Row of condo buildings.

Condo Vs. Townhouse: How Are They Different?

6-Minute Read
Published on April 6, 2021
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If you’re in the market for a new home, you have a lot of considerations to ponder and weigh. One is the type of housing you’re interested in.

These days, home buyers are increasingly forgoing the detached, single-family home in favor of the more community-minded style of living that condos and townhouses provide.

To determine whether a condo or townhouse is right for you, consider how much you’re prepared to spend, the type of lifestyle you’re interested in leading and how much responsibility you’re willing to take on. Neither option has a clear advantage over the other, so it’s best to get to know the ins and outs of condominiums versus townhouses before settling on your perfect home.

What’s The Difference Between A Condo And A Townhouse?

Townhouses and condos are options for homeownership, meaning you won’t have to pay rent to a landlord. However, owning a condo and owning a townhouse offer completely different homeowner experiences with regard to what you’ll own, how much you’ll pay and which parts of the property you’ll have to maintain. Generally speaking, condominium owners have an individual unit within a larger complex. Townhouse owners, alternatively, may share a wall with their neighbors, but they also own the structure of the home itself and the property’s surrounding land.

To better understand the distinctions between townhomes and condos, let’s further dissect these types of homes.

What Is A Condo?

When you hear the word “condo,” just think of apartment-style living. You own the space within the walls of your apartment but nothing outside of them. Everything outside of your unit – including the building’s exterior, common areas and land – is owned by a separate entity but enjoyed by the community.

Of course, not all condos are apartments. Some condos are houses within larger residential complexes. Regardless of the unit type, the principle is the same: You own and have exclusive rights to your unit but nothing around it.

What Is A Townhouse?

More so than condos, townhouses are similar to traditional houses in that they’re multilevel and usually have a front yard and a backyard. However, townhouses aren’t detached properties. They’re typically part of a row of narrower homes that are attached to one another through one or two walls.

After purchasing a townhouse, you own the interior and exterior of the home as well as the property it sits on. As a result, you as the homeowner are responsible for all the property upkeep, both inside and outside.

What To Expect When Buying A Condo Or Townhouse

Keeping the definition of both a condo and a townhouse in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important factors to think about when deciding between a condo and a townhouse.

Homeowners Associations

If condo owners are only responsible for the space they own, who’s in charge of maintaining the hallways, elevators and land outside of the unit? Every condo has a homeowners association (HOA) that manages and cares for the property. In exchange for the work the HOA does to ensure the property is maintained, each condo owner must pay the HOA a regular fee and follow the rules set by the association.

Even though townhomes are privately owned properties, they’re still often part of a larger community that has a homeowners association. While HOAs aren’t responsible for the maintenance of the individual townhouses, they oversee the preservation of the community as a whole. As a result, they charge owners a fee for services like snow and trash removal. Some HOAs also have a set of guidelines that homeowners must follow to protect the look and feel of the neighborhood. A townhouse classified as a condo can be even more restrictive.

Costs And Fees

When deciding whether you want to buy a condo or townhouse, price will likely be a factor. Both options are typically more affordable than detached houses due to their community-centered living arrangements, but condos and townhouses differ in cost.

Condominiums tend to be cheaper because ownership is reserved for the interior of the unit. Condo owners also tend to spend less on property taxes and insurance because they have less square footage and owners don’t have to pay taxes or insurance on the rest of the building or complex.

Although the purchase price and property taxes are usually more expensive for townhouses, the HOA fees are often lower. Because townhouse owners maintain their properties, fewer communal expenses are required.

On the other hand, condo owners have to chip in to pay for all improvements and repairs deemed necessary to preserve or enhance the entire property that their unit is in. Plus, condominiums often offer owners additional amenities funded by the common charges that owners pay monthly.

Community And Amenities

Condo and townhouse dwellers benefit from the community that this style of living provides. Although these housing options are more communal than detached houses, condominium and townhome owners experience different lifestyles.

