Condo vs Townhouse: 9 Major Differences

By Emma Diehl · January 05, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Condo vs Townhouse: 9 Major Differences

If you’re looking to buy a condo or townhome, understanding the distinctions may help you home in on the choice that better suits your lifestyle and needs. Read on to learn the major differences between these two kinds of property.

What Is a Condo?

A condominium is a private property within a larger property, whether that be a single building or a complex. Residents share amenities like clubhouses, gyms, pools, parking, and the common grounds, and pay homeowners association (HOA) dues to support those shared assets. If you buy a condo, you’ll own your interior space only.

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What Is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is a single-family unit that shares one or more walls with another home, usually has two or more floors, and may have a small backyard or patio. If you buy a townhouse, you’ll own the interior and exterior of the unit and the land on which it sits. Upkeep of the exterior could be split between you and the homeowners association (HOA).


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Condo vs Townhouse: Differences

Both are part of a larger structure, unlike some other house types, and both usually share one or more walls, but some similarities end there. Here are the key differences.

1. Construction

In the condo vs. townhouse debate, construction differs. A townhouse will share at least one wall with a property next door. A condo could have another unit below and above it, in addition to neighbors on either side. That could mean sharing all surrounding walls and floors/ceilings.

2. Actual Ownership

If you’re considering townhouse vs. condo, what would you actually own? With townhomes, the buyer owns the land and the structure. That could mean some creativity with decorating the lot or the home’s exterior. With condos, the buyer owns the interior of the unit and an “interest” (along with all of the other owners) in the common elements of the condominium project.

3. Community

With both condos and townhouses, residents will have fairly close contact with their neighbors. With shared walls and spaces, residents may have more social relationships with their community than they would with a single-family home. That means it’s important for buyers to research the community when condo shopping. Is the condo social? Does it plan a lot of events, or do people generally keep to themselves? Since there are many shared spaces, understanding how the community functions could directly affect living there.

If a townhome isn’t part of an HOA, living in the complex could feel similar to living in a single-family home. In that case, it could be up to the buyer to create a sense of community.

4. Homeowners Associations

Condos come with an HOA, a resident-led board that collects ongoing fees that can range from $200 to thousands of dollars, and mandates any special assessments. The HOA also enforces its covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).

Not all townhouse communities have an HOA, but if they do, townhouse owners usually pay lower monthly fees than condo owners because they pay for much of their own upkeep.

5. Obligations and Regulations

What’s the difference between a townhouse and a condo when it comes to rules and regulations? Condo owners will be required to meet all HOA standards. That could dictate anything from what residents want to hang on their front door to whether they can have pets, how many, and whether Biff needs to be registered as a service animal or emotional support animal. If an owner wants to renovate their condo, they may have to get the work approved by the HOA.

If a townhome is part of an HOA, many of the above restrictions could apply. However, if it’s not an HOA community, townhouse owners have more freedom to decorate the exterior of their home or maintain their landscape as they see fit.

6. Insurance

Condos have their own form of property insurance. HO-6 provides coverage for the interior of a condo and the owner’s personal belongings. In addition, the entire building needs to be insured, which is paid for with HOA dues.

If a townhouse is part of an HOA community, each property requires HO-6 insurance and coverage for the community through HOA dues. When a townhouse isn’t part of an HOA, buyers are typically required to have homeowners insurance.

7. Fees and Expenses

HOA fees for condos are usually higher than for townhouses because they cover exterior maintenance and shared amenities. If townhouse owners are part of an HOA, they’ll usually pay lower monthly fees because they pay for much of their own upkeep.

Condo owners don’t have to worry about repairing the roof or replacing siding. Everything exterior-facing is managed collectively and paid for with HOA dues, but those fees may be high and are periodically reevaluated, and so may rise over time.

8. Financing

It can be harder to obtain financing for a condo than for a townhouse. Condos may be eligible for conventional mortgage loans and government-insured loans. (Study the mortgage basics to learn more about the difference between these types.) Lenders of conventional loans will review the financial health of an HOA, whether most of the units are owner-occupied, and ownership distribution. Interested in an FHA loan or a VA loan? Both agencies maintain respective lists of approved condos.

In the case of a townhouse, the financing process is similar to that of a traditional mortgage because a townhouse includes the land it’s built on. Its value is factored into the process.

9. Resale Value

A large factor in a condo holding value is the management, which isn’t always in the hands of the owner. Strong management can help a condo maintain or grow in value. Additionally, where the condo is located will influence resale value. Condos generally hold value but don’t see the boost in resale expected with single-family homes. Similarly, buying a townhouse may not usher in the appreciation of most single-family homes.


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Condo vs Townhouse: Which May Be Right for You?

Condos and townhomes have their fair share of differences, as well as some similarities. Overall, condos can offer a low-maintenance property where owners simply look after their condo interior. With condo ownership comes the added perk of shared amenities. But condos come with monthly HOA fees, which must be factored into any purchase. Additionally, the community association and its management of the property will likely have a large impact on what life is like in a particular condo complex. Condo buyers may be more community-minded, as they share space with their neighbors. (If a condo feels like the right choice, read a guide to buying a condo as you embark on your search.)

Townhouses offer more freedom and privacy than condos. Owners may have the option of personalizing their exterior and enjoying outdoor space if the property has a patio or backyard. Townhomes generally require more responsibility and upkeep than a condo, even if there’s an HOA involved. Exterior maintenance will be required. If this sounds like a good fit, dig deeper by reading a guide to buying a townhouse.

Of course, you may be better suited to a different living situation altogether. House or condo? Take a quiz to learn which of these options might be best for you.

The Takeaway

When it comes to finding a home, the perfect fit is up to the individual, but buyers may want to take a hard look at monthly fees, community rules, how social they intend to be, and precisely what they own and must maintain.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.


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FAQ

Between condos and townhouses, which is cheaper to buy?

The cost of a condo and townhome will vary based on location and size, but condos are often less expensive than townhouses because they come with no land.

Do you own the land around a condo if you buy it?

No. The purchase of a condo only includes the interior.

Is the resale value higher for a condo or townhouse?

In general, condos and townhomes don’t appreciate as quickly as single-family homes. The value will vary based on area, upkeep, and other conditions.

Between condos and townhouses, which has better financing options?

Financing a townhome is like financing a single-family home. A buyer can choose from multiple types of mortgages.

Financing a condo, on the other hand, involves a lender review of the community or inclusion on a list of approved condominium communities. Because a private lender could see a condo as a riskier purchase, the interest rate could be higher unless a large down payment was made.


Photo credit: iStock/Inhabitant

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