Condos vs townhouses: Learn the differences and how to choose between them

If you’ve decided to purchase real estate in a suburban or urban area, townhouses are likely on your radar. Rows of quaint townhouses with repeating architectural features and harmonious colors look a lot like regular houses, just standing a little closer together. Townhouses are essentially a hybrid of a single family home and a condo, borrowing the best aspects of each type of housing.

New York City townhouses lined up next to each other
New York City townhouses lined up next to each other

Table of contents

The essential difference between a condo and a townhouseChoosing between a condo and a townhouse: 9 factors to consider1. Size and Price2. HOA Fees and Regulations3. Maintenance4. Community and shared amenities5. Privacy6. Location7. Condition8. Additional costs9. Resale ValueTL:DR

The essential difference between a condo and a townhouse

Both townhouses and condos are attached homes, which means that each unit shares walls with its neighbors, along with some common responsibilities. Condo complexes often look like apartment buildings, with multiple units grouped in low-rise or high-rise buildings. Condo owners purchase their individual unit, and pay monthly fees to their Homeowners’ Association (HOA) for the maintenance of common areas. 

Townhouses have shared walls on either side, but the outdoor space in the front and back belongs to the townhouse owner. Groups of townhomes may share amenities like a neighborhood pool, but townhome owners have the benefit of owning their yards. Townhouse owners are responsible for a bigger portion of the upkeep of their homes and yards than condo owners, but not as much as the total responsibility carried by owners of fully detached homes.

A line of townhouses lined up against a grey sky

Choosing between a condo and a townhouse: 9 factors to consider

As important as the financial considerations are, buying a home is also an emotional decision. When you’re looking at various options, think about how much time and money you want to put into your home, as well as the aspects of your home that will contribute most to your quality of life.

1. Size and Price

Townhouses usually have more square footage than condos, and occupy two or three floors. When you buy a townhouse, you are buying the interior and exterior walls and the land they sit on, rather than just the interior of a unit as in a condo. This means that the list price for townhouses tends to be higher.

2. HOA Fees and Regulations

Monthly HOA fees for townhouses are typically lower than condo HOA fees, and cover a more limited scope of services. These may include services that occur outside the unit, like snow and trash removal, but not a unit’s utilities or repairs of the actual home. Similar to condos, the homeowners’ association for townhouses can have rules and regulations about how the outside of your home can look, including what color it can be painted and what types of outdoor decor are allowed.

3. Maintenance

Of the two types of housing, condos are the easiest to maintain because all upkeep and repairs outside the unit are taken care of by the HOA. Townhouse owners do have to take on more maintenance tasks, including things like cleaning roof gutters or repainting the building’s facade, for which the HOA is not responsible. Both condos and townhouses require less maintenance than detached homes, making them good choices for first-time homebuyers (or for busy people in general!).

4. Community and shared amenities

Townhouse communities tend to be smaller than condo communities, which may be a benefit or a drawback, depending on how much contact you prefer to have with your neighbors. If you’re looking for a strong community feeling with places to socialize like swimming pools, gyms, or bbq areas, you are more likely to find these features in a condo. Townhouses may include more private amenities, like a front lawn, back yard, or garage, that are not shared. 

“Townhouses are essentially a hybrid of a single family home and a condo, borrowing the best aspects of each type of housing. ”

5. Privacy

The house-like architecture of townhouses is a major selling point. They feel more traditional and have separate outdoor entrances like houses, offering slightly more privacy than condos. Townhouses may share only one or two walls with other units, and do not have units above and below, reducing the noise from loud neighbors and increasing the feeling of privacy.

6. Location

Because they are a higher denser kind of housing, high-rise condos are often found in urban centers, and their amenities can make city living more enjoyable. Townhouses take up more space, so they may be located further from the city center, reducing walkability. Townhouses are definitely designed with car owners in mind, and many have private garages, or at least personal parking spaces.

7. Condition

Condos have been popular since the 1960s, so condo buildings range in age from new construction to 50-plus years old. The condition of units varies, so when purchasing a condo, you may be able to get a better price on an older unit or one that has not been recently renovated. Townhouses are a more recent housing innovation, which means that most are either new or relatively new construction and tend to be in good shape. They often come with modern conveniences like central air conditioning and a washer and dryer in the unit. 

8. Additional costs

Townhouse owners are required to have more insurance to cover the additional liabilities that come with owning the exterior of their homes and more outdoor space. Both owners of condos and townhouses are on the hook for property taxes based on the size, condition, and location of their home. When it comes to getting a mortgage, condo buyers usually have to pay a higher down payment of 25% due to the higher risk of shared living in the eyes of the mortgage lender. Townhouses are treated like single-family homes in this regard and typically only require a down payment of 20% or less.

9. Resale Value

Condos sell for less than either townhouses or single-family homes, but they tend to retain a consistent resale value. For this reason, condos can be a safe, solid investment. Because it is more similar to single-family homes, the value of a townhouse fluctuates more with the broader housing market. This means that townhouses can appreciate much faster than condos in a strong market, but it can also make selling more painful during a housing downturn. 

A condominium building against a blue sky


If you’re still deciding which kind of attached home is right for you, these are the key points that will help you weight the pros and cons of townhouse living:

Benefits of townhouses: 

  • Lower HOA fees than condos

  • Smaller community feel

  • Getting a mortgage is easier than for condos

  • No neighbors above or below

  • More privacy than a condo

  • More square footage than a condo

  • Traditional house-like architecture

  • Often newer housing stock

Drawbacks of townhouses: 

  • Still pay HOA fees

  • Must abide by HOA restrictions

  • Fewer amenities than condos

  • Insurance is more expensive than for condos

  • Time and cost of taking care of exterior maintenance and repairs

  • Larger homes require more maintenance

  • Shared walls diminish privacy compared to detached homes

  • Values fluctuate with the housing market

In big cities, condos and townhouses can be quite expensive, and saving to buy one takes diligent personal budgeting. If saving for a home is one of your goals, opting for an affordable rental while you save can help you get there. Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are less expensive than living alone. Find a Bungalow near you.

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Move in ready homes and a built-in community so you can feel at home, together — wherever you are.