You have a lot of decisions to make when buying a home. But to start, you must decide which type of home you want to buy — this is often a question of townhouse vs house. To help you gain a clearer picture of which type of home may be right for you, here are a few factors to consider.
The main differences between a townhouse and a house is the layout and square-footage. In terms of size, townhouse vs house is no comparison. A townhome is typically much smaller than a house. Townhouses are also much narrower, feature multiple stories, and are attached to other townhomes on the street, sharing exterior walls. It’s not uncommon to see an entire row of townhomes attached to one another on a single block.
Generally, townhouses also come with a small patio, front yard, or backyard. As a townhouse owner you would own the townhome as well as the exterior facade and the land it sits on, including the front and back yards (a major benefit to the townhouse vs house debate). However, townhomes are also governed by a homeowner’s association. You would be expected to pay HOA fees and would need HOA approval for certain home renovations or remodels (a major drawback to townhouses in the townhouse vs house debate).
Your HOA fees cover any maintenance or upkeep of the complexes and any amenities the townhome community offers. Depending on the townhome community, you could enjoy shared pools, green spaces, or fitness facilities.
When you think of owning a house, you’re likely referring to a single-family home, which stands alone with its own foundation. When comparing townhouse vs house, consider that unlike a townhouse, houses come in all architectural styles, layouts, and sizes. You’ll have more space and square-footage to work with in a house, which can include attics, basements, garages, sheds, and possibly other detached structures such as a mother-in-law suite. A house will usually also come with a more spacious front yard and backyard.
While with townhomes you may get to enjoy a dip in the communal pool or play a game of tennis on private community courts, a house isn’t guaranteed to come with those amenities. And if a home has those amenities, you’ll likely be paying more for the home overall. Plus, you’ll also have to do your own maintenance as most homes do not have a homeowner’s association to take care of all the upkeep.
Deciding between a townhouse and a house all depends on your lifestyle needs, desired location, and budget. For instance, if you’re retired and looking to downsize, a townhome might be the better option. However, if you’re a couple hoping to expand your family, a bigger house will likely suit your needs more.
One of the biggest perks of townhomes is the low maintenance. While the extent of services varies depending on your particular HOA, your homeowner’s association may cover costs for exterior maintenance or even take care of lawns and landscaping.
Your HOA will also maintain any amenities they provide. For example, you may have always wanted a pool or a basketball court, but don’t have the energy, time, or money to invest in it financially or to keep up with maintenance. With a townhouse, you can enjoy the amenities without any of the hassle.
Low-maintenance can be a huge draw for retirees or older couples. The days of climbing a ladder to clean the gutters or fix a leak may be behind them. A townhouse is great for those who don’t want the trouble of keeping up with maintenance or may simply not be physically able anymore. The appeal for older couples is also the smaller space. With smaller square footage, you don’t have as much to clean or keep organized. Plus, if you’re done raising a family and your kids are all moved out, you may not have use for all of the space in your house and choose to downsize.
First-time homebuyers may also prefer townhomes. With lower maintenance and plenty of amenities, townhomes are a good way to ease yourself into homeownership. If your townhome needs repairs or something goes wrong, you have an HOA as a support system. Your HOA may fix the repairs themselves or may recommend contractors who they’ve worked with in the past.
As part of an HOA, all townhomes on your block and within the community are required to keep up a certain aesthetic, cleanliness, and standard of living. This ensures your townhome retains its value. You don’t have to worry about the neighbor down the street with an overgrown yard or a lawn full of tchotchkes. If you ever decide to sell, your townhouse will hold its value and you’ll be able to get a better price.
The biggest drawback of townhomes is the restrictions and regulations set by the HOA. If you have a unique vision for your home, you may not be able to implement your ideas unless they follow HOA rules. And HOA regulations can be strict.
HOAs typically have restrictions regarding remodeling, additions, and the appearance of the exterior of your home, including paint colors, decorations, lawn ornaments, and furnishings. For instance, if you’re one who absolutely loves to go all out for the holidays with dancing reindeer during Christmas or a haunted house on your lawn for Halloween, a townhome may not be for you.
Even if the craziest thing you want to do is change the paint color of your front door, you may still need HOA approval, and your HOA may reject your request. HOA rules can be as restrictive as how tall your grass can be or how many vehicles you can park on your property. That’s why it’s important to read the HOA rules before making any decisions and decide if the restrictions are in line with your plans for your property.
HOA fees can also be costly. Especially if you live in an older townhouse development where there’s more need for constant maintenance, your fees may be higher. Be sure to consider HOA fees in your budget. Being part of an HOA may not be worth it, particularly if you don’t have interest in taking advantage of the amenities they offer.
The other downside of townhomes is that you have less privacy and may contend with more noise. At least one of your exterior walls will be right up against your neighbor. Or, you may be sandwiched between two other townhomes. Depending on your neighbors, this could turn into a nightmare scenario, or you may not run into any issues at all. There’s an element of chance involved in this!
Remember that thin walls may mean more noise exposure and less privacy — and thus more opportunities to begin loathing your neighbors.
The biggest advantage of owning a house is perhaps the ability to do just about whatever you want with your home, as long as you follow local ordinances and zoning laws. Compared to an HOA, you have more freedom to decorate, paint, and renovate your home as you like. So, if you want to be the neighbor with dozens of lawn gnomes, you can go right ahead.
Another huge benefit to a home is the space. Compared to a townhome, a house will have more square footage. You’ll have more rooms, more storage space, and a larger front and back yard. For those who plan on growing their family, a house can better accommodate those needs. So whether you’re planning on kids, having aging parents move in, or you’re adopting a slew of pets, a house can give you the space you need.
With a house, you’ll also enjoy more privacy. You won’t be sharing amenities or communal spaces. Plus, you can choose to install a fence or landscaping to give your home even more privacy. You also won’t be sharing walls with your neighbors, helping cut down on noise and allowing you more freedom to do what you want.
One of the biggest downsides of owning a home is you’re responsible for all of the maintenance and repairs. This means if the roof leaks or the HVAC unit breaks, you’re the one who needs to figure out how to fix it. Upkeep and repairs on a home can be costly and take up significant time and energy.
Typically, a house will be more expensive than a townhome. Houses also tend to limit your location choices. You’ll find more homes further out in the suburbs. If you’re hoping to live right in the heart of a city, you may have more luck finding a townhome over a detached, single-family house.
Still debating buying a townhouse vs house? A townhouse can be a great choice for first-time homebuyers or for those looking for a low-maintenance home. However, if you’re looking for more privacy and autonomy over your home, a townhouse may not be the best option.
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