Condo vs. Townhouse: What’s the Difference?

When it comes time to buy a home, there are a lot of decisions to make about what you might be interested in: size, location, price, and more. Some people will also narrow their search by the structure of the home and fees by deciding a condo or a townhouse is the right option for them. But many people confuse condos and townhouses, which are similar but not exactly the same. Read on for a comprehensive look at each option and how they differ so that you can determine which new homes in Davenport, FL are right for you.

What Is a Condo?

Condos, or condominiums, are a type of housing defined by the structure of ownership. Most condos are similar to apartment buildings, with very similar units set up side by side in a building. The interior of each unit is owned, unlike apartments which are typically leased, while the rest of the building is owned by all the collective residents. Each owner pays fees to a homeowners’ association, or HOA, which covers specified upkeep and insurance for anything outside of the units. This may include the building itself, landscaping, and common areas or amenities like a swimming pool.

What Is a Townhouse?

Townhouses or townhomes are a type of architecture used to build homes. They are multilevel units that share walls with other homes on one or both sides. When you own a townhome, you usually own the interior, exterior, and the land on which the property sits- giving you both more freedom and more responsibility than a condo. Townhouses typically also have a homeowners association and a fee, but it is more likely to cover amenities and not the exterior of the home.

Costs of Owning Condos and Townhouses

As a general rule, a similar townhouse and condo will usually see the townhouse being slightly higher in list price because you own more property. However, this price alone is not the only factor to consider when it comes to the costs of ownership. For example, a condo mortgage will often have a higher interest rate than the same mortgage for a townhouse. To determine which one is a better fit for your budget, you’ll need to consider all elements of ownership.

Insurance

Almost every mortgage lender will require you to have a homeowners insurance policy in order to take out a mortgage, even if you will be in a condominium where the HOA covers a lot of costs. Homeowner’s insurance will still cover catastrophic events inside the home, like damage from a fire, and replacement of belongings that are stolen. It may also protect you against liability if someone is injured in your home.

For a condo, the insurance will specifically cover the interior of your unit only, as that is all you own. This means the policies can be much cheaper than those for a single-family home or even a townhouse. Insurance coverage for a townhouse will provide the same interior coverage but will extend to any land you own and the house’s exterior. It may cost more in order to cover this additional area.

Property Taxes

If you own any kind of property, you will have to pay some amount of property tax, though the rates differ from state to state and within localities. The amount you owe will be based on these local rates as well as the assessed value of your property. Depending on if you own a townhouse or a condo, the process for determining this may differ slightly.

If you buy a townhome, the government will send a property assessor to you in order to determine the value of your house. They’ll consider the square footage, land that you own, number of rooms, and the neighborhood, among other factors. Once they determine a value, you will be taxed at the local rate based on that. For a condo, you’ll probably pay less overall since the space you own is smaller. Condo taxes do account for shared spaces in your building, but they are split evenly among the residents, cutting the cost down.

Typically a mortgage lender will prefer you to group mortgage and property tax payments together, which lets you spread them over 12 months instead of paying one large lump sum. The lender keeps that payment in a separate escrow account and pays the government on your behalf.

HOA Fees

Both condos and townhouses typically have an HOA fee associated, with your monthly payment going towards maintaining the standard of living in a community. Members of the association determine how that money is spent in order to best meet the needs of all residents. The amount you pay will depend on a range of factors, one of the most important being location. The national median for HOA fees is $290 per month, but this can be much higher or much lower. Even within a city, the specific community you live in can charge well outside of the average.

HOA fees are generally determined by factors such as:

  • City or county

  • Cost of living in the area

  • The size, number, and ages of the homes and units in the HOA

  • Amount of space or land shared by residents

  • Services and amenities provided

  • Whether residents can rent out their units

In most cases, a condo will have a higher HOA fee than a townhome of similar quality because condos tend to cover more. For example, a condo’s HOA fee will typically include:

  • Building insurance and repairs

  • Amenities such as gyms, dog parks, pools, parking lots, rooftop spaces

  • Security, including video surveillance, front desk attendants, garage attendants, and special access to amenities

  • Services like trash pickup or snow plowing

Most townhouse communities do not include the same perks. Instead, these HOAs will focus on things like landscaping, basic trash and utilities, and community areas like a pool. You are also usually responsible for the exterior of a townhome, which lowers maintenance costs.

Why Choose a Condo?

Both townhomes and condos have positive and negative elements, and it will be a personal decision which ones matter the most to you. For those who choose a condo, there are a few primary reasons this structure of homeownership is appealing.

Community and Connection: Condos are similar to apartment buildings, and you’re likely to run into your neighbors on a much more frequent basis. Sharing entrances and exits, a gym, a parking lot, mailboxes, and other common areas means there is more opportunity to form a community within the condo. Many HOAs will even host events that enable you to meet people and make friends.

Less Maintenance: While you’re responsible for the interior of your condo, everything else will fall to the HOA. Things like mowing the lawn or replacing the roof, which can be annoying at best and expensive at worst, are covered under your monthly fee. If you are physically unable to do some of this work or simply don’t want to take the time, a condo offers you homeownership without all the responsibilities.

Perks of an HOA: In addition to taking on the maintenance, many people enjoy the experience of an HOA in their condo. The management usually hires a front desk attendant and has other staff who can help you with things like missing packages or finding local services. Many modest condos can give you a feeling of luxury with their service.

Why Choose a Townhouse?

For others, a townhouse will be the better choice all things considered. Some of the reasons you may choose this option include:

Privacy: Townhouses generally share at least one wall, but you still have your own unit and won’t have neighbors above or below you to worry about. You may also have more yard space and will usually have a direct shot to your car, avoiding shared public areas. If you’d like more of a “house” feeling and aren’t interested in community with your neighbors, a townhome is a closer experience to this.

Space: As a general rule, townhouses tend to have more room than condos, in part because they can have modest front and back yards to enjoy. If you want personal outdoor space, a townhome is more likely to give you that. These spaces will be smaller than a typical single-family home offers, but that also means you have less landscaping and lawn care to worry about.

Less HOA Involvement: Townhouse communities usually have HOAs, and they can vary in how involved they are, but they are typically less involved than in a condo. They won’t have any say over the interior of your home like they may in a condo, though they can be involved in the exterior. But a townhouse often lets you experience some benefits of an HOA, like maintained amenities, without the same level of scrutiny.

Ultimately both condos and townhomes are great options for many buyers, as long as you understand the implications and exactly what you are purchasing. Your realtor can always help you obtain HOA contracts and any information needed before making a final decision.

Posted by Florida Realty Marketplace on
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