Condo, Townhome, or House: Which One Is Right for You?

, Mar 2, 2022

A person looking for houses on their laptop.

If you are searching for a new home, you are not alone. The number of house shoppers has increased even during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 6.5 million homes changed hands in the U.S. That figure rose to 7.1 million in 2021.

In other words, the housing market is extremely active. It may be easy to find a home for sale in your chosen area. However, is it the correct type of property for your needs and preferences?

If you plan to purchase a home, you have three options: condos, townhomes, and single-family houses. Each of these comes with different advantages and disadvantages related to maintenance, costs, equity, and size. Before buying a home, you should research the property types to determine which one best suits your present and future needs.

Here is a look at the factors you should consider.

Condominiums

A condominium is a privately owned unit within a residential building. Condo buildings can be located anywhere, but you will often find them situated in downtown neighborhoods. In terms of layout, condos are similar to apartments, except you own the unit instead of renting it.

In addition to your private condo, you also have access to public amenities inside the building. These can include a swimming pool, lobby area, and outdoor spaces.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a condo.

Pros

Condos offer certain advantages to homeowners.

  • Condos are often cheaper. Condos are often more affordable compared to stand-alone, single-family houses. They also come with lower insurance rates because you are only responsible for covering your housing unit and not the common spaces.
  • You can access luxury amenities and enjoy managed maintenance. Condos often include extra luxuries, such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and other amenities. These features are also usually professionally managed, so you can use them without worrying about maintenance costs.
  • You can become part of a close-knit community. Condos give you privacy while also allowing you to be part of a community along with other residents.
  • It is easy to travel. Condo buildings are secure and professionally maintained. Unlike a single-family home, you do not need to make complex arrangements for upkeep and security when you travel.

If you can take advantage of these positive attributes, a condo could be a good option for your next real estate purchase.

Cons

You should also consider the drawbacks of condo ownership.

  • You have to pay homeowners’ association (HOA) fees. While condos are relatively affordable and come with lower insurance fees, condo owners have to pay additional HOA fees to cover the cost of maintenance and insurance for common areas. These fees are sunk costs because they do not build equity in your condo. Also, if you do not use the common areas, they are not worthwhile expenses.
  • Some condos have reselling difficulties. Reselling a condo may sometimes be difficult compared to reselling a house. Buyers may shy away from condo buildings because of stringent HOA regulations or fees. Also, if the building is not well maintained, which is beyond your control, it could negatively affect the selling price.

Also, while condos may be ideal for individuals or small families, they are generally too small for larger families.

Townhomes

A townhouse, also called a row house, is individually owned but has at least one or two of its walls attached to the adjacent unit. Townhouses are rarely stand-alone structures. They are usually arranged in developments with similar homes. Like condos, townhouse developments rely on a homeowners association for management.

Townhouses offer a blend of condo-like convenience and single-family-home-like space and privacy. Townhouse developments are popular in many suburban and urban areas, such as the Northwest Hills area of Austin.

Pros

Here are the advantages you get when purchasing a townhome.

  • Townhomes typically cost less than single-family dwellings. Townhouses are generally cheaper than comparable detached homes in the same area. If you are looking for a lower cost per square foot, townhomes may be the better option.
  • Townhomes offer managed maintenance. Homeowners associations regulate townhouses, and the management is responsible for maintaining the common areas. They care for roads in the development, and many also cover lawn care and other outdoor maintenance.
  • Townhouses are larger than condos. In addition to the large living spaces, many townhomes have multi-story designs, so you get the upstairs and downstairs layout of a stand-alone home. Also, if you have pets and children, you will enjoy the outdoor spaces around the building.
  • Townhouse developments often have additional amenities. Depending on where you live, a townhouse may come with access to other amenities. For example, the neighborhood may have a community swimming pool, garden, or fitness center.

If you are looking for a balance of convenience and space, a townhouse could be a wise choice.

Cons

Townhomes solve some of the drawbacks of condos, but they also have their own set of disadvantages.

  • You may have to pay expensive HOA Fees. You still have to pay association fees to cover the cost of maintenance. These fees are typically assessed monthly, and they can add to the expense of your mortgage, taxes, and insurance costs.
  • Townhouses have less space and privacy. Because of the shared-wall design, it isn’t easy to maintain privacy. If you have noisy neighbors, you will hear them through the shared wall. Also, you will have outdoor space, but it is typically not separated from your neighbors, and most associations will not allow extra constructions, such as privacy fences.
  • You have responsibility for maintenance and repairs inside the townhome. In addition to interior plumbing, electrical, repair costs, you may need to cover maintenance for your garage and the exterior of your home.

If the advantages of condos and townhomes are not enough to overcome their drawbacks, you may want to consider a single-family home.

Single-Family Homes

A single-family house does not connect to other residential structures in any way. When you buy a single-family house, you own both the home and the land on which it sits. Single-family houses are commonly available in less densely populated suburbs, though some urban neighborhoods have single-family dwellings, as well.

Pros

Here are the advantages of purchasing a single-family home.

