What IS the Difference Between A Condo And A Townhouse?

Whenever you’re in the market for a new home, seeing all of these different words can be confusing. Did you think a condo was just an apartment? Are you confused by duplexes and townhouses? Well, you’re not alone. 

The names of different types of houses and housing units can be confusing. The easiest way to make things clear is to break down each one and compare the differences. This way, you always know what you’re getting. 

What Is A Condo?

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Image from Standale Home Studio

A condo, or condominium, is a building that has many different living areas in it. Each area has its own entrance, even if to a hallway, and its own amenities, such as bathroom and kitchen. It is very similar to an apartment.

The difference is that in a condo, you own the area that you live in. While you can rent a condo, in most cases, you will buy it instead. When you do rent a condo, you’re renting the area that one person owns rather than renting from the building owner. 

Condos aren’t owned by one person, they are owned by the community. They are owned by the tenants collectively. While one person may have purchased it to begin with, contracts ensure equal rights within the community. 

What Is A Townhouse?

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Image from Amanda Kirkpatrick Photography

A townhouse is simply a house that is sandwiched by two other houses. There may be a backyard, but there is no access to the exterior sides of the house. The house on Full House is a townhouse if that helps.

A townhouse can be rented or owned and can even be turned into a duplex. It is simply a style of house instead of a type of housing. However, townhouses and condos can look very similar upon first glancing at them. 

But townhouses always have two walls covered by other buildings. Whereas condos aren’t about what they look like but rather how they are used. Condos are like apartments while townhouses aren’t associated with apartments. 

What Is An Apartment?

Image from Studio DuBois

An apartment is a lot like a condo. Each family has its own living space that isn’t accessible to anyone but them. However, the building is owned by a landlord to who you pay rent to. You can’t normally buy your own apartment. 

In a condo, there are different rules as you do own the area you live in, just not the land. The rules are usually just city or district codes. In an apartment, you follow the rules that are set by the landowner. 

You have very little say, but also very little responsibility with an apartment. You follow the rules, take care of your own unit, and do things very similar to the way they are done in dorms for college kids. 

Major Differences Between A Condo And A Townhouse

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Image from Eric Safyan / Architect PC

Now that we’ve got the simple differences and definitions explained, let’s take a look at the more technical differences. Instead of looking at the pros and cons, let’s take a look at the facts so you can decide for yourself. 

Keep in mind that what is right for you may not be right for someone else, and vice versa. Taking advice from friends is great but a condo may be perfect for them while a townhouse is more your style. Helping you find the answer is our purpose here. 

Who Owns What?

When it comes to a condo, you have full ownership of the unit you live in yet share joint ownership of the building. The joint ownership is shared with the other tenants rather than a landlord. But the ownership doesn’t end with the building.

You also own part of the gym, pool, and any other amenities involved. You even own part of the hallway, yard, and airspace. This is your property, similar to the way that a married couple may share a property. 

When it comes to townhouse ownership though, it is usually just one family involved. Whoever bought the townhouse owns it. The ownership works just like any other type of home, you even own the small piece of land it sits on. 

When Is the HOA Involved? 

HOA, the homeowners’ association, will become an everyday name if you live in a condo. Both of these options have an HOA. The rules of the condo and townhouse are often set by the HOA. But the terms are different.

In a condo, the people of the HOA own part of the building. They take care of the common areas and maintenance. They can collect fees among other things. In a way, the HOA is more strict in a condo.

In a townhouse, there is a line. You own the property. There may be an HOA that makes rules since the walls of your home are attached to other homes but they don’t have as much power. In any case, you can join the HOA.

How Much Does Each Cost?

Cost is always a factor, whether you’re building a house or buying. Both condos and townhouses are cheaper than houses set on land that is detached. But when it comes to a condo vs. a townhouse, there is a smaller difference.

A condo is usually a bit cheaper because you don’t have to buy any land. Property payments are shared with the other tenants and distributed by HOA. Townhouses on the other hand are handled by you, the homeowner. 

Contact a realtor to find out the range of condos and townhouses in your area. They can give you an accurate range of what you are looking for to help you compare the two in your town. 

What Are Your Responsibilities? 

Image from WSD Homes

This is a big question that is asked often. Do you have more responsibilities with a condo or townhouse? The other end of this is that people believe that more responsibility also means more freedom.

When it comes to condos, you are responsible for paying your monthly house payment. HOA can help you through things step-by-step, which can help a lot. But with a townhouse, you’re responsible for everything.

Each way has its own pros and cons. After all, having someone else clean your pool and make sure payments are made is great. But on the other hand, that pool is shared with other people and you have more restrictions. 

What About The Community?

Even with HOA involved, you’ll have more community living in a condo. On that same note, you’ll have more privacy in a townhouse. Each of these has a list of pros and cons and really depends on the family.

If you have children with who you want to interact with other children safely, a condo may be great because you can keep it local. However, forced interaction may happen with a condo which isn’t great if you value privacy above the community. 

So this comes down to whether a good community that you can trust is more important or having your own privacy is more important. These are the two actors to consider when choosing between a townhouse and a condo. 

Where Can I Have A Yard?

If having your own yard is important, then don’t even consider a condo. You can have a courtyard but it will be shared with other tenants. If you choose a condo, you won’t have any personal outdoor space.

When it comes to townhouses, you can have your own backyard and occasionally a small front yard. You may have to follow rules but they shouldn’t be too strict. 

Which Is The Better Investment? 

If you’re thinking about the long run, then you are thinking about which type of housing is the better investment. This really depends on the area you live in, how the economy in the area is going, and a million other things.

In general, you won’t lose money on a condo. However, it’s also not as big of an investment. A townhouse may be riskier but since you have more freedom, you’ll be able to affect the resale value personally. 

This can be scary to those with no experience with houses, but it can be a dream for those who want to make it big. you can even flip a townhouse if the HOA allows it, which they usually do. This just isn’t possible with a condo. 

But if you don’t have the money to lose, then a condo is a safer investment. Much like an apartment, you won’t be losing anything if you decide to move out. In fact, another tenant will probably have someone in mind to buy the unit right away. 

So Which Is Right For You?

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Image from Page Ayres Cowley Architects, LLC

If you still don’t know whether you should get a condo or a townhouse, don’t worry. This isn’t a decision that can be made overnight. It is important to weigh the pros and cons on a personal level to find what works for you.

It is also nearly necessary to talk to a realtor you can trust. Find out what the perks of each are in your particular area and if they are even both available. There are some areas without condos and some without townhouses.

If there is only one type available then your decision has already been made for you. Just don’t rule out other options, like apartments, or affordable detached houses. You’d be surprised what a good realtor can find for you.