What is a Townhouse?


Faisal Nadeem

Townhouses are a versatile type of housing that have been around since the 17th-century in Europe, originally appearing in London and Paris. These multi-floor homes are designed to fit snugly in high-density urban environments, sharing one or two walls with adjacent properties. The narrow and tall silhouette of a townhouse often includes a small front lawn and backyard, providing a sense of personal outdoor space even in bustling cities.

Townhouses have evolved over the decades, gaining popularity particularly in North America. By 2020, they made up 11 percent of single-family new construction, according to the National Association of Home Builders, with a significant increase of 28 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year. This growth reflects the desire of many homebuyers for a compromise between a detached house and an apartment, offering the benefits of both.

In the 1600s, townhouses began as colonial residences in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, expanding to the outskirts and suburban areas in the 20th century. These homes, often part of a distinct community with a homeowners association, offer uniform residences that provide both freedom and responsibility for their owners. Unlike a condo, where HOA fees cover maintenance, townhouse owners are responsible for their interior and exterior spaces. Modern townhouses, also known as townhomes, feature a multilevel architecture that includes the land the house sits on.

This type of dwelling suits those who appreciate living close to their neighbors while enjoying personal perks like a private entrance and shared community spaces. The style of a townhouse combines the charm of colonial cities with the functionality of row houses, making them a practical and attractive choice for contemporary living. The plan section elevation of these homes reflects their utilitarian design, often built in sets of four, six, or eight, with identical features and occasional details that add character. The new-build townhome projects often focus on creating attached residences with narrow silhouettes to maximize space in urban environments.

What is the definition of a townhouse?—The Answer

A townhouse is a city dwelling with a distinct style characterized by its multi-floor design. This type of home shares one or two walls with adjacent properties and has its own entrance, along with a small front lawn and a backyard.

Costs of Owning a Condo vs. a Townhouse?

When considering the price of owning a townhome versus a condo, it’s essential to factor in more than just the initial listing. While a townhome might seem more expensive due to larger space, the overall budget includes many elements. For example, property taxes and home insurance can differ significantly between a townhouse and a condo. Moreover, mortgage interest rates are typically higher for a condo than for a townhouse, influencing long-term costs.
In my experience with real estate, it’s crucial to consider all aspects, from HOA fees to the different elevations and sections within the property. Every plan should account for these variables to get a full picture of the financial commitment. As someone who has navigated these waters, I can say that understanding these details is vital to making an informed decision.

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Difference b/w Townhouse vs. condo

A townhouse is a style of residence that is physically attached to its neighbors, offering a unique blend of home ownership in urban centers. Unlike a detached house, a townhouse shares one or more walls with adjacent properties, which is particularly common in cities with high property costs. This style of living is often found in traditional neighborhoods where shops, restaurants, and coffee spots are just a short walk away. Townhouses can be independently owned or part of a planned-unit development (PUD), providing rights and amenities similar to a condo.

The main difference between a townhouse and a condo lies in the ownership structure and costs. Condos can be single-floor apartments within a multi-story building or even a townhouse-style unit in a larger complex. In a condo setup, you own the interior of your unit and share ownership of the common areas. On the other hand, townhouses often come with ownership of both the interior and the exterior property, including any small yards or gardens. This setup means townhouses might have higher maintenance costs but offer more autonomy. Townhouses can also be found in multi-family configurations where individual units or floors are rented out, a common scenario in historic cities where large homes have been divided into separate living units.

Townhouse Ownership: Pros & Cons


  • Living in a townhouse can be very cost-effective. These homes are usually cheaper than detached single-family homes. You’ll find townhouses in cities, often with less yard and acreage to maintain, which means lower homeowners insurance. A townhouse might have shared facilities like a pool, gym, or clubhouse, reducing your maintenance worries.
  • In my experience, townhouses often come with a garage and some outdoor space like a patio or lawn, providing a comfortable living environment. Additionally, being part of a development with an HOA can mean well-maintained exteriors and access to shared amenities, unlike many apartments. This combination of factors makes townhouses a smart choice for those wanting more space without the high costs of larger properties.
  • Broker real estate, paying inside house, square footage, smaller property.


  • Living in a townhouse has several downsides to consider. Restrictions placed by the HOA can limit your choices, such as the colors of paint for your front door and the types of windows you can install. Additionally, these associations charge monthly fees, which add an expense to your budget.
  • Townhouses often involve close proximity to neighbors with shared walls, leading to increased noise and traffic compared to a detached single-family home. This can significantly affect your living experience.
  • The multi-floor layout requires climbing stairs, which might not be sustainable for everyone due to the vertical design. As Paul Gorney, a Realtor and team leader at eXp Realty in Chicago notes, this can be a significant issue for older homeowners.

