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What is a Townhouse?

Updated May 16, 2024
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A townhouse is a dwelling that seems to combine the best amenities of a single-family home and a true condominium. Many people are a bit confused about exactly what defines a dwelling as a townhouse, and some of the lines are somewhat blurred, but the true explanation is simple: it is a home that is attached to adjacent houses. Typically, ownership comes with the land that the house is on.

While condos are sometimes also physically attached to other units, when a person buys a condominium, she does not own the land beneath her home, despite the fact that she may be required to contribute to the general upkeep of the common areas.

Townhouses, also sometimes called row houses, can be built as single or multi-storied structures. They can be attached to other houses with one or both sides sharing common walls, depending on whether the unit is in a center or end position. These homes can be grouped together as small units, such as duplexes or triplexes, or they can be a part of a huge complex. If one is located within a larger complexes, the owner may be required to pay fees for the upkeep of common areas, as well as taking care of her own yard.

In most cases, a townhouse offer at least a little green space, most often in the form of a small backyard area and landscaped walkup that leads to the front door. Some are designed to include backyard patios or upstairs balconies to enhance the feeling of open space. Some advantages to buying a this type of home include less responsibility for maintenance because of reduced exterior areas, higher security with neighbors right next door, and amenities, such as swimming pools or tennis courts, which are often available in larger complexes.

Not everyone is suited for the lifestyle that comes with such a house, however. Compared to owning a single-family dwelling, owners will lose a degree of privacy, be somewhat restricted as to how they can decorate the exterior of the dwelling, and may have to incur expenses to help pay for landscaping services and upkeep on the overall property.

If the concept of owning a townhouse does appeal to an individual, she can find a wide variety of styles and price ranges. These homes can look rustic, traditional or modern; the design is only limited by the imagination of the architect. As always, the real estate market and property location dictate market value for most houses.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon947384 — On Apr 25, 2014

Question to previous Posters ("owners"?) above: Don't you all have to get permission to do anything (on/in/with) your property? For example, to plant another tree, shrub, flower, etc. I've heard that even house color is at the discretion of the association. Does one have to obtain permission to "pass gas" in one's own 'home, sweet home' ?

By anon105467 — On Aug 20, 2010

Lifestyle, upbringing, financial condition and health conditions dictate individual choices.

I personally prefer a townhouse over single family as I have a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. job (including commute). At the same time, I still want a small yard and lot of green area nearby so I can enjoy nature but I do not have to maintain it.

By anon104726 — On Aug 17, 2010

I live in a townhouse community and I own my house. I pay an association fee which covers many things, one being the "maintenance" of the outside.

The houses and trim are being painted a different color without the majority of the community being allowed to vote. Since I have a mortgage on my house, can they just decided to change the colors?

By anon93414 — On Jul 03, 2010

My husband and I just purchased a townhouse in a newly developed area and we are elated! We are both 59 years old and the freedom of not having to be responsible for the mowing of grass, snow removal, garbage removal, etc. is awesome. If we want to leave for six months, no problem. We can return to a wonderfully groomed lawn with shrubs, trees and flowers all still 'living'! Freedom -- the beauty without the effort. We think it is wonderful!

By anon65617 — On Feb 15, 2010

How can anyone "enjoy outdoors" in a 12 x 12 foot area?

By anon65616 — On Feb 15, 2010

Sounds like a crappy way of living to me. I like having more than an acre with my house on it so that I can get away from walls!

By anon14087 — On Jun 09, 2008

A townhouse is a multilevel home. A townhouse can be a condo or cannot be a condo. A townhouse condo is a mutilevel unit that shares common ground owned by the condo assoc. It can also have its own backyard that is owned by the townhouse owner. The front yard and other yard is maintained by the association. The main thing to remember is that a townhouse is a type of structure and a condo is a method of ownership. Don't confuse the two.

--From a multistate RE broker and developer for 35 years.

By somerset — On Feb 25, 2008

Townhouse is an ideal housing arrangement for people who can not physically, or do not have the time to do the yard work. Usually there is a small private yard, or patio,so one can still enjoy outdoors.

Townhouses are generally cheaper to build because anywhere two to six or more units will have common walls. In general many more units can be built on a lot than single family houses could be built. As a result they are somewhat cheaper to buy.

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