A townhouse is a single-family dwelling typically occupied by one family. What makes it different from a single-family house is that it is attached to another unit. One townhouse is separate from the next by a dividing wall with no windows or doorways.
As opposed to the freedom and flexibility that come with owning a single-family home, your creative opportunities are normally limited with townhouses. They are generally part of planned living developments and covered by homeowners association rules. This may limit your ability to paint your home a different color, add sheds or other items to the property or park a boat in your driveway. If you want to run your home as you see fit, a single-family dwelling makes more sense.
Townhouses offer less privacy than single-family homes. You have little to no private yard space and your walls are shared with neighbors. If they are loud or have small children constantly running about in front of your house, you won't get much peace and quiet. Lying out to sunbathe, throwing private parties on the back deck and playing catch in the yard with your kids are often difficult or impractical, depending on the setting of your home.
While you do usually own land when buying a townhouse, the lot sizes are limited. Since each unit is adjacent to the one next to it on both sides, the yard space is in the front and back and limited to the width of your unit. This does minimize your mowing responsibilities, but it also means you don't get the benefits that come with having lots of yard space, such as space for kids to play and opportunities to add landscaping.
Your living space in a townhouse is usually more vertical than horizontal. Two- to three-story townhouses are common. This means you may have to walk up one to two flights of stairs to get to upstairs bedrooms or living areas. If you have health issues or struggle to go up and down stairs, this presents some challenges. Some developments do have elevators for multi-story properties, especially when they cater to an older population.
Resale values on townhouses sometimes lag values of single-family homes in certain markets. This is especially true in communities that have seen an influx in the availability of condos and townhouses in the early 21st century. Some builders replicate successful developments near the same areas -- in effect creating your same home, but newer. Fewer buyers are typically available for townhouses as well, due to more difficulty in securing financing. Some banks require minimum occupancy levels in community living set-ups like townhouses to protect their investments.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.