Tips for buying a townhouse

Consider your budget

When shopping for a townhouse, it’s crucial to ensure that your budget covers not just the cost of the property itself but also factors like HOA payments and the real estate market trends. Prices have risen sharply in the past few years, making affordability a key subject of consideration. The average cost of a new townhouse in the United States varies between $115,500 to $237,500, depending on the region and customization. This elevation in prices reflects the ebb and flow of the broader market. When working with a general contractor to build your townhouse, it’s important to factor in these costs comfortably within your budget to avoid financial strain.

Make a must-have list for the community

When choosing a community for your townhouse, it’s important to consider several factors. Security should be a priority; make sure the area has good safety measures. The rules of the community are also crucial. A less-restrictive set of rules can provide more freedom. Facilities for socializing are essential, as they foster a friendly environment. Think about the size and layout of these facilities and how they meet your needs. You should also know what one wants in terms of amenities and services provided by the community. Making a list of these must-haves will help you find a community that suits your lifestyle..

Perk up your ears

When you’re checking out townhouses, it’s possible to hear what’s happening in your neighbor’s house through the shared walls. This goes both ways: your neighbor can hear you, vice versa. Listen carefully to see how much sound travels through the walls. If you purchase an end unit, you’ll have less noise to worry about since you only share a wall on one side. These desirable homes typically have more windows and can cost more as a result.

Check out the common areas

When considering a townhouse, it’s important to tour the facilities. Pay attention to the community gym, lounge, and squash court. Observe how well these areas are maintained and whether they seem crowded. Personal experience has shown that well-kept and less crowded facilities enhance the living experience significantly, adding value to your home and lifestyle.

Talk to your future neighbors

When considering buying a townhouse, it’s a good idea to talk to your potential neighbors. Being in closer proximity to them makes it particularly important. Ask about the area and any HOA issues to ensure a comfortable home environment.

Read the HOA rules

Homeowners in associations often appreciate the uniform look and extra freedom they get. HOA rules can cover details like the color of your door or where to park in the driveway or garage. Before making a purchase, consider the financial commitment and restrictions in your chosen community. Each HOA offers different options, so you can find one that suits your needs.

Think long-term

When planning for the future, think about your ability to traverse steps in a townhouse. If you want to expand your family, a multi-floor property might make sense. However, consider different stages of life and whether you can stay comfortable in the property without being worried about steps and living arrangements.

How Does Insurance Work for Condos and Townhouses?

Understanding homeowners insurance for condos and townhouses is crucial. For a condo, the insurance policy covers the interior of your unit, including repairs for damage from fire, storms, and other disasters. It also covers replacement of stolen belongings and offers liability protection if someone is injured in your property. The HOA’s insurance typically covers the building’s roof and shared spaces.

In contrast, townhouses need more comprehensive coverage. The insurance policy must cover both the interior and exterior, including any home renovations and sometimes the land. This extends to single-family home aspects, covering events like a storm causing damage to the roof. With more coverage required, the expenses can be higher compared to a condo in the same area.

Having experienced this process, I found working with knowledgeable agents invaluable. They helped ensure my property was fully protected, mitigating the risk of potential sues and unexpected costs. Proper homeowners insurance is essential for safeguarding your investment and providing peace of mind.

How Do Property Taxes Work for Condos vs. Townhouses?

When it comes to property taxes, condos and townhouses are treated differently due to their distinct characteristics. For a townhouse, the property’s assessed value is determined by an assessor who evaluates the home based on factors like square footage, elevation, plan, section, number of rooms, and the land you own. This value is then multiplied by the local tax rate set by the government. Mortgage lenders often collect payments through an escrow account, allowing the lender to handle the bill and ensure the money is available over the course of several months.

In contrast, condos generally have lower taxes because the property value is distributed among all the residents sharing the space. The assessed value of a condo includes not only your unit but also a portion of the shared spaces within the building. As a result, the overall tax burden is less than that of a townhome, where you are solely responsible for the property and the land it occupies within your neighborhood.

How do you describe a townhouse?

A townhouse, also known as a townhome, is a type of house that features multiple floors and at least one shared wall with neighboring residences. These buildings are often tall and thin, and they are attached to other townhomes in a long row. Townhouses are especially popular in urban and suburban areas for their efficient use of space and community-oriented design.

Why do they call it a townhouse?

A townhouse is a city residence historically owned by noble or wealthy families. In the 18th century, these families, along with their servants, would move from their country houses where they lived most of the year to their city townhouse during the social season. This was when major balls and social events took place, allowing landowners to maintain their status and connections.

What is the difference between a country house and a townhouse?

In British usage, a townhouse is a term for an opulent residence in a town or city. This practice started in Westminster where the seat of the monarch and members of the nobility and gentry were normally located. A country house, generally known as a country seat, is opposed to a townhouse. These homes are colloquially called stately homes, often larger and opulent.

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