What is the Difference Between a Condo and Townhouse

There is a definite difference between a condo and a townhouse. And while it's sometimes confusing to buyers, it's like comparing apples and oranges! Before we get into the differences, here are the definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary on both condos and townhouses:

Condo / Condominium - individual ownership of a unit in a multi-unit structure (such as an apartment building) or on land owned in common (such as a townhouse complex)

Townhouse - usually single-family house of two or sometimes three stories that are typically connected to a similar house by a common sidewall

A condo describes a type of property ownership while a townhouse is a style of building. A townhouse may or might not be a condo.

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There are merits for each, and we'll get to those in a bit. For now, here is what you need to know about the differences between a condo and a townhouse.

 

Difference Between a Condo and Townhouse

Condos

A condominium or condo is characterized by communal ownership of the common areas such as the swimming pool, walkways, tennis courts, etc. What a condo buyer owns in most cases is the interior of the structure of your building, but not the building itself. The actual structure of the building and the land it sits on is owned communally by every buyer of a condo unit in it.

The communal areas and the entire development is governed by regulations agreed on by the condo owners and managed by the HOA, ie, the Homeowners Association. While some associations are excellent, others according to some buyers end up being tyrannical thus discouraging investors from buying condos.

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Condo owners are usually expected to pay homeowner association fees on a monthly basis that go towards the maintenance of the common areas. The fees can range anywhere from $150 to $400 depending on the common areas that require maintenance.

The homeowner association fees cover maintenance such as landscaping, amenities etc. but repairs inside the unit belong to the condo owner. These include for example maintenance on appliances etc.

A condo can have neighbors above and below and is usually a community setting. That also means that a condo can be on any floor.

Condos can be governed by legal statuses established by both the administrations and also enshrined in the law.

Now let's look at townhouses.

Townhouses

As mentioned, a townhouse has more to do with the style or architecture of a building and not type of ownership.

Townhouses can be in a town setting and sometimes connected to adjacent units by a shared wall. However, each owner has clear ownership to his property. It's only the actual community that's shared.

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A townhouse is usually comprised of two floors (to save on space). The top stories may house the bedrooms and sleeping areas while the ground floor often contains the living room, kitchen, dining room, etc.

Townhouses may have a small yard either in the front or the backyard where owners can keep a small garden.

Community amenities for townhouses tend to be rare but not entirely unheard of.

Townhouse owners can also expect to pay HOA fees. However, these tend to be lower than the fees for condos since they are fewer common areas that require maintenance and each townhouse owner is responsible for the repairs in their properties.

The final feature of a townhouse is that it may be both rented or purchased outright.

 

Quick Recap

Check out this info-graphic on the difference between a condo and a townhouse.

Also, check out this simple comparison between condos and townhouses.

As an investment, both condos and townhouses have their pros and cons. As with any real estate investment, a lot depends on your long-term goals in buying the property. The location also factors into your decision.

Check out some top reasons why millennials may prefer condos to others property types.
Regarding privacy, townhouses may offer more privacy than condos since they are no people living above and below.

However, when it comes to security, condos may be more secure since they share security features including guards and manned video surveillance.

 

Final Thoughts

Whichever property type you decide to invest in, do your due diligence. While some investors may shun condos due to their perceived lack of privacy and high HOA fees, sometimes they can make great investments. Consider the location, amenities, utilities, the community as well as any fees before making your choice.

Simon Elstad