Condo vs. Townhouse


Condos (Condominiums) and Townhouses (or townhomes) are broadly categorized as forms of housing structures, both terms being widely used in North America.

A condominium is a housing structure that is a part of a bigger unit or building and the owner of the condo owns the interiors independently and the other services in the building jointly with other condo owners. A townhouse is a style of housing where a row of identical houses share walls. Here the owner owns the whole unit as such. They both may come under a structure of housing tenure or other legal agreements. (These definitions apply in most cases but there are variations. See comments for examples.)

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User Rating (198):
Meaning A condo is a housing structure that is a part of a bigger unit or building. A townhouse is a style of housing where a row of independent and identical houses share walls.
Ownership The owner owns only the interiors of the condo. The owner owns the land as well as the interiors plus any yard or deck.
Legal statutes Governed by legal statutes No
Home owners association Called the condominium association, responsible for day to day maintenance of building and exteriors and common areas. Called Home Owners Association, responsible for day to day maintenance of exteriors and other common areas.
Safety Higher Lower
Privacy Lower Higher
Structure May be on any floor Starts on the ground floor; may be multi-storied.

Contents: Condo vs Townhouse

Condominiums in Vancouver BC
Condominiums in Vancouver BC

edit Legal status

Condominium is a legal term in the United States and most areas of Canada. The creation, sale and management of Condos is governed by specific statutes in the US while there are no statutes governing ownership of Townhouses. Different states have different statutes governing condominiums. Townhouses are simply governed by the same laws that apply to single family houses.

edit Features

Townhome in Sterling, VA
Townhome in Sterling, VA

A condominium consists of multi-unit dwellings (i.e., an apartment or a development) where each unit is individually owned and the common areas, such as hallways and recreational facilities, are jointly owned (usually as "tenants in common") by all the unit owners in the building. In a townhouse, the owner owns the whole unit, the exterior surfaces such as deck or yard and the land on which it is built.

edit Common areas

Every housing structure has common structures such as Recreational parks, walking areas, parking lots etc. Condo owners share ownership of the common areas with other owners, while common areas in townhouse developments are usually owned by the homeowners' association for the benefit and use of unit owners.

edit Home Owners Association

In all condo and townhouse projects, the "common areas" of the property (open spaces, recreation areas, tennis courts, etc.) must be managed and maintained for the benefit of unit owners. To accomplish this, a homeowners' association is usually established when the project is created. The association has an elected executive board that manages the association and performs such tasks as enforcing the rules and regulations and collecting the homeowners' dues. The association is also responsible for day to day maintenance of facilities such as parks or lawns and may charge the condo and townhouse owners according to their contracts. They are generally called a Home owners association (HOA) for Townhouses and Condominium Associations for condos.

edit Land ownership

In a condo, the owner does not own the piece of land on which the housing structure is created since it isn't an independent structure and is just one part of the building in which the condo is housed. In a townhouse, the owner owns the piece of land, its interiors and its exteriors, on which the townhouse is built since it is independent of other townhouses in the housing community. Detached condos may have rules similar to townhomes.

edit Structure

In a townhouse, the typical structure consists of identical houses built one after the other. They may have straight walls in most of the cases and may also be multi storied. A condo, is just one part of a building and may not be similar to the next condo in that building. While a townhouse starts from the ground floor, a condo may or may not start from the ground floor. A condo may be situated on any floor of the building. While condos may not have any exterior spaces that they own individually, townhouses owners may have small decks or yards of their own depending on the structure they purchase.

edit Cost

Condominiums usually turn out to be cheaper than townhouses. In general, the same square footage will cost less in a condo setting than it will in a single family home or townhouse, mainly due to the cost of land. When you buy a townhome, you also pay for the land where only one structure is built, thus increasing the cost. In a condo, the owner doesn't own the land and in that same space, many more condos can be built making them cheaper.

edit Maintenance

While the exteriors of a condo or a townhouse are maintained by the home owners association, it is upto the owner to maintain the interiors. This may also depend on the agreement of the homeowners' association. Generally, a townhouse owner has more authority is changing the interiors of the land and other structural changes as the land is also owned by them while the power of a condo owner is limited.

edit Safety and Privacy

Both have their own pros and cons when it comes to safety and privacy. While in a townhouse, there may be houses on either side of one's house, in a condo, there may condos on all sides thereby reducing the privacy. As regards to safety, both offer security but a condo may be safer as there are many condos close to each other while in a townhouse there are fewer houses next to each other.

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Comments: Condo vs Townhouse

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Anonymous comments (5)

September 18, 2013, 5:02am

There are two home in a L shape and I own half. We are connected by one wall. It is considered a condo and had an HOA a long time ago and they just dropped it. Now we cannot even get financing on our places because they are supposedly condos with no HOA. Cannot sell or refinance. Stuck at this point. I own my own front and back yard and share a part of the driveway....own parking spot and have a single garage. I don't know what to do as I need to refinance or sell. Single mom with 4 kids and an ex with terminal cancer. I need the money to fix this up or move out with my mom for awhile until my situation changes. So frustrating.

— 174.✗.✗.182

April 22, 2011, 2:29am

The definitions in this article of a condo and a townhouse are definitely inaccurate. We own a detached condo, which is just like a single family home. The only reason its called a condo is because the square footage is less than 2,000 square feet. We do have association fees, but the fees are very low compared to other condo and townhouse communities. The association fees are for (to name a few) use of the recreational facilities, maintenance of all outdoor services, and to keep our landscaping always well kept, clean and beautiful. Our condo is also in one of the safest cities in USA. We also own the land that our condo sits on. In these respects, our situation contradicts this article's definition of a condo.

— 75.✗.✗.239

April 22, 2012, 3:35am

Wrong... Here is the accurate and simple explanation of the two terms.

"A townhouse may be a condominium, and may be owned; or not.
A condominium is always owned, and may be a townhouse; or not.

— 66.✗.✗.218

January 12, 2011, 3:24pm

I have a free standing house which is called a condo and is part of a condo association. It is not part of a larger building. Neither of your definitions do not describe my home which seems to fall inbetween.

— 99.✗.✗.232

March 18, 2010, 8:01pm

I find you answer to ownership of a townhouse incomplete. You state that a townhouse is a single family house sharing common walls and you own the interiors and lot. I thought you also owned the structure ie the house including the roof.

— 71.✗.✗.236


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