While condos tend to be smaller and lack private outdoor space, they offer homeowners unparalleled convenience especially suited for urban areas. Many home buyers choose condos because of the wealth of amenities they offer, including doormen/security, fitness centers, swimming pools, event spaces, playrooms and high-rise rooftop decks. Some condos even go all-out, enticing future home buyers with screening rooms, bowling alleys and rock-climbing walls. These features, as well as the condominium boards that regulate HOAs, create great opportunities for residents to get to know and bond with their neighbors.

Townhouses provide owners with a more single-family home lifestyle that includes increased space inside and outside the home. For example, you’ll find yards to play in and neighbors to socialize with. While having neighbors close by is rewarding, townhouses present owners with far more privacy than condos. But the tradeoff for privacy is a lack of shared amenities and more responsibilities.

Responsibilities, Rules And Regulations

Homeownership comes with a slew of obligations, but condo owners dodge most of them and are merely responsible for the upkeep of their own unit. The condominium’s HOA handles everything else. So, if the roof leaks, the HOA replaces it. If a plumbing issue emerges, the HOA arranges for someone to fix it.

Although the burdens of condo ownership are minimal, owners must abide by the HOA rules commonly known as Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions. Meant to ensure that condo owners are equally content in their coexistence, these regulations may deal with noise levels and the appropriate use of units. Because the value of each unit directly impacts the value of the entire property, you’ll also find guidelines on the type of remodeling that condo owners can undertake.

For townhouse owners, the responsibilities align with detached homes. It’s up to the owner to maintain every aspect of their home and the plot of land it sits on. While HOAs may arrange to have snow plowed or garbage picked up, each resident is responsible for meeting certain aesthetic standards pertaining to their property.

The HOA may have rules about how often owners must mow their lawn, maintain landscaping or paint their property’s exterior. HOAs may dictate the kind of fences that residents can install or the color of paint they can use. Regardless of how absurd these rules may seem, townhouse owners are responsible for following them.

Resale Value And Financing

If you’re thinking about purchasing a condo or townhouse, you’ll want to know that your property will hold its value when it’s time to sell. But is one type of property more valuable than another?

The extent to which you care for and upgrade your home will be a crucial factor in determining its resale  value. If you buy a townhouse, you’ll be completely responsible for putting in the work necessary to retain its value. But if you buy a condo, you’ll only be responsible for maintaining your unit.

However, if purchasing a condo, you’ll also want to make sure it’s in a reputable building that’s updated and well-maintained. If buyers are turned off by the state of the building, it won’t matter how well you’ve cared for your individual home.

Beyond the condition of the building, you should be aware that it could be difficult to secure condominium financing – impacting the ultimate resale value of your home as well.

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Townhouse Vs. Condo FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions about condos and townhouses.

How are condominiums and townhouses similar?

Although condos and townhouses have numerous differences, they are similar in that they both are often connected to a homeowners association that requires residents to pay a recurring HOA fee. Also, both condos and townhouses typically come at a lower purchase price than a more traditional house.

Is a townhouse or condo a better investment?

When buying a home, you should always first consider what’s best for you and your financial situation. Condos and townhouses both have pros and cons, so speaking with a real estate agent can help you figure out your most favorable option and navigate the home buying process.

Which is cheaper, a condo or a townhouse?

A condo tends to have a cheaper listing price than a townhouse because no land is attached. However, make sure you’re aware of other property-related costs like HOA fees.

The Bottom Line

When determining whether a condo or townhouse is best for your situation, the correct decision will depend on your priorities. Are you looking for affordability, convenience or privacy?

Condos may be the perfect option for first-time home buyers who are looking for convenience but aren’t yet ready for the responsibilities of homeownership. But townhouses have a lot to offer growing families for whom outdoor space and the safe environment fostered by a close-knit community may be more important.

If you’ve found the home that’s right for you and just need financing to make it yours, you can get started online today.

See What You Qualify For

You can get a real, customizable mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation.

Get Started
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Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.