if there is a difference between a townhouse and a condominium. Quite often, real estate lingo gets interchanged.
A townhouse is a home over multiple floors that shares a wall with neighbors on one or both sides. Newer townhouse constructions are more likely to have a uniform look and have a homeowners’ association managing the development.
Condominiums often have a homeowners association that is specific to a particular development. Condominium associations are established to help maintain a certain standard in a neighborhood. For example, associations are developed to keep the properties in good repair and appearance.
The developer who builds the neighborhood and accompanying townhouses usually funds the HOA. The developer establishes the association, as well as the rules and regulations that it will uphold.
When construction has been completed, the builder hands it over to the community members who have purchased homes. A board of owners is then elected to oversee the homeowners association.
HOA’s are despised by some and loved by others. Before purchasing a townhome, you should have a firm grasp of what rules and regulations you’ll be required to follow under the homeowners association.
Here are some of the common rules with homeowners’ associations. When buying a townhome, it will be imperative to find out if you can stomach the requirements.
Townhouses vs. Condo’s
Lots of folks ask what is the difference between a townhouse and a condo. Condominium owners only own the interior of their unit. In most circumstances with townhouses, you own the interior and exterior, including the driveway and lawn but not the communal areas.
Having common areas in condos is the biggest difference between a townhouse and a condominium. Condo owners share in the expense of keeping up the common areas. Townhouses do not have this issue to worry about. When it comes to what you should know, this is one of them.
Condos come in many different architectural styles, including everything from a high-rise building, to a ranch, to something that looks like a traditional home. Townhomes, on the other hand, are usually designed in rows but not always.
Townhouses vs. Row Houses
Sometimes row houses and townhouses are used interchangeably as well. A row house is not technically the same. A rowhouse will line a street in a row, whereas townhouses can be grouped together or separated within a development. Rowhouses tend to be identical to one another, whereas a townhome could have more architectural differences.
Don’t plan on having a distinct look with a row house.
A row house is also considered a single-family house attached by common walls. However, even though they are considered a single-family dwelling, the shared wall characteristic differs from a traditional standalone single-family home.
These are important differences because if you are used to single-family homes and purchase a row house where adjacent units share walls, it could be tough getting used to. In addition, detached homes offer far more privacy than either townhouses or row houses.
Townhouse Ownership Location
Ownership tends to take place in suburban areas within subdivisions or neighborhoods that form a townhouse community. Townhome owners share the responsibility of making their community of buildings look great while also maintaining their own yard and driveway.
It is not uncommon for a townhouse to have a backyard area where a condo will be more limited.
Quite often, townhomes are second homes where there is less maintenance due to sharing in expenses of exterior building maintenance. They tend to be a great option for folks who don’t want to spend their time making improvements and repairs to their exterior. Unlike a traditional house, someone else will be in charge of maintenance.
Video: What is a Town House
Take a look at this short video that will provide more tips on understanding townhouses.
What are the Benefits of Living in a Townhouse?
Choosing a townhouse offers many advantages; let’s take a look:
Expenses Might Be Less With Townhouses
This type of housing takes up less room than your average or traditional family home. In addition, given that you share common walls and the footprint is typically smaller, townhouses usually cost less than single-family homes in the same area, even if they have similar square footage.
This allows you to buy closer to the city center without compromising on square footage. This can mean more value for money in the area you want to live in. The same holds true if you in suburban areas as well.
Townhouses Require Fewer Repairs Paid By Owners
The more compact size of a townhouse means less repair work. If the home is part of an HOA, you’ll have even less to worry about, with the association taking care of much of the exterior maintenance.
A significant attraction for those who end up buying townhouses is the lack of upkeep.
Outdoor Areas Are Smaller With Townhomes
There is often a small amount of yard space available with townhouses. This gives you some outdoor space without much maintenance required to keep it tidy. Almost always, you will not be required to mow your own lawn or plow your driveway. Instead, these tasks will be outsourced to other businesses.
Occasionally, the individual owner will be responsible for general maintenance items like the yard. This is usually done to lower costs and keep monthly fees down for townhouse unit owners.
Townhouses Ofter Offer Additional Amenities
Particularly in new developments, you are more likely to have community facilities that could include a swimming pool, tennis court, gym, or other similar perks.
Having tennis courts and pools is especially popular in warmer weather climates where they can be used all year round.
Additionally, there are often different established groups made up of the residents who participate in activities they enjoy.
Negatives of Living in a Townhouse
There are a few negatives that could put you off living in a townhome development; these include:
Since you are sharing walls with your neighbors, you are likely to hear more of them. You can expect this noise to be worse than if you’re in another type of single-family home, and you could get noise from both sides.
If you don’t want to hear your neighbor’s son playing drums at 11 p.m; at night, living in a townhouse may not be right for you.
A significant drawback of living in townhouses is a lack of control over what other people do and how they live.
Townhouses Have Multiple Floors
While this may not be an issue for many people, it could be a problem for some. For example, having your living space spread across a few different floors could create problems for people with mobility issues.
If this sounds like you, it would be wise to seek out an over 55 development with ranch-style condos.
