Can you tell if the property above is a condo (condominium) or a townhouse? I’m betting most people would guess that it’s a townhouse (FYI, it’s a condo). Sometimes by looking at a property with no other facts, it’s impossible to tell the type of dwelling, as both can look the same (ex.the townhouse “style” condo above). Some condos even look like single family homes because when the market took a hit it was cheaper to get condo permits for new builds then it was for single family permits. Confusion between the differences between condos and townhouses is common. While condos and townhouses can be a good option for some buyers, it’s important for buyers to know the distinct differences and pros and cons of both types of properties before making any commitments.
When you buy a condo you are only buying the interior space of your specific unit, not the land that it is on (even if it’s a townhouse style condo like above). When you buy a townhouse you are purchasing the interior, land, and any yard or patio spaces. While to some people the ownership of the land doesn’t matter, it’s just important to understand the differences in what you are actually purchasing.
Both condos and townhouses will most likely have a HOA, which comes with additional fees. Condo HOA dues are typically higher than townhouse dues as they usually have more common areas or amenities compared to townhouses. Condos might also have services such as water, trash, sewer, or even cable included in their dues. Both condo and townhouse dues usually cover exterior maintenance (ex. exterior paint, roof, etc.) as well as common area maintenance. Some condos will even do interior maintenance like you would find in an apartment complex (this does not apply to all condos though so be sure to check with the HOA!). Homeowner’s associations will also have rules and regulations that need to be followed. These could include common area rules, pet restrictions, grounds restrictions, and more. It’s important to get information about a property’s HOA before making a decision to put an offer on the property. For my clients I personally call the HOA to find out the dues (they can be very expensive), what is covered by the HOA (maintenance, utilities, etc.), and basic rules and regulations that are important to my buyer (ex. do they allow pets or have any weight limits). Without that information it’s hard to make an informed decision on if it’s the right property, or affordable financially.
Both condos and townhouses can present privacy issues to some people. Typically in both you will have at least one shared wall. It’s important to find out how thick the shared walls are, and listen to hear if there is any noise that can be heard within the unit. I even suggest knocking on your direct neighbors doors to introduce yourself and see if they have any noise complaints. It also gives you a chance to see what type of neighbors you would have should you choose to buy. In tight quarters neighbors who clash can be a recipe for disaster.
Townhouse and Condo Searches
Searching for condos and townhouses can be difficult as they are listed by the dwelling style not the type. So when looking on websites like Trulia, Zillow, or even the MLS condos can be listed as a townhouse due to the exterior look of the property. Using a Realtor during your search is key as they can further investigate the true type of dwelling it is by looking at tax records and other documents. It’s important to know the dwelling type as the buying and selling process is different between condos and townhouses.
When reselling a townhouse the process is very similar to if you were selling a single family detached home. As long as it’s in good shape, you should be able to sell it with no extra hoops to jump through. When selling a condo though, options of buyers can be limited. Cash buyers are of course always an option, but selling to a buyer who is getting financing (a majority of people) can be difficult. The buyers lender will do a condo questionnaire that asks questions about the complex and HOA to find out if it’s a warrantable condo complex. If it does not meet their strict conditions they will not finance the deal (keep an eye out for a separate blog post about buying and selling condos next Tuesday for more info!).
Condos and townhouses can be great options, especially for first time home buyers. You have to make the decision of what type of home works best for you and your current situation. I always suggest talking with a Realtor before buying or selling a townhouse or condo though so that you can make informed decisions based on the current local market.
If you want to know more about condos or townhouses feel free to ask questions in the comment area, email me at Rachell@TwinsAndCompany.com, or call/text me at 602.574.3438. Also be sure to check back next Tuesday to learn more about buying and selling condos!