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Condo vs. Townhouse: What Are The Differences?

Last updated 03/15/2024 by

Jamela Adam

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When deciding between a condo vs. a townhouse for your next home, there are many factors to consider — from square footage and maintenance needs to HOA rules and amenities. By understanding the differences between these two types of properties, you’ll know whether you’d rather become a condo owner or a townhouse owner.
Deciding between a condo and a townhouse can be overwhelming when you’re on the hunt for a new place to call home. While they might be similar in some respects — such as sharing walls with neighbors and paying HOA fees — there are some key differences between them that could affect your decision.
Let’s take an in-depth look at condos and townhouses, what they are, as well as their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision when it comes time to buy your own property.

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What is a condo?

A condo, short for condominium, is a type of communal housing that’s often governed by a homeowners association. Unlike apartments — which are typically owned by a company — condos are privately owned, which means residents can typically customize the interior of their units without a landlord’s input.
Condominium on the beaach -- Beach condo
A row of colorful beach condominiums.
Condos are often located within a large building or complex but have separate living spaces. They provide an attractive option for those looking to purchase a home but don’t want to deal with traditional detached single-family homes’ high maintenance and upkeep costs. Plus, condominiums often have shared amenities, like fitness centers and pools, that buyers would normally have to pay for separately if they purchased a detached property.

What is a townhouse?

Townhouses are vertical multi-floor homes that share one or two walls with adjacent properties but have their own entrances. They’re usually easy to identify by their narrow design that stretches out along an entire city block. When you own a townhouse, you typically own the interior, exterior, and land that the home sits on.
Row of townhouses
The main appeal of owning a townhouse is having your own single-family home while enjoying community living. Townhouses often have shared amenities, such as playgrounds, and other common areas where residents can socialize and build connections. Because townhouses have smaller footprints and share exterior walls with neighboring homes, they’re generally cheaper than detached homes. This makes them attractive to those looking for an urban lifestyle without sacrificing affordability.

Condo vs. townhouse: Main differences

Though both condo and townhouse life can be comfortable for the right person, there are several differences to keep in mind.
  1. Cost and fees. Since condos are typically smaller than townhouses and don’t include land, they might be cheaper depending on the real estate market. However, condos tend to have higher monthly HOA fees due to the comprehensive amenities they offer.
  2. Property taxes. Since townhouse owners own both the interior and exterior of the property, townhouses will typically have higher property taxes than a condo.
  3. Communities and amenities. Condos are typically part of a larger community that shares common facilities like pools, gyms, and other recreational areas. Townhouses usually have their own private outdoor spaces such as yards or patios as well as smaller shared facilities like parking garages.
  4. Insurance. Your homeowner’s insurance might be more expensive if you purchase a townhouse instead of a condo since it’ll cover the inside and outside of your unit. On the other hand, condo insurance typically only covers the interior of the property.
  5. Homeowners association rules. Generally speaking, condos tend to have more restrictive and detailed HOA rules for residents, while a townhome community might offer more freedom. Be sure to review your desired community’s HOA rules before making a decision.
  6. Maintenance. Condos need very little day-to-day upkeep since there’s typically no private outdoor space for individual owners. On the other hand, since townhouses generally include outdoor living spaces like small yards, they may require more maintenance and attention than condos.

