Condos vs. Townhouses

July 23, 2007 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

G3Gecko asks: What’s the difference between a condo and a townhouse?

In everyday usage, “condo” is meant to be a single-level unit with an individual owner, as distinguished from an “apartment,” one such unit in a multi-unit building with all units owned by the same entity. The British “flat” is another word describing the same thing.

A townhouse is a multi-story unit. Usually the living room, dining room, kitchen, and a powder room (half bath with toilet and basin) are on the entry level and two or more bedrooms are on an upper level. Sometimes, in cases where there is a “view” potential as with townhouses along the beach, the floorplan may be reversed with the bedrooms downstairs and the living area up.

Townhouses may feature stairs providing “direct access” to a garage, which may consist either of spaces in a common garage or a private garage. Some floor plans lend themselves to a “bonus room” between the bottom of the stairs and the garage, usable for a home office, an exercise room, a game room, a room for hobbies, or just additional storage. Some townhouses also may feature a loft, overlooking either the living room or the master bedroom; many lofts are used for home offices. A few townhouses offer roof-top decks which, depending on location, may offer views of city lights, the mountains, or the ocean.

Technically speaking, the word “condo” is a form of legal ownership, where a user owns 1/n of the entire property, where “n” equals the numbers of units, along with the airspace within a designated unit. “Townhouse” refers to a style of architecture, the upstairs/downstairs as previously described. Thus, all townhouses are condos but not all condos are townhouses.

All other things being equal–locations, square footage, level of “finish,” etc.–a townhouse will be more expensive than a similar single-level condo simply because more people would rather not have anyone living above or below them and are willing to pay more to do so. Townhouses located in the front or rear of a complex will command a higher price than those in the middle of a building because they typically have more light and because there is a neighbor on the other side of only one wall.

Single-level condos on the top floor command the most price for the simple reason that nobody is above the unit; most people would rather be the “clumper” than the “clumpee.” While townhouses are more popular in the marketplace overall, single-level condos are more popular with older Buyers whose knees may not relish running up and down stairs all the time.

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