Condo, house or townhouse: What home type is best for you? A single-family home gives you more independence, but also comes with greater responsibility. A condo or townhouse offers amenities and frees you from snow removal, lawn care and outside maintenance.
To make a smart decision, weigh the following factors before you go home shopping.
In one word: convenience. Your monthly mortgage payment will include an HOA fee that typically covers building insurance, grounds and common area maintenance as well as amenities that come with ownership (think pool, spa, jacuzzi, playground and/or a gym). Use of common areas, like courtyards or events rooms, are also offered as a courtesy to residents.
Peace of mind is definitely a bonus. Living in a unit within a larger building that features a doorman, security cameras and locked entryways ensures safety. And a financial plus: Your homeowners insurance rate may be lower than that for a townhouse or home, as you are only insuring the interior of your unit.
Some things you may have to sacrifice? Privacy, for one. And some control, as you only own the condo interior (not the land), you’re subject to the rules of a board and management company and you can’t easily budget for HOA fee hikes and special assessments.
Similar to a condo, a townhouse comes with amenities and conveniences covered by an HOA fee. A townhouse offers two advantages over a condo: More space, as you will have two+ stories, and ownership of the unit’s exterior, including the roof, lawn and driveway. Ownership of a small patch of land may give you some flexibility with regard to outdoor decor and landscape elements.
But again, privacy will be an issue, as homes are attached on one or both sides. And board rules will govern what you can and can’t do with your property: Townhouse exteriors, for example, are typically uniform throughout a complex; the ability to make material changes may be limited.
Financially speaking, your homeowners insurance rate will be higher than that for a condo, as you’re insuring both exterior and interior spaces, and you’ll bump up against the same HOA fee/assessment issues you would face as a condo owner.
Along with more privacy and tons of space, a single-family home gives the buyer a greater sense of ownership. You call the shots (as long as you abide by local laws and ordinances) when it comes to home improvements, paint colors and additions, if more room is needed.
And then the financial boons: Generally speaking, a single-family home has the highest resale value of all three options, and owners pay little to no property management fees.
The trade-off for all this freedom and financial security? Maintenance and upkeep. You will be covering the cost of landscaping, lawn upkeep and snow removal – or doing it all yourself. And you may be living further away from an urban area, which may or may not suit your needs.
Need a bit more help visualizing your first home? Try these helpful exercises to determine location, amenities and price that are right for you.