Pros and cons of condos

Consider the positive and negative aspects of owning a condo before taking the plunge so you know whether this move is right for you.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Affordability. Condo living is generally more affordable than single-family home living. This can be especially true in areas with higher housing prices, such as urban locations or coastal cities. According to a Zillow analysis of home data, a typical condo sold for $275,666 in May 2021, whereas a typical detached single-family home sold for $318,000.
  • More amenities. Many condos come equipped with amenities that aren’t always available in a single-family home setting. These include pools, fitness centers, saunas, co-working spaces, playgrounds, and community activities rooms.
  • Less maintenance. Travis French, the co-founder of the real estate company First and Sold, says: “Since you’re only responsible for the inside of a condominium unit, upkeep is much easier. Many condos can be locked and left without concerns, while a townhouse has a yard and landscaping to maintain.”
  • Increased security. Because multi-unit condo buildings tend to have stricter security measures than individual homes (such as a doorman or an electronic access system), condo owners tend to enjoy increased safety.
  • HOA fees. Homeowners’ association (HOA) fees can be costly and are often required for condos. These fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars annually, depending on your condo community.
  • Less privacy. Condos generally don’t offer as much privacy as detached houses since they share walls with neighboring units. If the walls are thin at your condo building, you may hear neighbors’ noise regularly, whether it’s their television playing, music, or conversations.
  • Following HOA rules. Living in a condo means you have to follow the rules imposed by the homeowners’ association. These rules might include restrictions on pet ownership, what kinds of renovations or decorations you can make to your unit, how many people are allowed to live in your condo, and more.

Pros and cons of townhouses

Like condos, there are pros and cons to owning townhouses. Let’s explore the perks and pitfalls of the townhouse lifestyle to help you make the right decision.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Balance between house and apartment. Living in a townhouse offers a great balance between the convenience and affordability of condo living and the freedom of owning a single-family home. Townhouses provide more space than condos, while still being cheaper and easier to maintain than traditional detached homes. They also offer access to amenities and recreational areas typically found in apartment complexes.
  • Own interior and exterior. This means you can make changes to both sides, such as adding shutters, changing windows, or updating the landscaping. And if you have a passion for gardening or designing outdoor spaces with furniture and décor, owning a townhouse gives you an opportunity to create an outdoor oasis of your own. Just be sure to check with your HOA before making any changes.
  • Access to amenities. Townhouse communities often have amenities that may not be available in individual homes, such as community swimming pools and playgrounds for children to enjoy year-round.
  • Farther from the city center. Because townhouses provide greater square footage and need more land space, they might be farther away from the action than condos.
  • More home maintenance. Owning more space means you have more maintenance responsibilities. Unlike condo owners who are only responsible for the interior of their unit, townhouse owners need to maintain their private attached outdoor spaces as well.
  • HOA rules and fees. Like condo owners, townhouse owners will still have to follow HOA rules. Though HOAs might not be as involved in townhouse communities as in condo communities, they can still limit the renovations you could make to the exterior of your property.

Pro Tip

Don’t forget to use a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly costs, such as principal and interest payments, taxes, and insurance. Having this estimate can help you determine if buying a condo or a townhouse is financially manageable with your budget. To compare the financing options you may have available, take a look at some of the mortgages below.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Why a condo is better than a house?

A condo isn’t necessarily better than a house. Though owning a condo comes with several perks such as less maintenance and upkeep, affordability, and more amenities, they also have some drawbacks.
For example, condo owners have less privacy and freedom than traditional homeowners, as Homeowners Associations may outline rules that residents need to follow. Ultimately, whether a condo or house is better will largely depend on your needs and desired lifestyle.

What is the difference between a townhouse and a townhome?

There’s no difference between a townhouse and a townhome. Townhouses and townhomes are interchangeable terms used to describe multilevel homes that share walls with adjacent homes on one or both sides.

Is it financially smart to buy a condo?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question since buying a condo is a personal decision that depends on many factors, such as your financial situation. Before buying a condo, be sure to carefully consider all of your options and research the local real estate market thoroughly.

What is the point of owning a condo?

Well, it depends. For some, perhaps it’s the luxury and convenience of having a private space to call home. And for others, owning a condo offers an investment opportunity with tangible wealth appreciation potential. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine what you want to achieve and how owning a condo can help you reach those goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Condos offer residents various advantages, from low maintenance costs to amenities like pools and gyms. But condos also have disadvantages — such as higher HOA fees and less privacy.
  • Townhouses offer a good balance between the convenience and affordability of living in a condo without sacrificing the freedom of single-family homes. However, they might be farther away from city centers and require additional upkeep for private outdoor spaces.
  • Cost and fees vary depending on the real estate market. Generally speaking, condos tend to be cheaper than townhouses. However, HOA fees for condos could be higher due to their more robust amenities.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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