Condos, Townhomes, and Apartments - What's the Difference?

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Occasionally, the terms condo and townhouse will be used interchangeably by prospective and unknowing homeowners, and therefore incorrectly.

These properties are as different as an apartment and a free standing house, both with different advantages and disadvantages. If you are a first-time homeowner, have a small family or are simply looking for an in-between place, it would be beneficial to know the difference between these properties, and which would be more appropriate for you.

What makes it a Condo?

As one of the many types of housing that are available, condos are a good fit for those who have never owned a house before, are single, are moving in with a significant other, or have a small family who may use it as a start to their housing journey. Not to be confused with apartments, condos are short for condominiums, which may be better described from a legal standpoint.

When you own a condo, you own the space between each wall of your unit, and everything inside of it. You do not own the outside of the building, the roof, or the ground that it is on. Your building may, however, have community spaces, such as pools, gyms and parks. You own a small percentage of these communal spaces, and often help pay for them as well. You do this through what is similar to an HOA, although condos normally call them condominium associations.

You have no choice when moving into a condo development; you are automatically a member of the condominium association, and therefore bound to the rules and restrictions put in place. Like an HOA, these associations will have monthly or annual fees, meetings and even elections. When shopping for any property that is run by an association, be sure to look into their governing documents before purchasing the home. As a simple and easy alternative to a house, condos may be right for individuals who want little to do with the upkeep and responsibility while still owning a home.

What makes it a Townhouse?

Townhouses are similar to detached homes, but with the legal responsibilities and restrictions of a condo. Physically, a townhouse is like a duplex or a house that is conjoined with other houses, but most of the time there are many units stuck together.

Townhouses are often tall and skinny with several floors included. These provide a sense of ownership over a house-like property whilst living in a more urban area. When living in a townhouse, you own and are responsible for the interior and exterior of the house. You own the space in between your walls, everything inside the house and the outside walls as well.

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Townhouses may also have small yards in the front and back of their property, which homeowners are often responsible for maintaining. Other amenities, such as garbage disposal, roof repair, and fence repair should all be taken care of by the HOA.

Like an HOA over free-standing houses, townhouses and their owners are likely to be under similar restrictions that should always be reviewed before the purchase of a home. Rules regarding pets, house color, upkeep of the yards, fees and board meetings may and should be included in the governing documents. Like a condo, townhouses share parks and community spaces, which are all paid for collectively by homeowners in the area. As a fairly equal mix between a condo and a free-standing house, a townhouse may appeal to some more than others for its different amenities and advantages.

Which is Safer, a Condo or Townhouse?

If safety is a concern of yours, it is important to remember that there are some factors that cannot be changed, such as location and neighbors. In condo developments and townhouses, anyone can move in, regardless of who is living next door. Many condo developments have insurance policies, safety systems and attendants on the ground floor that make it easier to feel safe. Townhouses have security similar to detached houses, and often do not have any help from overseeing associations. Be smart in your decision, with your level of trust and security in mind.

Which is more Private, a Condo or Townhouse?

While privacy is a matter of opinion on these two properties, some may find that a condo development is too close quarters for them and their family. In this case, a townhouse may be more fitting, where you can still enjoy some of the same enjoyment while living separately from others. If you do not mind the occasional raucous or encounter with neighbors, a condo may be the perfect option for you.

Which Costs Less, a Condo or Townhouse?

The cost of a townhouse or condo honestly depends on the location and the luxuries included. An association with more niceties may have a higher HOA fee (Condos typically have higher fees), while others may have a lower fee for a variety of different reasons. A low fee could simply mean fewer luxuries, or it could be a sign of poorly kept community spaces. Some fees will include electricity and water as well. When purchasing any property, be sure to talk to neighbors or your realtor, and know where and how your money is being spent.

What is the Difference between an Apartment and a Condo?

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After defining a condo, you may be confused on the difference between a condo and an apartment. Condos are shared between all of the owners in the building, which means that fees are shared, the upkeep is handled by the association in charge, and that there are local conveniences that everyone can take advantage of. While an apartment complex may have some of these things, such as a shared pool, it may not have an association in charge, or fees that are shared with other tenants. Each homeowner operates distinctly from each other and the “higher power” in charge.

With so many options open to you, you must make sure that you are thoroughly researching property types that are most fitting to your needs and wants. While condos and townhouses are separate entities, one might be more appealing after finding out the pros and cons of each unique association.

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Source: Neighborhood Link - Sabrina Robinson
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