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Read about townhomes and how they differ from freestanding homes.

Townhomes typically offer more room and privacy than apartments. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Townhomes typically offer more room and privacy than apartments.

Townhomes are convenient housing options for everyone from first-time homebuyers to mature residents seeking to downsize. Generally less expensive than detached, single-family homes, townhomes occupy less land. They are also considered a step above apartment renting, offering more room and privacy. Despite a dip in the housing market, there were more than 4.9 million existing-home sales in the United States in 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors, which includes single-family, condo and townhome sales.

What are townhomes?

What makes a townhome different from a freestanding house is that a townhome is a single-family residence attached to other dwellings. These locations can be single- or multi-story units, containing at least one separate outside entrance. Most often, owners of townhomes possess their own space at the front or back of the unit. Townhomes are usually cheaper than single-family homes, and newer townhomes often offer brand-new appliances and upgrades at lower rates than older, established single-family homes. Additionally, townhomes provide an instant community, with amenities that might not be available elsewhere. Many townhome complexes have access to a pool, workout facility and 24-hour security.

The draw for many townhome owners is that unlike apartment and garden home living, there generally is no family living above or below the dwelling. Townhomes do share common walls, but rarely do they share ceilings and floors. This allows for a quieter environment. Additionally, townhome associations are oftentimes less stringent and allow for more independence and privacy compared to condo complexes.

Homeowners associations (HOA) are normally a part of townhomes; they take care of maintenance and deal with management issues. Most HOAs have on-call services that can handle any immediate concerns. This service is paid for by each homeowner through a monthly fee. Occasionally, there might be a yearly fee in addition to the monthly payment.

Condominium Ownership

According to the International Real Estate Digest, there is a common misconception associated with the term condominium in that some people wrongly assume it refers to the layout or style of a building. Instead, it is a form of ownership in real estate. Those who possess condominium homeownership of their townhome own the inside space of the unit, meaning the space within the unit is the homeowner's responsibility. While condominium ownership does not include ownership of the outside area, it does include a shared interest in common areas, owned jointly with other unit owners.

Normally, the association maintains and pays for insurance for exterior parts of the unit, while care and insurance inside the unit is the homeowner's responsibility. However, this is not the case in every instance. It is important for homeowners to read condo documents thoroughly before purchasing a unit. For instance, some documents may specify that walkway snow removal is the association's responsibility, while others may state this task is up to the specific unit owner.

Fee Simple Ownership

Contrary to condo homeownership, fee simple ownership encompasses the entire property, including both the building and land. This type of homeownership is the most common. The owners pay maintenance fees and property taxes for the land, which means they can use the land as they please. Usually, the homeowner is responsible for maintaining lawn, but the homeowner's association takes care of that in certain instances.

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