Home Buying in Irvine>Question Details

Shirley, Home Buyer in Anaheim, CA

Can anyone tell me what the difference is between a condo and a townhome? Thank you!

Asked by Shirley, Anaheim, CA Sun Jan 27, 2008

Help the community by answering this question:


Shirley -

Condominium actually means "common ownership". In a condo, you own the individual unit and a percentage of the common areas. (Stair wells, pools, landscaping, etc.) A master deed implies the percentage of ownership. You do not own the land beneath your unit because their may be many units stacked upon a plot of land.

A town home owner owns their individual unit plus the ground underneath it. They normally only share side walls -linking them horizontally. Town homes sometimes have small yards that the home association is not responsible for maintaining. The owner is responsible for the unit, the garage, the yard, if there is one.

Condo associations tend to have tighter common area rules ( no wind chimes or umbrellas on your patio, even that the curtains must be of a white/off white).

Town homes common areas are ruled by home associations and tend to allow for more individuality to be demonstrated in the unit. However, even home associations can dictate what type of roof shingle is used, what type of landscaping is allowed and so forth in the effort to provide homogeneity in the complex.

The main difference is what you own. An individual unit within a complex or a percentage of a complex.

Read more here: http://people.howstuffworks.com/question489.htm

2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008
Thanks everyone for your responses! It was really helpful. I was a bit confused because detached condos look like what I imagined a townhouse would. Thanks again!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 3, 2008
The term condo can have more than one meaning. Similar to how the term "broker" can refer to a person (a manager of an office or an owner) and it can also refer to the company, a condo can refer to a complex/development or an individual unit.

Condominium refers to a form of ownership that would include individual ownership of units and group/joint ownership interest of common areas that might include one or more of the followng: pools, grounds, club houses, private driveways, etc. (List is not all inclusive.)

Commonly, condos indicate units on one floor and the owner owns the inside walls, and has not ownership in the land. These condos are often all on one level. Condos are often mulit level and can be stacked, since the land is part of the common ownership

Townhouses often have more than one story, but can be a single story. More commonly, with townhomes the owner of the unit owns the land underneath that unit. Many will define townhomes as a specific type of condominium, thus defining townhomes as being a style of a condominium.

Under either name.............individuals own their units, and maintain an ownership interest in the common areas. Review all financials, CC&Rs, rules, regs, and bylaws as part of your due diligence to gain a clear and comprehensive understanding of all the details before locking in.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
Deborah Madey, Real Estate Pro in Red Bank, NJ
condominium (n.) A building or complex in which units of property, such as apartments, are owned by individuals and common parts of the property, such as the grounds and building structure, are owned jointly by the unit owners.
referenced from ask.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008

Linette is correct that a town home (more than one story or some form of separation from other units) can be owned and managed the same way a condominium can be. There are some complexes here in California that are town homes but are managed as a common unit. As Linette pointed out, even in a town home you may only own what is within the interior walls and all else is "common" area. It is determined by the deed issued on the complex.

Hybrid ownership has evolved how town homes can be owned. Generally speaking the differences is in answering the question of : Do you own the land underneath your unit or not? Answering this question will also impact the type of insurance you may need/want.

The difference is not necessarily in the "style" of architecture but the ownership method.

Thanks Linette for bringing this point up.

1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008
Hey, Shirley. Both are very similiar and from a perspective of ownership, negligible. In a condominium, you own an undivided interest in the total property contained within the condominium developement. You do not own the parcel that you live in. In a townhouse, you own the property of your townhouse and also a share of the common properties of the development. In both cases, you are subject to the covenants, conditions and requirements of the development's legal papers. So, you will have a homeowners' association, probably, community fees, and access to the community's "common" properties, if any. From a pracitcal, owenrship and liveability perspective, there is no significant difference. If you are thinking of buyinig into either, make sure you are informed about the budget, planned expenditures and any pending litigation. Ask for a few references of current owners.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008

Condominium is a Form of Property Ownership. Each owner holds title to his/her individual unit. In "fee simple" ownership, the owner has a fractional interest in the common areas of the multi-unit project. In "land lease" each owner pays prorata share of lease. The condo owner pays taxes on his/her property, and is free to sell or lease it.

