Home Buying in 22314>Question Details

Chuck, Home Buyer in 22314

Condo or Townhome???

Asked by Chuck, 22314 Sat Dec 29, 2007

I am a first time potential buyer and am trying to figure out what would be a smarter purchase: a condo or a townhome. I am looking in the Alexandria area in Virginia, and am interested in townhomes that do not have a HOA fee, but they are in the 450k range. I could get a much smaller condo in the 325k range, but they have HOA fees. I am single and only need one bedroom, although two would be very convenient plus the extra storage is nice. I would expect a townhome to appreciate at a faster rate then a condo.

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Hi Again,
I think based on your more indepth email, I would go with the one that is NOT going to put you in over your head now, or in case you have a job change, extra expenses come up out of the blue, etc. I would rather have something smaller and not panic every 1st of the month or hold my breath and pray that my car don't have to have a major repair. But that IS to the extreme. What you could do is go to a loan calculator and see what the monthly payments would be on the more expensive one versus the payments on the lower priced unit...THEN ADD to the lower priced unit the H.O. Association fees and see how the two TOTAL payments per month compare. If you are going to end up paying OUT of pocket per month almost as much or the same or MORE WITH a HOA, then I would go for the more expensive unit that most likely will give you a better RESALE value in case you do have to sale on down the road.

Now....if you have already done that research...then the bottom line would be WHAT do YOU WANT. The homebuying experience is an emotional one. If you enjoy the yard work, snow shoveling, etc and like to invite people in from out of town, they will need somewhere to sleep or hang out. So, its better to have more room. If push comes to shove, you could always rent a room out to a room mate in the bigger place if you are not a "loner" and can deal with another person in the house. :)

Good luck and thanks for letting me share my thoughts.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 29, 2007
The answers you've already gotten are good except for one thing. A condo is not necessarily or even usually single story and a townhouse is not necessarily multi-story though many are. It's a townhouse if you own the land under it but the house is connected/attached to one or more adjacent houses. It's a condo if you do not own the land, only the space inside the walls. WIth the condo you usually also own a percentage of the common areas but it's not a defined space, it's a percentage ownership of the entire common area.

A townhouse HOA or PUD may include exterior maintenance but you own the exterior. A condo association almost has to include exterior maintenance because you don't own it, at least not entirely. The condo owners share ownership. A condo can be a unit in a large multi-story building.

Some people will refer to a townhouse style meaning any 2 or more story home with no other unit above or below yours. But a home of that style can be sold as a townhouse or a condo.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Apr 26, 2008
Yvette: I feel your pain. You should report your neighbors to the condo association. They have a responsibility to keep the noise down. The first floor units are usually cheaper than the higher units and this offsets some of the benefits of higher units.
Chuck: keep in mind that Yvette is right that condo fees almost always go up. But the part that Yvette is forgetting is that EVERYONE EVERYWHERE pays condo fees. In a townhouse you have to pay all your utilities. (Utilities go up in price.) You have to pay for your own insurance. (Insurance goes up.) You have to take care of your lawn. (You guessed it ... lawn service goes up.)

Just some more food for thought.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 17, 2008
Don't do it! The Condo that is. I wish I would have rented and just bought a townhome later. If you do buy a condo please buy an upper level unit. I'm on the first floor and I can't sleep at night due to my rude neighbors above me. With hardwood floors I hear everything all hours of the night, and with kids and a dog it can get really bad. I want to move so bad just so I can relax and sleep through the night. With a townhome no one is over you As you can see I'm so against condos but it may work out for you if you have an upper unit. However, I don't like the $200 a month I'm paying in HOA fees, and they continue to go up. My community doesn't have a gym, pool etc so I'm not sure what I am paying $200 for. I would also recommend taking an active role with condo association because that would help with advocating for your community. I have written so many letters and progress is very slow. However, I wish you the best and if you do decide on a condo and buy upper unit just remember your neighbors below. Good Luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Sep 15, 2008
A condominium should be looked at as a way of life, not having to cut the grass, shovel snow, take care of exterior maintenance and sometimes get amentities such as a pool, tennis courts or a club house. There are many different types of condos such as a townhouse which is usually 2 or 3 floors and in a building with 4 to 6 other townhouse style units. there are garden style or flats which are 1 floor, you gain ebtry thru a common hallway or doorway much like a hotel and then there is detached, you have your own building, not attached to any other units, your land is in common or may be limited common area. the condo would still take care of the lawns and snow however insurance may vary if you have to insure the whole building or not. Goo dluck in your search
Web Reference: http://www.ScottSellsNH.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 12, 2008
It is truly a matter of personal preference. Condos generally offer more amenities and other features that a house or townhouse in the same price range can't offer. Condo owners pay condo fees, but so does everyone else: they're just invisible. For example, condo fees often include insurance and some or all of the utilities. Condo fees include lawn maintenance and upkeep of the property. Every homeowner pays these fees, but they don't see them rolled into one lump payment.

In some ways, condominium ownership is a lifestyle. Condo owners enjoy all the tax benefits and financial rewards of owning real estate, but condo owners don't have to deal with yard work, or home maintenance. Condo owners have to deal with community life. Many condo associations have rules about pets or music or other rules to make the property work for the people who live in the condominium. Single family residences and some townhouses don't have this structure.