Homeowners’ Associations Have Restrictions
If the home is subject to an HOA agreement, you might be restricted in the things you can do to the property.
As previously mentioned, it is vital to check out the established rules and regulations before purchasing a townhome. If you don’t want someone telling you that having a garden or planting flowers isn’t possible, research the rules first.
You will want to find out if the townhouse community will offer the right fit for you. Townhouses can be great choices, but much like condos can be terrible if you don’t like rules.
There are many horror stories of people living within townhouse communities where board members are completely unreasonable. In fact, some of them are on the board just for a power trip.
They actually get pleasure out of telling others what they can and cannot do. You could find yourself dealing with an unruly homeowners association. Having a condo board you don’t enjoy will be very unpleasant.
So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to purchasing this kind of home.
Townhouse Buying Tips
There are a few extra things to consider when buying a townhome. Let’s look at the issues:
Setting Your Budget
Before you begin to look for a suitable townhouse, you need to know how much you can afford to spend. While buying a townhouse could offer more value for money, it could still be relatively expensive as it will be closer to central locations.
You’ll have to factor in any HOA payments as well, along with normal home expenses. Make sure you understand what the condo fee covers.
Are there any upcoming special assessments that you need to be aware of? After purchasing, it will be troublesome to know that you’ll be on the hook for a big expense you didn’t expect.
On top of knowing what you want from the house, you also need to think about what amenities you want in the community areas. For example, is a swimming pool important, would you like a community center, or do you want increased security?
When viewing a home you like, it’s a good idea to listen out for noise being made by the next-door neighbors. Since you will be sharing walls with them, you want to know what you’re going to up against.
If you can talk with your potential neighbors, you can ask them about the community you are thinking of moving to. They might reveal some information about the HOA and other issues that are going on. This will give you a better understanding of the area and help you decide if this is the townhome for you.
Check Out Community Areas
If a home is part of an HOA and offers some community amenities, it is good to check them out first. Are they in good condition, and do they suit your needs?
Understand The Rulebook With Townhomes
Before you continue with the house purchase, you need to read through the HOA rules. Even if you like home, overly restrictive HOA rules could be a problem for some people.
Alternatively, they might not be strong enough. Check what you are allowed and prevented from doing to make sure it fits with what you want from a home.
Townhouses Might Not Make Sense if You’re Older
Even though you may have no problems tackling the stairs now, it may not be the case in the future. If you want to buy a house for the long-term, lots of stairs may not be ideal. When you are getting up there in age, one-floor living might be a better choice.
Comparing Townhouses to Condos and Apartments
There are some similarities between these housing types, with some big differences as well.
Normally condos are situated in larger buildings with many floors. There will probably be many condos in each of these large buildings, and they can be either rented or owned by the occupant. They generally offer less space than a townhouse, though.
Condos can be better for people who want the security of living in a managed building. In addition, it offers lower maintenance and can provide more chances to socialize with the neighbors. Townhouses are a form of condominium ownership, though.
Whenever you are buying into a development of townhouses, you should ask a series of questions beforehand. Make sure you get the answers you want before moving forward. As previously mentioned, condos are a form of ownership where you only own inside the interior walls.
This type of ownership is not right for everyone and may not be right for you. Therefore, a lot of research beforehand is always wise.Whether you are buying a condo or townhouse make sure you ask the real estate agent tons of questions.Click To Tweet
Apartments are different in that they are owned by a landlord, and everyone rents from them. In contrast, a townhome can be either rented or purchased outright. Apartments can offer an even lower cost of living, with better access to entertainment centers and restaurants.
You may decide that renting an apartment is a better choice after researching townhouses for sale. Apartment building life is certainly a lot different than most townhome communities. They are great choices for some and not so much for others.
These homes can be suitable for a wide range of people. If you are looking for more space than a condo provides and are on a more limited budget, this could be the best choice. They give you more room in a location that could otherwise be out of your reach and are, therefore, often attractive to first-time buyers. But, of course, after reading, you know this by now anyway.
It is far less common to see modular construction when it comes to townhouses. The vast majority of the time, townhomes are stick-built. Modular construction could become more popular at some point with townhouse construction, but at this point, it hasn’t.
The vast majority of the time, you will only see modular construction with detached homes.
Townhouses Near Me
You may be wondering the best way to find townhouses you could be interested in. Without a doubt, hooking up with a local real estate agent is essential. You will want a buyer’s agent that knows the market inside and out. They should be seasoned and have an understanding of the local inventory and neighborhoods.
If you are new to the area or are just starting your search, it could be worthwhile to try searching online. You can use townhouses near me or townhouses near me for sale to see some of the communities close to your location.
Final Thoughts on Townhouses
Before investing in a townhouse, it is vital to decide whether this kind of lifestyle will fit your needs. Unfortunately, a large percentage of buyers who have previously owned homes purchase townhomes and end up being disappointed. More often than not, it boils down to the feeling of being restricted.
While it is a great feeling being part of a community when things are run well, it can be a horror show when their not.
If you feel being the king of your castle is a must, owning a townhome might not be right for you. Hopefully, you have enjoyed this guide to town houses and have gotten something out of it.
About the author: The above Real Estate information about what is a townhouse was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ years.
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