Townhouse refers to an architectural style. Usually two or more stories, usually attached. Form of ownership can be condominium, PUD, zero lot line, etc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 30, 2008
This question is a very important one when the buyers are looking at the value of the property and whether they should purchase the property or not.

The reason is because of the difference in ownership of the property. In Marin, CA, at least, whether you own the land the property sits on or not makes a sizable difference on the desirability and purchase price of a house.

Check out the preliminary title report, it will give you a clear indication of the ownership of the property and the land. .

Sylvia .
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Novato, CA
I love this question. What is the difference? It is silly.

For me, a townhome is, at least, two stories and it has a door to the outside. To others it means inside laundry and a private garage. If you have all four, you definitely have a townhouse!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
You'll find it difficult to find two people who would agree on the difference between a Townhome and Condo. They all define them differently. So regardless of whether a property is called a Townhome or Condoyou should investigate the legal form of ownership and HOA requirements.

Tom Pelton
Prudential California Realty
Web Reference: http://www.PeltonTeam.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 29, 2008
Hi Shirley-
It is confusing learning all the real estate "jargon".
A townhome, in all generalities, is a two story attached home. It may or may not have a garage. Condo's are attached homes that may be located on the main level, mid level or top level.
There are advantages to both that I can share if you would like more information.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2008
A townhome IS a condo.

It is a "style" of condo, usually two stories and on top of the garage.
Web Reference: http://www.OCBeachBlog.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2008
Hi Shirley:

Here in Marin, CA, comparing Condos and Town Homes are like comparing oranges and apples. They are two different things.

Towh Home is a style of homes - you will often see MLS say 'Town Home style condo, no neighbors above or below). It is usually two stories, attached, with neighbors on both sides (unless it's an end unit) and no neigobors above you, nor below you. This is a big advantage to own a town home, quite, some freedom (you don't have to worry about downstairs neighbors when you walk).

A condo is a form of the ownership of a property. Like others said, you own the interior of the building but not exterior and you don't own the land the property sits on. Often times, a town home can be a condo.

Another term you will hear is PUD, Planned Unit Development - which is mostly what it says - a development that's master planned. condos as well as single family homes can be part of PUD.

HOA is Home Owner Association, often heard when discussing condos, town homes, PUDs. Single Family Homes can also be part of development with Home Owner Associations. Homeowners in PUDs often form HOAs which will have CC&Rs to govern what's acceptable or not in this development or assocation. They also determine the fees, if any, associated with the development.

For HOAs for condo development, the HOA fees often include fees assocated with external building maintenance (because the home owner only owns the internal space); and other HOAs may only require fees to cover common areas/facilities and ground keeping, etc (condo HOA fees also cover those and possibly some utilities).

Hope this does not confuse you.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Novato, CA
I disagree. A condo can be a townhome. The difference is that if you pay condo fees you only own the property from the studs of the home in. The condo associations takes care of the roofs, siding, lawn maintenance and insures the structure . Sometimes water and garbage pickup are included in the condo fees. When you insure a home that is a condo (as a homeowner) you only need to insure the interior and contents. You have already paid to insure the exterior.
If you are considering buying a condo be sure to find out how much insurance they carry on the building and what it covers. Every condo has different insurance coverage.
Also find out what the community has in reserve for future updates and repairs, who holds the money and if there are any assessment planned in the future. In Delaware, the seller must disclose future assessments if they know about them and the buyer can ask them to pay them or negotiate part of their payment in the contract. Good luck in your home search.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008
A townhome usually has common side walls (usually more than one story) and a condo is usually more what you think of as an apartment - with another unit above or below and on the sides.

Hope that helps!
Web Reference: http://www.DotChance.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 27, 2008
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