The Difference Between a Townhouse and a Condo - A New Homeowner Guide

ByVladana Donevski
February 24,2022

Becoming a homeowner is one of the best experiences one can have, but purchasing a property comes with many decisions. Finding the right home to fit your lifestyle and budget in your preferred location can seem like mission impossible. Add to that the interchangeable terms for property types, and the confusion can become mind-numbing.

We’ll focus on handling one of those issues and explain the difference between a townhouse and a condo. We’ll also briefly cover other types of properties so you can walk into a realtor’s office with the knowledge and confidence you need to find the perfect place to start your new life as a homeowner.

Keep in mind, though - real estate is one of those niches where definitions can vary even in theory; in real life, the line where a condo ends and a townhouse begins is even more blurred. However, once you have the basics, you’ll be able to tell one from the other much easier.

What Is a Condo?

In the realtor playbook, a condominium is a style of joint ownership - as a new owner, you’d be purchasing a piece of a building, which would give you exclusive access to some of its areas. Having a condo means living in an apartment building, but you own the apartment instead of renting. You also share joint ownership of the whole building with other owners, including the gym, pool, grounds, or any other common areas the building has.

This solution is typically cheaper than the others, but it can also be limiting for some people. Living in a condo makes you a part of a community, but where that will land on the list of pros and cons of buying a condo depends solely on you.

What Is an Apartment?

Now, you’ll often hear the word ‘apartment’ used interchangeably with ‘condo,’ which can lead to confusion. However, the term ‘apartment’ typically refers to the individual units that make up a specific style of building. These units are usually occupied by tenants based on a lease.

In practice, an apartment building is owned by a person or business that rents the units to carefully screened tenants and oftentimes relies on property management software or a company on call. Even though this is the main difference between a condo and an apartment, it isn’t always the case, and there are exceptions to it, too.

You usually can’t tell whether a building consists of apartments for rent or if it’s part of a condominium just by looking at it, as they’re built more-or-less the same. Some modern condos look more like multi-level townhouses, which only adds to the confusion. Luckily, this is where brokerages and real estate agents can help, as it takes them a quick look into their real estate CRM to find precise information about the property you might be interested in.

As mentioned before, there are always exceptions, but the main difference in the condos vs. apartment struggle lies in who owns the units in a building - those living there or landlords.

What Is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is a type of building: To first-time homebuyers, it’s easiest to explain by saying, “think row houses.” A townhouse shares one or more walls with other townhouses, but the owners don’t have to worry about downstairs or upstairs neighbors. You’ll also likely get your own basement, front yard, or backyard with a townhouse.

Townhouses come with the convenience of a condo and some of the flexibility of a single-family home. With this type of property, you get more privacy than with the former, as it’s very close to owning a single-family home.

The critical difference between a condo and a townhouse is that townhouses are more expensive. On the other hand, they’re much more affordable when compared to the price of a single-family home. In other words, it’s a reasonable middle ground, which is why this option is so popular with new homeowners.

Homeowners Association (HOA)

It is essential to take a moment here to discuss the role the Homeowners Association (HOA) plays with these types of properties. 

When you purchase either a condo or townhouse, you’ll have to abide by HOA rules, but also cash out for HOA fees. HOA’s fees are typically higher in condos, as the HOA is responsible for most of the maintenance, which allows for a lock-and-leave mentality, where you don’t have to worry about repairs.

This is another difference between a townhouse and a condo, as HOA fees for townhouses cover only a few services, such as water bills or lawn maintenance. Any repairs on a townhouse may be a bit expensive, and you might have to pay for them at a moment’s notice.

Now, let’s quickly go over the remaining property types: Single-family and semi-detached homes.

Single-Family Homes

Single-family homes or fully detached, stand-alone properties are the dream of many wannabe homeowners, but these can be very expensive. Still, they come with much more space, privacy, and rights than the other options on this list.

Semi-Detached Homes

A semi-detached house shares some similarities with the townhome definition, except you get to share a single outer wall of your home with someone else, whereas with a townhouse, you usually share both. These houses are typically mirrored images of each other.

So, Which Home Is Right for You?

As usual, the answer is: It depends on you and, more specifically, your lifestyle.

People who chose condos typically appreciate living with neighbors, sharing common areas, and take a lot of comfort from it. Not having to worry about maintenance in a condo is a nice bonus, even though it might mean paying a bit more in HOA fees each month.

On the other side of the condo vs. townhouse debate are the people who appreciate their privacy more. They could also prefer the type of lifestyle that requires a backyard, for example, but cannot yet afford a single-family home.

FAQ
What defines a townhouse?

A townhouse is, by definition, a multi-leveled home, which shares two of its walls with adjacent properties. Townhouses that share only one wall are most commonly known as semi-detached houses. Either way, townhouses typically have their own entrances.

What are the pros and cons of owning a townhouse?

Townhouses are a middle-ground solution between a condo and a single-family home. They are an affordable option that offers more freedom than a condo, but you’ll still be sharing walls with other people, and the HOA doesn’t allow townhouse owners as much independence as one may expect.

