Condo building

Buying property is a major decision. In this post, we compare condos, townhouses, and traditional houses to give you an idea of which might be right for you.

An Overview of Each Ownership Option

Before directly comparing each option against each other, let’s take a quick look at the advantages of each option on its own.

Pros & Cons of Owning a House

Exterior of a traditional, single-family house

This is the traditional, detached, single-family house. Owning a house is likely the first thing that comes to mind when people think about home ownership.

Pros

  • Privacy
  • Most space
  • Plenty of outdoor space
  • Ability to customize
  • Convenient for pets
  • Garage availability

Cons

  • Cost of home maintenance and unpredictable repairs
  • Yard work and snow removal costs
  • Higher purchase cost
  • Certain neighborhoods will have HOA fees
  • Fewer amenities

Pros & Cons of Owning a Townhouse

Townhomes

When referring to townhomes, we mean a small house that’s attached to other small houses in a multi-family complex. Townhomes are the middle ground between a house and a condo.

Pros

  • Affordability for amount of space
  • Plenty of space
  • Yard work and snow removal is often handled by HOA
  • Attached garage

Cons

  • Some HOA fees
  • Less privacy with shared walls
  • Costs of home ownership, including maintenance and repairs

Pros & Cons of Owning a Condo

Exterior of a condominium complex

When discussing condos, we’re referring to units within a condominium complex. Condos provide a hands-off, low-maintenance style of living in more urban settings.

Pros

  • Available in prime downtown locations
  • Maintenance and repairs often covered
  • No yard work or snow removal
  • Convenient amenities, such as a pool and gym
  • Affordability in comparable locations
  • Sense of community

Cons

  • Higher HOA fees
  • HOA rules and restrictions
  • Lack of privacy
  • Lack of ownership of outdoor space
  • Possibility of high parking costs
  • May require extensive application process

Buying a House, Townhouse, or Condo

So which is right for you? We compare factors like price and resale value, privacy, lifestyle considerations, and more to give you an idea of which best fits your needs.

House vs. Townhouse

Single-family homes and townhouses have a lot in common. They also have some important differences that you should be aware of.

Space

Single-family homes are typically going to have more space than townhomes. According to AEI, new houses built in 2015 rose to an all-time high for average square footage at 2,687 square feet. Another benefit of a house? There are more options as far as floor plans and layout.

Townhomes still provide plenty of space, though. According to Design Basics, the average floor plan for a multi-family townhome is between 1,300 and 1,500 square feet per unit.

Privacy

When it comes to privacy, single-family houses have the edge. As a detached structure, these houses don’t share walls with neighbors, and there’s more space between homes. Though townhouse living isn’t as loud as apartment or condo living, it still means sharing walls with at least one neighbor.

Location

Houses are most likely to be found outside of urban centers. If living in or near a downtown area is something you value, and you need a decent amount of space, this is an area where townhomes can provide an advantage. Townhomes can be found in most of the areas where traditional single family homes are found, but are also commonly found closer to or in downtown areas.

Maintenance

Houses and townhomes are somewhat similar in this regard. Owners will be responsible for maintaining the home and handling repairs, which means owners have to account for the associated costs. Where townhomes do differ a little is yard upkeep. Yard maintenance and snow removal will often be covered by the HOA and is paid for in your monthly fees.

Lifestyle

Single family houses and townhouses will often accommodate similar lifestyles. The similarities of ample space and often suburban locations make them popular for families. Townhouses do provide a bit more of a hands-off approach than traditional homes, so this might be seen as an advantage by young professionals if located near a downtown area or empty nesters looking to downsize.

Price & Resale Value

According to Zillow, co-ops (which includes townhomes) and condos have risen in value by 3.3% over the last ten years, but have seen a significant increase over the last year rising in value by 6.24%. Houses have experienced more growth in value over the last ten years at 9.1% and are just slightly behind co-ops over the last year at 6%.

House vs. Condo

These options are the most different from one another. Houses provide more space and overall freedom, but they also come with more responsibility. Condos offer housing in prime locations, as well as a hands-off style of ownership that many love.

Space

Houses typically provide more space than condos. New houses average around 2,687 square feet. Compare this to condos, which average around 1,200 square feet, and a house is the obvious winner if having more space matters.

