Should You Buy a House or a Townhouse?

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Real estate agent talking with a family
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Point2.

If you’re on the hunt for a new home, there’s a good chance you’re discovering just how varied the market is. There are seemingly endless different types of properties out there.

Of course, it helps to split them into three main categories: single-family homes, townhouses and condos.

Narrowed it down to a house of some variety? Then let’s look at the differences between townhouses and regular houses.

What to Know About Houses

Older couple in front of a house
Monkey Business Images /

Almost every time someone talks about a house, they are referring to a single-family home. This relates to a detached property that sits on its own plot of land.

If you own the house, you also own the land, which can be used as a yard, vegetable garden, or even for building an ADU (accessory dwelling unit), among many other things.

Single-family homes come in many styles and sizes, from luxurious mansions to humble bungalows. Typically, they’re larger than townhouses, though this isn’t always the case.

Also, unlike condos and townhouses, there are no shared walls. Generally speaking, you won’t find shared commodities, like a pool, either, although some gated communities are an exception to this rule.

The additional space offered by a house also usually results in a heftier price tag, plus the following extra costs. Since you own the land, you’ll need to spend money maintaining it and making exterior repairs from time to time.

Advantages of a Single-Family Home

A couple looking at a home with a real estate agent
kurhan /
  • More space: Besides the indoor footprint usually being larger than a townhouse, you’ll also have access to any outdoor space your plot includes. This allows much more freedom to get creative with the space, building anything from a storage shed to a workshop or home office.
  • Typically more freedom over aesthetics: When you own a house and the land it sits on, you’re often free to do what you like. You can create your dream garden or change the exterior appearance of your home much more easily compared with a townhouse. However, be sure to check HOA rules if applicable.
  • More privacy: With no shared walls and your own private yard, single-family homes offer more privacy than a townhouse.

Disadvantages of a Single-Family Home

Anxious home seller
Asier Romero /
  • More expensive: Generally, a house is more expensive than a townhouse of comparable size and style.
  • More responsibility: You’ll need to take care of all the exterior maintenance, from painting your walls to yard work. This can add costs and take time.
  • Less likely to have access to shared amenities: If you want a pool or somewhere to socialize with your neighbors, you’ll typically have to build it yourself on your land. This isn’t always the case, though. For example, many gated communities boast excellent amenities to be shared between the owners of the single-family homes in the development.

What to Know About Townhouses

Luxury residential townhouses with open patio in front
Imagenet /

Townhouses offer the best compromise for those struggling to decide between a condo and a house. They’re typically larger than a condo, though smaller than a house, and many even have small yards.

Like a condo, they’ll share at least one, though usually two, exterior walls with another unit.

Townhouses are also more likely to be in an HOA, meaning the owner has less responsibility when it comes to exterior maintenance. On the flip side, they also have less autonomy than the owner of a single-family house, with less choice over aesthetics.

However, not all townhouses are part of an HOA, so be sure to check.

In terms of what to expect from a townhouse, they also come in various styles and sizes.

Traditionally you’d find rows of townhouses, all joined together. These tend to be tall and narrow, with several floors. Unlike a condo, when you own a townhouse, you also own the land it sits on.

Advantages of a Townhouse

Homes in Memphis, Tennessee
Steven Frame /
  • Typically more affordable: Compared with single-family homes, townhouses are usually cheaper.
  • Less responsibility: When it comes to exterior maintenance and shared amenities, most townhouse owners aren’t directly responsible. Instead, the HOA takes care of everything. That said, not all townhouses belong to an HOA, so be sure to check.

Disadvantages of a Townhouse

The row of just finished new yellow townhouses, Modern village buildings with blue sky, Concept of buying a house vs renting an apartment.
Santi Nanta /
  • Less privacy: With shared walls and less outdoor space, townhouses aren’t as private as single-family homes.
  • HOA fees: Any townhouse that’s part of an HOA comes with monthly or annual fees.
  • Less space: Townhouses do tend to be smaller than single-family homes.
  • Less control over aesthetics: If your townhouse is part of an HOA, you’ll have less autonomy than a single-family house owner.

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