Deciding between a condo and a townhouse but not sure where to start? You’re not alone!

Most people could not tell you the difference between the two.

I didn’t know the differences between a townhouse and a condo until I became a real estate agent, and I often used the terms interchangeably.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about condos and townhouses, from costs to amenities, and answer common questions to help you decide.

Key Takeaways
  • Ownership Type and Duration: Condos suit short-term living with lower costs as you only own the interior; townhouses are better for long-term investment and various financing options. You own the interior and exterior of the space.
  • Budget: Condos have lower upfront costs but higher HOA fees; townhouses have higher purchase prices but lower monthly fees.
  • Maintenance: Condos offer HOA-managed upkeep; townhouse owners handle their maintenance, providing more control.
  • Amenities: Condos include shared amenities like gyms and pools; townhouses offer more private spaces like yards and garages.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I can earn commissions. If you decide to purchase through my links, it is at no cost to you.

What are the differences between a townhouse and a condo?

The answer to this question boils down to a few key points:

differences between townhouse and condo 1

What is a Condo?

  • Only own and maintain the interior of the unit.
  • A privately owned unit within a building or community.
  • Shared ownership of common areas such as lobbies, gyms, and pools.
  • Typically found in multi-story buildings.
  • Offers a low-maintenance lifestyle with various amenities.
  • Fewer financing options for purchase

What is a Townhouse?

  • A multi-story home that shares one or more walls with adjacent properties.
  • Complete interior and exterior ownership, including the land it sits on.
  • Often includes a small yard or patio.
  • It provides a layout similar to single-family homes, offering more space and privacy.
  • It is considered an attached single-family residence.

1. Structure and Layout of Condo and Townhouse

When it comes to structure and layout, condos and townhouses have distinct differences:

Building Type– Multi-story buildings– Typically, two or more stories
Neighbors– Neighbors above and below– Share one or two walls with neighboring units
Outdoor Space– Often feature shared hallways and common areas, may have outdoor space– May have a small yard or patio
Layout– Typically found in multi-story buildings– Resemble single-family homes in layout
Real estate. Historic city tenement houses. European city street. Residential district.

2. Amenities and Common Areas

Condos and townhouses offer different amenities and common areas, catering to varied lifestyles and preferences.

Amenities– Shared amenities like gyms, pools, lobbies, and elevators– May have fewer shared amenities
Common Areas– Maintenance of common areas covered by HOA fees– Possible shared spaces include community gardens, parks, or playgrounds
Maintenance– HOA responsible for exterior maintenance and common areas– Maintenance of exterior and land typically the owner’s responsibility

3. HOA Fees and Responsibilities

Both condos and townhouses usually have homeowners association (HOA) fees, but they differ in amount and what they cover.

HOA Fees– Higher HOA fees due to extensive shared amenities– Lower HOA fees
Responsibilities– HOA responsible for exterior maintenance and common areas– Owners are responsible for their unit’s exterior maintenance
Coverage– Covers amenities like gyms, pools, lobbies, and exterior maintenance– Typically covers common area maintenance and sometimes shared amenities
Brown Wooden Ladder Beside Painting Materials
Photo by Blue Bird

4. Privacy and Space

Condos and townhouses offer different levels of privacy and space, which can significantly impact your living experience.

Privacy– Less privacy due to shared walls and common areas– More privacy with fewer shared walls
Outdoor Space– Limited outdoor space, usually just a balcony– Often includes a small yard or patio
Living Space– Typically smaller living space– Generally larger living space, resembling single-family homes

5. Cost and Investment Potential

The cost and investment potential of condos and townhouses can vary significantly.

Purchase Price– Often less expensive than townhouses– Typically more expensive than condos
HOA Fees– Higher due to extensive shared amenities– Lower due to fewer shared amenities
Appreciation Potential– Depends on building management and location– Higher appreciation potential due to more land ownership
Maintenance Costs– Lower personal maintenance costs, covered by HOA– Higher personal maintenance costs, owner responsible for exterior

6. Lifestyle Considerations

Your lifestyle preferences play a significant role in deciding between a condo and a townhouse. Here’s a comparison to help you determine which option suits your lifestyle better:

