Choosing a home can be confusing, and complicated real estate jargon does not make things any easier. Two of the terms that create much of the uncertainty are “townhouse” and “condo.” Sometimes used interchangeably, the two styles do have some similarities. However, their unique distinctions could mean the difference between a home that fits your lifestyle completely or one that partially meets your requirements.
Before looking at the differences between a condo and a townhouse, it pays to understand that these definitions are not set in stone. Some townhouses will operate as condos, and there will be various exceptions to these rules and definitions. As a result of these vagaries, one must understand that the information that follows comes with a caution that the distinctions apply in most cases but not consistently.
What is a townhouse?
Sometimes referred to as a townhome, the townhouse is a cross between a single-family home and a condo. Usually two or three stories tall, townhouses share a wall with the property next to them. However, they have no units either above or below them. While townhouses have been popular with first-time homebuyers and young families, they may also be part of an age-restricted active adult community.
Townhouses are like traditional houses in that the purchaser owns the interior and exterior of the unit and the roof and land on which it sits. Residents are responsible for maintenance and insurance on the house and, in some cases, the land around it.
Many townhouses are also governed by a homeowners association (HOA) that takes care of trash removal, mulching, and snow plowing. HOAs might also regulate house color, roof type, decorations and even the mailbox style.
What is a condo?
A condo, or condominium, is a single-residential unit within a larger building similar to an apartment. Although condo layouts may vary, most structures will include several units on each floor, meaning you could have other units above, below or next to you.
Unlike an apartment, however, the residents own and maintain the interior of their unit. But, they do not own the property on which the building sits. The exterior, lawn, and shared spaces are usually owned by a condominium corporation and maintained by an HOA. The condo owners own the corporation, and it charges fees to cover general maintenance and major repairs.
The residents pay for their individual homeowners insurance, but the insurance for any common areas is included in the HOA dues.
What is the difference between a condo and a townhouse?
The primary difference between a townhouse and a condo revolves around ownership. This includes what you own, what you must maintain and what areas you must share with others. Here is what you should keep in mind:
Types of ownership
One of the key differences between a condo and a townhouse is the owner’s maintenance responsibility. Condo owners are responsible only for the maintenance of the inside of an individual unit. HOA dues typically cover the care of the building’s exterior, amenities, and common areas.
Townhouses have two types of ownership: fee-simple and condominium. Condominium ownership means the resident owns the inside of the townhouse, and HOA fees cover the home’s exterior and yards. With fee-simple ownership, the owner is responsible for maintaining the house and the front, back and side yards.
Another way condos and townhouses contrast is within the amenities and shared spaces that they offer. Amenities differ by community, but most condos have excellent amenities, such as pools and gyms, that all residents can share.
In the past, townhouses have had fewer amenities than condos, but many newly-built townhouse communities now have more. Many now include a clubhouse, playground, pool, or other amenities. Active-adult townhome communities have resort-style facilities consisting of tennis and basketball courts and a fully-equipped gym complete with personal trainers.
Owners of both condos and townhouses typically have less privacy than owners of a single-family home. Those concerned about having a private yard space or avoiding noisy neighbors will likely find that a townhouse is a better fit than a condo. Townhouses usually provide more privacy than condos since the neighbors are on either side but not above and below.
Homeowners association fees
Because they typically require less maintenance and have fewer amenities, townhouses will have lower HOA fees than condos. However, depending on the maintenance needed on the exterior and landscaping expenses, townhouse owners may end up paying more outside of the HOA fees.
Talk to us about condo or townhouse insurance
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