If you're interested in learning more about condos you might find this site helpful:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 12, 2008
It depends! I think you might be putting the cart before the horse in this scenario, as it appears you are looking for the fastest appreciation, not necessarily what you need or want in a home. For the most part, any townhome development is going to have an HOA fee, that's simply the way the things are conducted around here. If you truly want to avoid an HOA, you need to look at older construction and should expand your search to include duplex's. There are several neighborhoods that meet this criteria, though the homes themselves will generally have smaller rooms sizes, older wiring, etc...

As for a condo, do you want any amenities like a pool, underground parking, or security? Many buyers that we work with want these additional amenities that generally aren't available with fee simple ownership and they are willing to pay for them.

My recommendation is decide how you live (amenities you want, are you handy with repairs, do you have money saved for a major home repair, etc) and what type of commute are you willing to accept ( we generally gauge commutes in minutes, not miles, since 5 miles can take 1 hour. From there, look at different neighborhoods to see what appeals to you (do you want to be able to walk to store & restaurants or are you willing to drive to everything). Then start narrowing things down.

One thing to remember is that since condos tend to be price lower than townhomes, there is a larger pool of buyers that can afford them.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 10, 2008
Condos are all the same, a beast to sell in a buyers market. Townhomes generally have more variety.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 8, 2008
Townhome, unless you are buying for rental investment later.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 8, 2008
Hi, Several questions come to mind that need answering to assist you in making your decision. Many have already been discussed, so here are a few more to consider. Around here, as the current market has once again proven condo values are very volatile and can sink quickly. more so then comparable townhomes. To be sure the townhome is going to be a more solid investment. As far as the HOA fees are concerned, they are usually only $60-80 a month and cover not just the routine snow removal, trash collection, etc... but also help ensure that the neighborhood or complex is maintained to a certain standard, ie. no car on blocks in the front yard etc. This is often time a good thing. I can show you townhouse neighborhoods that look lousy, and who's value is down as a result, that would not be in that situation for a small HOA fee.
Another BIG question is..... how long do you plan to own the property. Different answers and different financial plans - might dictate different purchases. For example, you were thinking to own for say 5 years, then move to another state and sell this - would certainly open you up to buying either the townhome or the condo. Maybe you think you'll stay here 5 years then move up to something larger and keep this as an investment. A savvy investor might opt for the condo now - they are usually easy to keep rented - then go for something nicer later for yourself or family (potential future growth). Different personal situations and different goals mean different choices now.
One thing is sure - this buyers market won't last forever - eventually prices will go up again, and when that happens you want to be sure that you aren't still holed up in a rental.
Another thing that might help is a session with an independant financial advisor. Just buy an hour or two of their time and put all your questions, concerns, and current finances to them for advice. And don't forget the tax benefit of owning.
I hope I've helped more than confused.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 29, 2007
Thanks again Kim. A townhome would put me right up against the edge of my comfort level, but I couldn't buy a big plasma TV, surround sound, etc...know what I mean? I guess the best thing for me to do is wait about another year or so, save up a bit more and hope home prices don't appreciate. I guess I should say its not what I want (I want a lot of things), but what makes the best sense in long term. I have read on other posting that condos have a harder time selling than Townhomes and am trying to make my purchase considering everything. Plus, I don't have to LOVE my house. I can be a very un-emotional buyer and prefer a good deal over getting what I "want"...thanks for your advice...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 29, 2007
Thanks for your answer Kim, I guess I should have provided more information. The locations of either the condo's or townhomes are almost identical, maybe 1/4 mile apart from each other, so they share the same neighborhood. I don't really care for a pool, tennis courts, or even the all enticing "snow removal" for the three days a year it snows in DC. I guess what I am really asking is would it be better to be a bit house poor in a place that I can grow into or get a smaller place that I can afford (and have plenty left over), but I have to pay 300 bucks and up for a HOA fee that covers insurance, lawn maintenance, and snow removal, (which I actually enjoy doing). Thanks again...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 29, 2007
Hi Chuck,
In general, a townhome vs a condo is really the buyers preference. A condo is 1st floor, no stairs. A townhouse is 2 stories. Alot of older people go with the condo for the option of NO stairs.
The appreciation rate of the two will vary on the LOCATION it comparing apples for apples... 2 br 2 ba condo vs 2 br 2ba townhouse. Compare sq. footage, age, condition, exactly as an appraiser will do. But the bottom line of the value will be based on the Location and Area that the home is located in.
The homeowners association fees should be "compared" as well in the amenities...comparing apples for apples. If one has lower fees, but they do not have a swimming pool, tennis court, etc etc and is located so far out that you have to pipe the sunshine VS the homeowners association that has NO extra perks except cutting and manicuring the lawn, but they are located near doctors, hospitals, YMCA, shopping etc....All of that needs to be evaluated.
Your decision should be what YOU feel more comfortable with if you are buying it to LIVE in. If you are wanting to purchase and then use it as an investment later to make money, you need to consider the "next" potential buyer and what THE MAJORITY of people are going to rather buy.

Hope this helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 29, 2007
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