Condo vs. Townhouse: What's the Difference and Which One Should You Buy?

By Lindsay Stefan

Posted on July 13th, 2022

Condo vs. Townhouse: Which Is Better? | What Is a Condominium? | What Is a Townhouse? | FAQs

Townhouses

If you’re looking to buy a condo or a townhouse, you need to know about some important distinctions between the two. These differences have big implications for your annual tax bill, what parts of your home you do or don’t own, what you are (or aren’t) allowed to do with your living space, and even basic questions like who cuts the grass.

Both townhouses and condos come with unique pros and cons, and it’s important to understand how they compare before you jump into ownership.

Condo vs. Townhouse: What's the Difference?


Condo
Townhouse
🔑 Ownership
Full ownership of the unit, but not the land. Shared ownership of the building.
Full ownership of the unit and the land it sits on.
🏡 Typical Structure
Apartment
Rowhouse
💸 Cost
High fees cover everything from maintenance of common areas to repairs to the building. But the unit costs less overall.
The overall cost is higher because you also purchase the land. Moderate fees cover basic services like trash pickup and snow removal.
👁 Privacy
Less private
More private

Ready to buy a townhouse or condo of your own? Our friends at Clever Real Estate can help!

Clever matches you with top-rated agents who know how to find the best condos and townhouses in your local market.

Best of all, buyers in 41 states and Washington D.C. can get 0.5% cash back after closing! That's $1,445 on a $289,000 condo purchase, just for finding your agent through Clever.

🙌 The Easiest Way to Get Cash Back After Closing!

Condo vs. Townhouse: Which Should You Choose?

The best choice between a condo and a townhouse is going to depend on your needs and your comfort zone.

👉 Condos require less maintenance responsibility and better perks. With a condo, you'll often gain access to amenities like gyms, green spaces, and social areas.

But condos have less privacy and less ownership since you only own your unit and a percentage of the building. Fees will also be a little higher than with a townhouse since you get more services and amenities.

👉 Townhouses offer more of a traditional ownership role. You'll own the unit and the land it sits on, and you will often be responsible for maintenance.

Townhouses usually share at least one wall with a neighbor, but since you own the entire townhouse, you’ll have more privacy than you would in a condo or apartment.

While your HOA will place some limits on what you can do with your property, shared costs and responsibilities will largely be restricted to services like security or trash and snow removal.

What Is a Condominium?

You own your condo unit, but not the land it sits on. You also share ownership of the building with the other owners, and that includes common areas like outdoor space, entryways, lobbies, gyms, and pools.

✅ Pros of Owning a Condo
❌ Cons of Owning a Condo
  • Ownership of the unit means you’re protected from rent increases
  • A condo is usually cheaper than a townhouse, since you’re not buying the land it sits on
  • Lower taxes than a fully detached single-family home
  • Condo owners are personally responsible for very little maintenance
  • A communal living experience that can be ideal for the right people
  • Less privacy than a townhouse or a fully detached home since you’re likely sharing walls with multiple neighbors
  • No ownership of land – only the unit
  • Condo association will have many rules about what you can and can’t do with your property
  • Condo fees are generally higher than townhouse fees since you own a percentage of the entire building, plus there are more shared spaces and amenities

Structure

A condo is a unit in a shared complex – think of it as an apartment that you own. Condos are a less private living arrangement since you usually share multiple walls with your neighbors.

Management

Condos are usually managed by a condo association, and each owner has a say in how the organization operates. They set rules on common areas, maintenance, and fees.

Cost

The cost to buy a condo is typically cheaper than a townhouse, but the fees are higher. Fees vary depending on a building’s age and size, as well as the condo association’s management philosophy.

Some associations like to maintain a large cash reserve to handle projects as they come up, while others will wait and charge condo owners a large one-time fee when something like a new roof or pool needs to be installed. For this reason, low monthly condo fees don’t always tell the whole story.

What Is a Townhouse?

If you own a townhouse, you own the building and the land it sits on – in that sense, it’s very much like owning a traditional single-family home. The main difference is that it shares walls with other townhouse residences.

✅ Pros of Owning a Townhouse
❌ Cons of Owning a Townhouse
  • Often more affordable than a freestanding single-family home
  • HOA fees cover services and amenities
  • Taxes are lower than on a similar detached home
  • More privacy than a condo
  • Usually larger than a condo
  • Townhomes have less privacy than fully detached homes because they share walls with neighboring townhomes
  • Shared common areas
  • HOA rules restrict what you can and can’t do with your property (i.e. exterior paint, fencing, and lights)
  • Responsible for much more maintenance than a condo owner

Structure

A townhouse is usually a narrow, multi-level residence that’s attached to other residences; there may also be a front or back yard, even if it's very small. Think of a classic East Coast rowhouse.

Management

A townhome usually belongs to a homeowner’s association (HOA) that collects fees to maintain shared areas and local services and amenities like trash pickup or snow removal. The HOA will also have rules governing your outdoor spaces if you have any, and perhaps even the exterior of your townhouse – however, you’ll likely be expected to maintain and repair your townhome yourself.

Cost

Townhomes often cost more than condos because you also buy the land you're living on. Because you're responsible for more of the maintenance duties, you'll have lower fees from your HOA.

The Bottom Line: Should You Buy a Condo or a Townhouse?

Townhouses are great for people who want more space and privacy, while condos are great for people who value convenience, ease, and a more communal lifestyle.

No matter which option you choose to buy, it helps to have a trusted, experienced real estate agent on your side. A good agent can advise you about long-term considerations, such as how your investment may appreciate over time and its potential resale value in the future.

👋 Next steps: Talk to an expert!
If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, our friends at Clever can help! Clever's licensed concierge team is available to answer your real estate questions, or help you find the right agent for your needs.

Condo vs. Townhouse FAQs

What's the Difference Between a Condo vs. Townhouse?

With a condo, you typically own a unit in a larger building, but not the land it's sitting on. You share ownership of the building and grounds with others in the condominium complex. Meanwhile, a townhouse also has shared walls, but you own both the property itself and the land it's on. Learn more about the differences.

Is a Condominium Cheaper than a Townhouse?

A condo is usually less expensive than a townhouse because you don't have to purchase the land it's on. Instead, you have shared ownership of the land and amenities. However, the homeowner association (HOA) fees with a condominium are often higher because they cover outdoor maintenance. Read more to weigh the pros and cons of buying a condo!

Interested in buying or selling?

We've improved the traditional real estate model with modern technology to cut costs, not quality.

Get started today

Posted in Buying a House