Is a townhouse better than a condo?

The answer to this question depends on your lifestyle and budget. The main difference between a townhouse and a condo lies in the amount of space, privacy, and maintenance you get. With a townhouse, you’d typically have more space and privacy, but it will cost more, and handling maintenance will be entirely up to you. On the other hand, condos are cheaper, and you have less to worry about in terms of repairs. Still, you also get plenty of neighbors, and your freedom might be limited by occasionally strict community rules.

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Quite a few real estate agents have given up on the open house concept and categorized it as an archaic selling method. On the other hand, those that still use this strategy say they’ve had great success with it. So which example should you follow? Well, in our opinion, an open house is not to be underestimated - if it’s done right. But simply letting people in the door isn’t going to do much. That’s why, today, we’re going to give you all the necessary tips and tricks on how to do an open house and do it well. What Is an Open House? Before we go into more detail, we’d like to clarify what exactly an open house is, to avoid any mix-ups. An open house is a period during which a property may be shown to any potential buyers or tenants, but it can also refer to the property itself. There are also broker’s open houses, which, unlike their traditional counterparts, aren’t available to the general public. 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Make sure all the information you list is correct, because errors could make you look unprofessional; as someone new to the world of real estate, you can’t afford to make a bad first impression. Stage the Property You’ve most likely heard of this term, but if you haven’t, know that staging is the process of preparing a property for sale. Before hosting an open house, you need to make it look as appealing as possible to the majority of your prospective buyers. You should focus on cleaning and decluttering the space, as well as removing any personal items such as photos, monogrammed towels, and personal knickknacks. You may also need to replace some of your old appliances. Inform People We’ve reached what’s perhaps the crucial part of this entire process: Getting people informed and interested in your open house. If you’re well-connected, this shouldn’t pose much of a problem. 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Be a Good Host You’ll need to be both friendly and professional. Keep in mind that your goal isn’t to make the property seem perfect - there’s no such thing - but to point out the features that make it stand out from the competition. After you’ve shown the buyers around the home, be prepared to answer any questions they may have about it and leave them enough time to explore it independently. In addition to that, try to find out about other open house listings they are looking at. You should remember to put out some refreshments as well – cookies and bottled water are the safest options. Some agents serve alcohol to get a better turnout, but we'd advise against that, since your focus should be on attracting serious customers, not anyone who just wants to take advantage of the free drinks. Lastly, make sure that every visitor fills out the sign-in sheet. Their contact information is vital for the next step in this “How to Do an Open House” guide. Stay in Touch You should never forget to send a “thank you” email or text to the people that visited your open house. Not only is it polite, but it will also enable people who may not have picked up one of your flyers or descriptions to get in touch with you. The message should include a link to your web page or ad. During the following week, you should call every one of your visitors and ask them if they are interested in the home and have any additional questions about it. If they are disinterested, thank them for stopping by your open house showing and use the opportunity to hear their opinions on how you could make the property more attractive to future potential buyers. Those serious about a career in real estate can benefit from getting a good piece of customer relationship management software. In the beginning, you probably won’t need it as much, but as you gain more contacts, you’ll see that developing a relationship with them will get increasingly harder if you don’t enlist some help to keep track of all the information. When to Host an Open House? Scheduling your open house at the right time can make the difference between two visitors and twenty. People tend to have more free time on weekends, but the best time for an open house depends on the area in which the showing is being held. In metro areas, you don’t want to organize an open house too late in the day, since the heavy afternoon traffic will most likely discourage many from coming. You should be fine if you choose any time slot between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Setting a time in the suburbs is less tricky. Our suggestion would be to let people enjoy their mornings and host your open house between 12:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Although it may seem like a fun idea, avoid the temptation of holding an open house on a public holiday. Few will want to go through the effort of finding the time to drop by. Another thing that you should remember is that you will almost certainly need to organize several open houses to get the best possible offers. When planning several showings, sticking to a schedule will help you keep track of everything you need to do and make things less confusing for your potential customers. Note that, unlike standard open houses, broker’s open houses are typically held midweek, since agents are more available during those days. Should You Hold an Open House? Now that we’ve explained how to host an open house, let’s discuss whether you should actually do it. Pros: Exposure: Open houses are a terrific way to publicize a property. They may not lead to a direct sale every time, but sometimes the hardest part of selling a home is making people aware of it. To help with that, you should make use of flyers and internet ads to attract attention to the actual event, and then put in plenty of open house advertising effort to maintain buyer interest while they’re on the property and afterward. Attracts inexperienced buyers: A lot of first-time homebuyers don’t know where to start their home-buying process, which is why they will commonly attend open houses to ask a real estate agent for advice, see what’s out there, and perhaps even learn from other visitors. Networking: Potential buyers aren’t the only visitors you should expect at your showing. In most cases, you’ll also find real estate brokers and agents there too. Not only can they offer you useful open house tips, but they might actually have one or several clients who might be interested in your property. 