For many first-time homebuyers, a condo and townhouse are good starter homes. Condos and townhouses are typically more affordable than semi-detached and detached houses, especially in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver. They’ve become desired considering high real estate costs.
Just to clarify things, when we say condo, we mean a condo unit that’s owed by a separate condo owner with a condo corporation managing the building. When we say townhouse, we mean a condo townhouse (not a freehold townhouse). Both have condo fees and a condominium corporation.
Now that we understand the basic difference between a condo and townhouse, let’s take a look at the 12 key differences to know.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #1: Number of Levels
With a condo unit there’s usually only one level, whereas with a townhouse there’s usually multiple levels or floor. If you have mobility issues, you’re a senior or physically disabled, the number of levels is something to consider.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #2: Roof
With a townhouse most units have own rooftops / outside space, whereas with a condo, there’s no individual rooftop. The condo building has a shared roof for all the units.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #3: The Feel
A condo unit has the feeling of a hotel or apartment building including elevators, concierge / security service, shared amenities. Meanwhile, a townhouse feels more like a house. You have that feeling of freedom that you get being a homeowner.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #4: Space
A condo tends to have less space. You’ll need to make the most of every square inch e.g. by using our condo living ideas for small spaces. Meanwhile, a townhouse tends to have more space. Condos tend to be better for singles or couples, whereas townhouses tend to be better for families. It is important to know all floor plans traps when buying a condo since the space is very limited.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #5: Property Value
Although townhouses tend to be worth more, condos typically appreciate at a higher pace (see one of the CP24 articles). For example, in Toronto in April 2019, townhouse prices were up 1.6 percent to $655,994, while condo prices were up 5.1 percent year-over-year to $588,168.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #6: Parking
Even if you don’t own a vehicle, it’s highly recommended that you buy a condo or townhouse with a parking spot for resale value. This can though mean incremental costs of $10,000 – $40,000. Condos tend to have joint underground-style parking, while townhouses may or may not have dedicated parking under them.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #7: Unit Height
In a condo you could find yourself living high up depending on which floor your condo unit is on. This can be a pain if the elevators ever breakdown or the power goes off. Also elevator waiting times can be very long, especially during the rush hours in the morning. Meanwhile, with a townhouse you tend to live on the ground floor with another one or two floors for the townhouse itself.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #8: Access
Condos tend to have easy access to the facilities and amenities, such as the lobby, swimming pool and gym. This makes them ideal for wintertime or rainy weather when you may not want to go outside. Townhouses may or may not require you to walk outside over to a main building where the shared amenities are located.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #9: BBQ
Are you into barbequing? With summertime here, it’s on everyone’s mind. With a condo, a barbeque is not ideal. In many cases you can’t have a barbeque on your balcony simply because there isn’t the space or it is not allowed by condominium rules. In this case your only option is using a shared BBQ area where you might have to register in advance. Not with a townhouse, where barbequing on a rooftop is a must and all your guests will love it.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #10: Responsibility
If you’re looking for fewer responsibilities, a condo may be your ideal choice. Condos tend to have nearly no responsibilities. Townhouses don’t have a lot either, but you may be responsible for some areas like the porch and rooftop (e.g. cleaning the show).
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #11: Flooding
Climate change has made flooding more of an issue, depending on where you live. Condos don’t tend to be in danger of being flooded (unless you live in a ground floor unit). Meanwhile, townhouses may be impacted by flooding, especially if they have a basement. Thus, you might also need additional insurance coverage that includes overland flooding.
Townhouse vs Condos – Difference #12: Security
Condos tend to have a higher level of security (although it depends on the building). Condos may have fobs for accessing the parking garage and a security desk out front. Townhouses tend to have less security. You can typically gain access to the first floor and they tend to lack a dedicated security person (though there can be one occasionally patrolling the neighbourhood).
The Bottom Line
In the end if you can afford both, it’s personal preference that will help you decide what property to go with and what you will call your home. You only have one place you’ll be able to call home, so choose wisely. If you are looking for professional support when buying a condo / townhouse or searching for rental, our real estate specialists will be delighted to support you along this journey.
Also do not forget to check out our useful list of 22 things to buy a condo like an expert.