Privacy

In regard to privacy, nothing beats a traditional house. If avoiding sharing walls with multiple neighbors is something you care about, a house is the best choice.

Condo living is similar to apartment living. This includes having neighbors that you share walls, floors, and ceilings with. This will be seen as an obvious negative by many. But for some, this setup is ideal because it naturally allows them to interact with their neighbors more frequently. Many condos also have community spaces where residents regularly interact.

Location

Houses are often associated with being located outside of the urban center of a market, whether that’s just outside of a downtown area, in the suburbs, or in rural areas.

Condos are associated with being in or around urban centers. For those who prefer to be near work and/or their friends in downtown areas and are ready to own instead of rent, condos are the ideal option.

Maintenance

This is another major difference between houses and condos. Homeowners are on their own. They’re responsible for home maintenance and repairs, maintaining the yard, taking care of shoveling snow from the driveway and sidewalks, and whatever else that needs to be handled. This costs homeowners time, effort, and money.

This is one of the biggest draws for condos. There’s no yard work, no shoveling snow, and condo owners don’t have to worry about any exterior repairs. Of course, condo owners do pay for this in their HOA fees, but it’s well worth it for those who prefer not to invest so much time into their homes.

Lifestyle

Houses and condos accommodate very different lifestyles. Houses are ideal for families and those who enjoy spending more time at home. With more space available, including the potential of a basement or detached garage, houses are also great for those who pursue hobbies like woodworking, crafting, and gardening.

Condos are perfect for those who prefer a more flexible lifestyle. With little to no maintenance or upkeep and availability in prime locations, condos allow owners to keep their time open and have the freedom to easily go out, walk to many of their favorite places, meet up with friends, and more. This makes them a popular option for young professionals.

Price & Resale Value

Over the last ten years, single-family homes have risen in value by 9.1% according to Zillow. During that same time, condos and co-ops have risen in value by 3.3%. In just the last year, both have risen considerably with houses rising in value by 6% and condos rising slightly faster at 6.24%.

Condo vs. Townhouse

Condos and townhouses provide many of the same benefits. They both offer a more hands-off approach to home ownership than traditional single-family residences, and they’re more likely to be available in or near downtown areas. With that in mind, there are important differences to consider.

Space


Generally, townhouses are going to provide more space than condos. According to Design Basics’ data, the average townhouse floor plan is between 1,300 and 1,500 square feet. Condos average 1,200 square feet by comparison.

Privacy

Condos and townhouses both sacrifice privacy in comparison to houses. In a townhome, you’re far more likely to share walls with just one neighbor. Different condos offer different levels of privacy. Some condos very closely resemble a townhouse setup, while others resemble the privacy of apartment living where you could have neighbors sharing walls on both sides of your unit, as well as above and below.

Location

If you’re looking to live in a downtown, urban, or other high-density area, condos are going to be the most available option and will likely have the lowest purchase price of any ownership option in those areas. You might be able to find townhomes in or near downtown, but they’ll be far more limited and incredibly expensive compared to condos. If you’re looking to live in a more suburban setting, townhomes will be far more common and much more affordable in those locations.

Maintenance

Condos are king when it comes to low-maintenance living. Usually, you’re only responsible for anything that falls within your four walls. Some HOAs may even go as far as replacing lightbulbs for you.

Maintenance for townhomes depends on whether yours has an HOA. If it does, your responsibilities will be similar to that of a condo. Yard maintenance, snow removal, and the exterior of the townhouse will be covered by the HOA. If it doesn’t, you’ll be handling those things yourself.

Lifestyle

Townhouses can be a great fit for different lifestyles. They make sense for families looking for a more affordable option than a traditional house, are a great option for empty nesters looking to downsize and spend less time maintaining their house, and can be appealing to those looking for more space near the city.

Condos are going to be most popular for those looking to live where the action is. Condos are typically associated with prime downtown locations and require the least maintenance, making them perfect for those who want to remain flexible and keep their free time available.

Price & Resale Value

Zillow groups townhouse and condo prices together, so we’re unable to differentiate here. That said, condos and co-ops have experienced an average increase of 3.3% in value over the last ten years, but have seen a recent boost. In 2017, townhouses and condos averaged a 6.24% increase in value, slightly outpacing houses.

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