Advantages & Disadvantages of Townhouses vs. Single-Family Homes

First-time homebuyers looking for the best real estate deal available often find themselves choosing between a single-family home and a townhouse. While each type of property offers distinct advantages and shortcomings, the buyer’s own needs and preferences can make one type of property considerably more appealing than the other.

Considering Maintenance Requirements

Homeownership of any type requires maintenance, but maintenance in a townhouse may require considerably less effort than in a single-family home. In a free-standing house, homeowners must maintain the interior of the house as well as exterior items like the roof, shutters, driveway and outside fixtures. In a townhouse community, though, the homeowners’ association typically handles external maintenance.

Community maintenance helps ensure a uniform appearance among all townhouses in the neighborhood, but some homeowners may find this approach a little restrictive; townhouse associations typically maintain tight control and restrictions concerning outside fixtures.

Comparing Available Amenities

In addition to covering external maintenance, the homeowners' associations in townhouse communities often provide a wealth of other services. Typical townhouse communities include swimming pools, tennis courts, playgrounds and clubhouses, and some may offer luxuries like a community library, video library, gym or boat dock. Because the community shares these facilities, though, there is somewhat less privacy than similar amenities in single-family homes.

Difference in Yard Size

Though some townhouses have lawns, these yards are typically considerably smaller than a single-family home’s lawn. In some communities, the association enforces a “common area” approach that forces townhome owners to share their backyards with neighbors. Townhouse associations often include lawn maintenance and landscaping in the monthly fee, though, so homeowners with an aversion to yard work may prefer the convenience of living in a townhouse.

Differences in Privacy

Single-family homes typically offer some space between the home and the closest neighbor, and this separation can equate to increased privacy for residents. In a townhouse, by contrast, the structure’s shared walls may mean that neighbors can hear your loud music, television, parties and even arguments.

Differences in Cost

Townhouses often carry a lower price tag than comparable single-family homes. In addition to the lower purchase price, townhouse owners may find themselves paying lower utility bills as a townhome’s shared walls help prevent heat loss.

Though the lower initial purchase price may result in a more affordable mortgage payment, the homeowners' association dues may offset these savings. Many townhouse associations charge monthly dues that can reach into the hundreds of dollars, so homebuyers should carefully compare the overall expense before making a purchase.

In addition, homeowners who hope to profit from the property’s appreciation while living in the home may prefer to pursue a single-family property, as townhouses tend to appreciate at a slower rate than detached dwellings.

the nest