What is a townhouse?


It seems like a pretty simple question, but many people get it wrong, confusing this type of house with many others. We are here to help you ! So let’s set the record straight and help us decide if a townhouse is right for you.

What you need to know about a townhouse

The origins of the word townhouse can be traced back to early England, where the term referred to a dwelling that a (usually royal) family kept “in town” (i.e. London) when their principal residence was in the countryside. The word stuck, and today it is used to describe a wide range of primary residences (rather than just an extra base for the wealthy) all over the world, in other words, not just in the towns.

In the United States, a townhouse is defined as a single family Home with at least two floors that share a wall with another house. Contrary to duplex or quadruplex, however, each townhouse is individually owned. The main difference between townhouses and townhouses is in the way they are laid out. Townhouses are, as the name suggests, lined up, while townhouses can often be configured differently.

The Census Bureau offers data on new construction, but the reports however do not distinguish between the two and classify them all as terraced houses. Of 822,000 new single-family homes sold in 2021 (latest data available), 83,000 were attached homes, or about 10% of all new construction sold.

Census studies from a decade ago that broke townhouses and townhouses showed that they made up about 5.6% of the total housing inventory in the United States, which is low compared to the decades when townhouses were most popular, such as the 1940s, when they made up 7.6% of inventory.

Where to find townhouses

Townhouses are more common in areas where land is scarce and real estate prices are high. Because townhouses share walls with neighbors, they make the most of the land they are built on, making them a bargain compared to freestanding single-family homes.

“There are parts of the county where you don’t see all the townhouses, usually where land is freely available,” said Robert Palmerfinancial expert and facilitator of the Save thousands of radio shows. “Where you really see townhouses in use is in the transitional areas – areas where you see an urban-to-suburban transfer, before you really go into the sprawling suburban lands. But you’re not necessarily downtown, where you tend to see more condos.

Townhouse vs condo: what’s the difference?

The difference between townhouses and condos is a little more fuzzy and depends on the form of ownership, as some townhouses are sold as condos. If you buy a condominium townhouse, you will only own the interior of the building. If you are buying it as a townhouse, you can also own the property offsite, although it may be subject to the rules of a homeowners association.

Benefits of Townhouse Living

One of the advantages of owning a townhouse over a condo is that since you own the property entirely, you are able to make important decisions about home improvements and maintenance.

“If you’re in a condo, there are often strict regulations around those decisions, and you’re stuck being part of the larger group – you can’t make real decisions about outside of your unit as far as replacements, upgrades and maintenance,” says Palmer.

Townhouses, on the other hand, give you more hands-free operation, without the high maintenance costs of a single-family home. “With a single-family home, you’re completely on your own and all maintenance responsibilities rest on your shoulders,” says Palmer. In a way, a townhouse can offer the best of both worlds, he says: “I believe townhouses fill the void, where you get cost savings and benefits of being part of the larger large community and to have this type of attached housing, but you are not limited because you would be part of a condominium association. »

This winning combination – of simultaneously being master of your domain (inside and outside the home) with minimal maintenance and low entry costs – makes townhouses perfect for first buyers. To find an ad in your area, choose “townhouse” in your search filter.

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