Maintenance– Ideal for those who prefer low-maintenance living– Suitable for those willing to handle more maintenance
Location– Often located in urban areas with easy access to amenities– Typically found in suburban areas, offering more space and privacy
Community– Provides a sense of community with shared amenities– Offers more privacy but still part of a community with shared spaces
Space– Limited living and outdoor space– More living and outdoor space, suitable for families
Flexibility– Better for individuals who want to live in areas with extensive amenities– Better for those seeking a balance between space and community living
African American woman writing in diary on meadow
Photo by Zen Chung

Choosing between a Condo and a Townhouse

Here are some key factors to help you decide between a condo and a townhouse:

Ownership Length– Suitable for shorter-term living due to lower purchase price and maintenance convenience.– Better for long-term ownership and investment due to various financing options.
Budget– You may have a higher purchase price but often lower monthly fees.– Owners are responsible for interior and exterior maintenance, providing more control and responsibilities.
Maintenance Preferences– Often come with shared amenities like gyms, pools, and common spaces maintained by the HOA.– Low maintenance as the HOA covers exterior upkeep and common areas.
Desired Amenities– Often come with shared amenities like gyms, pools, and common spaces, maintained by the HOA.– May have fewer shared amenities but offer more private space, including yards and garages

Is Buying a Condo or a Townhouse a Better Investment? 4 Considerations

Deciding whether to invest in a condo or a townhouse depends on several factors, including your budget, maintenance responsibilities, and the purpose of the investment.

Here’s how you can determine which option might be better for you:

1. The Amount You Have to Spend

Condos are usually cheaper upfront, making them more accessible with a limited budget.

However, remember that condos often come with higher HOA fees, which can add to your monthly expenses.

2. Who Handles the Maintenance

The landlord or HOA typically handles exterior maintenance and common areas with condos, offering a low-maintenance living option.

Townhouse owners are responsible for their unit’s exterior maintenance, which can mean more work and costs.

3. Purpose of the Investment

If you’re looking for a short-term rental property, a condo might be a better choice. Condos attract tenants who want convenience and amenities. Think of the rental you see near tourist areas.

A townhouse could be more suitable for a long-term investment since it appeals to families and individuals seeking more space and privacy, potentially leading to longer tenancy durations.

4. Resale Challenges of Condos

Condos can appreciate, but they may face some unique challenges when it comes to reselling:

  1. Association fees: High condo association fees can deter potential buyers, as they add to the monthly housing costs.
  2. Investor saturation: Some condo buildings may have a high percentage of investor-owned units, making it harder for individual owners to sell their properties.
  3. Financing restrictions: Some lenders have stricter requirements for condo mortgages, which can limit the pool of potential buyers.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a condo and a townhouse depends on your lifestyle, budget, and long-term investment goals.

The problem is the differences between a townhouse and a condo are not always clear. The short version is: Condos offer low-maintenance living with shared amenities, while townhouses provide more space, appreciation, and privacy.

Both options are considered alternatives to traditional housing and offer a more affordable way of living.

The question is, “Which is right for your next purchase?”

Frequently Asked Questions

Do townhomes have HOA fees?

Yes, townhomes typically have HOA fees that cover common area maintenance and shared amenities, though they are usually lower than condo HOA fees.

Are townhouses connected?

Townhouses are often connected in a row with shared walls between units.

Do condos have garages?

Some condos have garages, but it depends on the building. Others may offer parking lots or underground parking instead.

In what way is a townhouse similar to a condominium?

A townhouse and a condominium are similar in shared amenities and common areas, such as swimming pools or fitness centers. Both typically have homeowners’ associations (HOAs) that govern the rules and regulations of the community.

How do you tell if a property is a condo or townhouse?

Sometimes you can’t tell. There are instances where townhouses are switched over to townhouses or vice versa. It is less about appearances and more on ownership and maintenance.

  • Erin Hybart

    Meet Erin, a real estate enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge and an insatiable curiosity for all things Real Estate and living with intention. She passionately advocates for alternative, affordable, and eco-friendly housing solutions. She believes in pushing the industry's innovation boundaries and thinking outside the box. As a licensed real estate agent in Louisiana, Erin dedicates herself to assisting clients in buying and selling properties and mentoring fellow agents to succeed in their own Real Estate businesses. In addition to her professional pursuits, Erin channels her expertise into captivating house-flipping adventures.

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