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The truth is that most serious prospective buyers will usually opt for a private viewing instead of a group one. Security risks: Unfortunately, one of the main downsides of an open house event is that criminals often use them to explore a property without raising suspicion or being supervised. The odds of a post-open-house break-in increase in situations when the home is vacant. What’s more, you’ll have to look out for any attempts of theft during the event as well, as large crowds make it nearly impossible to find the culprit afterward. Hobbyists and curious neighbors: For some, occasionally visiting open houses is a kind of hobby, especially when high-end homes are concerned. While conducting your open house follow-up, you might also discover that some of the people you had met were just inquisitive neighbors who wanted to compare the property to their own. Obviously, none of these individuals will be interested in making a purchase, and they aren’t very useful as future contacts either.
By Isidora Alimpic · March 01,2022
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By Vladana Donevski · January 20,2022
If you have a detailed and signed lease with tenants who follow it to the t, you’ve hit the landlord jackpot. It’s not always that easy, however - many landlords have shaky relationships with their tenants and will often find themselves in situations where an unpleasant confrontation is unavoidable. A tenant’s lease ending can be very frustrating for a landowner. There will be those unicorn tenants whose lease landlords will be happy to renew. More often, however, “How long can a tenant stay after the lease expires?” is just one of those questions a landlord might ask themselves with a tenant lease near expiring. The best route is to contact your tenants even before the lease expires and discuss with them whether you would like to have them stay or figure out whether they’re planning on leaving. Starting the process early will give you the time to attract new tenants if your property becomes vacated. 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By default, as soon as their lease expires, a tenant becomes a holdover tenant. However, this is far from optimal for landlords - you’ll want to avoid having holdover tenants and redefine their tenancy within some kind of agreement. Without a lease in place, there’s not much to protect either party if anything goes south. Ambiguous leases are also very unhelpful. Some tenants will try to pay rent even after the lease expires, and you should avoid accepting that before putting the terms in writing. If you do take the rent, you expose yourself to several risks down the road. People whose lease expired and are still paying rent fall into two categories: Tenancy at sufferance and tenancy at will. Tenancy at Will This category entails paying rent and living on a property without a lease but with the landlord’s approval. It is a tricky position to be in for both landlord and tenant, as, just like the name suggests, either party can change their mind at any time. Tenants can stop paying rent and vacate the premises, and the landlord can tell them to leave by serving them an eviction notice with no warning. This term is sometimes used interchangeably with a month-to-month lease, but renting month-to-month after the lease expires is still commonly regulated by some type of written agreement that states how long the state can last or the conditions under which the lease ends. Tenancy at Sufferance Tenancy at sufferance is a situation that often ends badly, as it means that the tenant pays rent and occupies the property against the landlord’s wishes. If you, as a landlord, don’t want the tenants to stay, but they are staying anyway, you shouldn’t accept rent, as it can complicate the situation if you are forced to start an eviction process. After all, you shouldn’t have to accept “forever” as the answer to the “How long can a tenant stay after the lease expires?” If your tenants remain on your property against your wishes, you should refuse to accept money or extend the lease, thus making the tenant a trespasser on your property. This will help you prove that you don’t want them there if the situation escalates. How can the situation escalate, you might wonder? The tenant might up and leave, leaving you with unpaid rent. While you can overcome this situation relatively easily by going to a small claims court or hiring a collection agency, there is a worse situation to be in - the one where the tenant refuses to leave after the lease expires. 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Starting the Eviction Process While, as a landlord, you might be considering eviction first, we’re leaving it as a last resort. Each state has its laws on eviction, so it can be challenging to estimate whether eviction is the right step to take. Some state laws favor tenants, other landlords. It would be advisable to hire a lawyer, or at least inform yourself of the applicable eviction laws in your state. If your question is: “How long does it take to evict a holdover tenant?” the answer can range anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and it depends on the tenants’ rights. The first step is typically serving the tenants with an eviction notice, which they will hopefully abide by, and leave your property. If not, the landlord needs to promptly file an official complaint with their local rent court after the notice expires. After this, the eviction court hearing date will be set, and it would be best to have a lawyer accompany you there. Eviction after a lease expires can be very unpleasant, which is why the better-safe-than-sorry approach is crucial when choosing tenants. It is always recommended that landlords perform a detailed background check on their prospective renters beforehand. Writing a clear lease that leaves nothing to chance and ensuring that your tenants are familiar with the terms before they move in are keys to a happy landlord-tenant relationship. Summary To sum things up, as a landlord whose lease with the tenant is soon to expire, you certainly have many options. You can try renewing their lease in one form or another, offering cash for keys so that they will move out faster, or try to evict the lease-expired tenant who won't leave. The best way to handle any stressful situation with your tenants is to be proactive about things and prevent any unpleasantness. Screen your tenants, create a thorough lease that works for both parties, and approach any case involving your tenant with an open mind: Having an honest conversation with your tenant and finding a win-win solution together trumps any other option on this list.
By Vladana Donevski · March 14,2022

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