  • Detached homes provide space and privacy. Single-family homes do not share space with other buildings, and they have land in between themselves and the neighboring house. Furthermore, fenced yards are common in single-family properties, so you have more privacy both indoors and outdoors.
  • You have the freedom to make improvements and aesthetic choices. Because you own both the house and the surrounding land, you have the freedom to design and customize your property any way you desire, as long as the changes meet municipal zoning requirements.
  • You have ample outdoor space. A single-family house provides private outdoor space for pets, children, and outdoor activities, like barbecuing and picnics.

Cons

Single-family homes lack some of the conveniences of the other two options.

  • You may have increased maintenance costs. Since you do not have an association to maintain your property, you need to take care of all maintenance and associated costs yourself.
  • Single-family homes have higher price tags. Single-family houses are often the most expensive types of homes. In addition to the purchase price, you may have to pay higher property taxes and insurance premiums.
  • You do not have access to shared amenities. Single-family neighborhoods lack shared amenities. You may have access to public parks, but you will not get private pools or fitness centers offered to condo and townhouse residents.

Once you have weighed all the pros and cons of each type of housing, you need to employ a skilled real estate agent with local knowledge to find the best options in your area.

About the Author

Last updated: 03/08/2022

2300+ Client reviews!

I highly recommend Kiel if you’re looking to rent a place in Austin. We originally met him to look around a particular unit, and when it was not to our satisfaction, he was able to quickly take us around many more units that day. He also set up a whole day of viewings for the very next day! Within 48 hours we had done enough viewings to be confident in choosing a new home. The landlord accepted our offer and Kiel handled all of the paperwork, even stopping by our hotel to pick up the needed checks. We couldn’t be happier.
Kiel is highly organized and unlike some realtors in the Austin area, he is responsive and ready to move quickly. We were always able to contact him and never left waiting.

Kiel has your BACK!! We are so grateful to have had his guidance and knowledge while navigating the intense, frustrating and way competitive Austin rental market. He quickly picked up on our taste and designed a game plan to help us push through the clutter and get to the properties that best suited us. He was ALWAYS available to us and answered our emails, calls and texts with great speed. We’re so grateful to have had him on our search team. Because my goodness, it really is a crazy market out there!

Kiel was amazing to work with! He walked us through everything, explained anything we didn’t understand, and he is is just a great guy to work with. As a first time home buyer, his knowledge was invaluable. 10/10 would recommend!

Kiel was referred to me by a friend, and we were so pleased with his services. He jumped in and guided us through the entire process, made himself readily available for us during the whole process, checked in with us via text every step of the way, and provided any and all information we requested. As a first time home buyer, I was not totally familiar with the process. Kiel helped me through the lending process, walk through inspection and closing procedures. It was such a pleasure to work with him, and we look forward to hiring him again when we purchase our next property.

I’ve never met anyone as knowledgeable and hard working as Kiel. Everything he said he was going to do, he did it. Kiel is a very easy person to get along with. He made us comfortable with the process and also made it fun. In 5 words…HE GETS THE JOB DONE!

It was great working with Kiel. He understood what we really wanted in a home. When it came to the process of the contract, it was obvious how knowledgeable he was. He did exactly what we wanted while giving great advice.

We had the pleasure of working with Will Mackintosh as our agent, and couldn’t be happier with the experience. From start to finish, the process was incredibly smooth and easy, thanks to Will’s expertise and professionalism. He guided us every step of the way making what could have been a stressful experience surprisingly enjoyable. Will’s attention to detail and dedication to finding the perfect property for us truly stood out. We couldn’t have asked for a better agent. I highly recommend Will and Bramlett Residential to anyone buying or selling a home in the Austin area.

Danny is amazing. We are first time home buyers and knew almost nothing going in other than what we could afford. Danny is patient and had references for mortgage companies, home inspectiors and specialty inspectors. He was able to negotiate on our behalf and guided us every step of the way from our staring offer to the day of move in. Didn’t matter the time of day, Danny was always available and made sure we understood everything we were signing. Buying a home is scary especially during pandemic but Danny made it seemless and went above and beyond to take care of us. Cannot speak highly enough of Danny.

Linda is very knowledgeable in the area and really helped me (out state buyer) to learn the important facts about the home locations that I was interested in. She provided great advice as part of the negotiation. She is very professional and dedicated to taking care of her customer. She even replied to one of my texts at 2AM in the morning! I highly recommend Linda if you are looking for a very knowledgeable and experienced agent who delivers results. After the closing date she is still following up with me to answer any questions and help me with finding services to take care of my new home.

We had a great experience with agent Kasey Gilliam, both coming and going! Kasey helped us find our lovely home five years ago, then helped us sell it again when we moved back east. She knows the market and has broad experience with Austin neighborhoods and homes. We trusted her advice — and she was always available when we had questions. She and her team kept our house safe and managed what felt like a million showings. We would happily work with Kasey again if we ever return to Austin, and are happy to sing her praises!

First, Carol is warm and helpful in every way. With Carol’s help, we bought our house remotely. She gave us great guidance: “This house would be great for you. The neighborhood is good.” Her office staff was also supportive – picking up the key from the closing company; going out to the property when a workman was there. It also must be said that after so many years in the business, she knows the market very well. Carol knows her stuff.
Carson, is an outstanding Realtor. He has been our agent for the past 7 years and we have purchased two houses utilizing his expertise.. Carson is very professional and courteous always thinking of his clients needs. I strongly recommend him and know that you will be very satisfied with his services.
Click Here to Read All Reviews