If you’re one of those who got here by typing “what is the difference between a condo, townhouse and a home” in the Google search bar because you felt uncomfortable asking, there is absolutely no need to feel ashamed, you’re not the only one. In fact, there are more people that don’t understand the difference than those who do.

Whatever the case may be, if you came in search for answers, we’ll make the best efforts to clarify things for you.

WHAT IS A CONDO, A TOWNHOUSE, AND A HOUSE? 

Condo is short for condominium and it can refer to a single building or a community of building with separate, individually owned units. They can vary in style, design, and size, but regardless of these, they always share walls with adjacent units. In addition to this, the residents own only the area or unit of the condominium they’ve purchased, not the exterior or shared spaces which are under the Homeowners Association’s (HOA) care. 

A townhouse is a single-family home that shares one or more walls with another unit which is also independently owned. The owners are responsible for their house, the utilities, insurance and the land lot along with all liabilities that may arise from the ownership of the townhouse.

The term house, on the other hand, is not used to refer to an ownership type, but to a wide arrange of housing types. In most cases, when someone says “a house”, they refer to single-family houses as a stand-alone structure, without shared walls with adjacent units (as the case was with townhouses). Houses can range from single-story ranch homes to multiple story houses that have basements or attic space.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CONDO, A TOWNHOUSE, AND A HOUSE

The basic differences between the three can be observed from the following aspects:

1.      Architecture

Condo – Condos are most similar to apartments and most commonly located on some of their floors of larger condo buildings. However, some condos can take up entire floors and be free-standing or significantly larger than regular floors – usually penthouses.

Townhouse – Looking at the architecture, townhouses are usually vertical structures with a minimum of 2 floors.

House – This word is actually used to refer to multiple types of structures representative of the era they were built in. Houses can come with a variety of features such as decks, pools, basements, and garages.

2.      Ownership

Condo – When you buy a condo, you buy the space you’re living in, but not the building, which is why they are usually cheaper than houses. The ownership of what is on the outside of your condo is regulated differently for every building – it can be shared ownership for the whole building community or private if there is an option for someone to buy a certain part of the building (i.e. a pool or a deck).  

Townhouse – Townhouse is not used to describe a form of ownership, but more to refer to a physical structure. However, you can buy the complete townhouse structure (i.e. a condominium building (along with everything inside and outside of it, as well as the land on which it sits.

House – House owners have ownership and responsibilities over the structure, the interior and the exterior of the house along with a specified land lot.

3.      Maintenance 

Condo – Condominium buildings all have Homeowner Associations that take care of maintaining the common area and facilities. In some cases, HOA may charge a one-time fee for periodical expenses such as roof upgrade or buying new gym equipment.  

Townhouse – Although there are many townhouses communities that have Homeowner’s Associations that cover costs for common areas (sidewalks, landscaping of the are), it’s not guaranteed that that will always be the case. Sometimes the homeowners themselves are responsible for maintaining the common areas besides their unit’s interior and exterior. 

House – Houses are privately owned, and as such, the responsibility of maintaining the whole fall on the homeowner’s shoulders. This includes everything from the interior of the house, to the patio, lawn and sometimes even the sidewalk in front of the house. 

4.      Costs

Condo – When you live in a condo, you live in a community and as such, all members of the community contribute to the costs of maintaining the facility, using the common space and shared amenities, as well as the insurance for the building/s. All costs are handled by the HOA except the individual homeowner’s insurance which is left to the residents.

Townhouse – As we just mentioned, townhouses may have HOA that covers the costs for common spaces and facilities through a budget, but when that’s not the case, individual owners are responsible to cover these costs. 

House – Homeowners are responsible for all costs arising from the structure and the lot the house is on. The specific area that falls under the responsibility of the house owners is specified by the house deed

PROS AND CONS OF EACH HOUSING TYPE

Balance

Pros of condos

  • More affordable to buy and maintain
  • Less maintenance required than a townhouse and house
  • You live in a community 

Cons of condos

  • Can’t be customized to your taste
  • Less privacy than a house
  • Shared amenities with other residents
  • There may be restrictions for renting or sharing the condo

Pros of townhouses

  • More affordable than a house
  • Some have HOA that maintains the common space and exterior 
  • You live in a community but have a private space
  • Less maintenance required than a house
  • Most townhouses have small yards and patios 

Cons of townhouses

  • Higher maintenance fees 
  • You don’t have full freedom to customize it
  • Some regulations by HOA

Pros of houses

  • You can fully personalize it
  • More privacy than condos and townhouses
  • Everything belongs to you
  • No special regulations for residency 
  • You can enjoy the outdoor space 

Cons of houses

  • More costly than other housing types
  • Requires a lot of maintenance
  • Takes a lot of time to maintain

BOTTOM LINE

To make sure you’re making the right choice whenever you’re out looking for a new home, a good starting point is to explore your options, know what they offer, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

If you’ve read this far into the article, you’ve covered the first step towards finding your ideal home – knowing the basic housing types and what they offer.