The Pros and Cons of Buying a Townhome vs. a Single Family Home


There are many factors to consider when you’re in the market for a new home. One that often gets overlooked is the type of home, such as buying a townhome vs. a single family home. Townhomes are increasing in popularity and a viable option for buyers of all ages. What used to simply be a less expensive option, now comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and price points. Let’s review the basics: what townhomes are and the pros and cons of buying a townhome vs. a single family home.

What are Townhomes?

Good question! Not all townhomes are created equally. Townhomes are a private dwelling with no common areas. Characteristically, they share a wall or walls (some only joining at the garage), but some higher-end townhomes stand alone. Townhomes all look different, so it’s hard to know what makes a townhome, a townhome. The common denominator is the association and monthly association fee.

Townhome Pro: Say Goodbye to Yardwork

With a townhome, you own your home and the land around it, but the association employs contractors to help maintain the property. Typically this maintenance is paid for by the association, which is funded by its members/owners. Townhomes are usually kept in great condition because of the association’s role. The services normally managed by the association include:

  • Exterior repairs and maintenance
  • Snow removal
  • Yard work
  • Landscaping
  • Garbage collection

You’ll pay a monthly association fee that’s like an everyday life escrow. Many people just don’t have the time, and in some cases the ability, to mow their lawn or shovel their driveway. The association’s existence helps take care of those things.

Townhome Pro: You’re Part of a Community

As an association, you’re part of a community. In most associations, you’ll know your neighbors, and they’ll know you. Often times associations hold events within the community and truly get to know and take care of one another.

It’s important to note this could also be a con. Within a community of townhomes, you’re in close quarters with your neighbors, whether you like it or not.

Townhome Con: Set Limitations, Rules, and Regulations

Exact rules vary, but within a townhome association, there are common restrictions. You won’t be able to renovate, change, or make any additions to the exterior of the property without permission from the association. Some associations have a rental policy and don’t allow, or limit renting. Even your furry friends will have to abide by some pet rules and regulations.

If rules aren’t appealing, perhaps a single family home is more appropriate for your lifestyle.

What are Single Family Homes?

This is where it gets a little tricky because technically, a townhome is a single family home. The main difference is a single family home typically does not have an association.

Single Family Home Pro: More Freedom

There are little restrictions with what you do to your single family home. Want a fence? Go for it (with a permit of course). Need a detached garage or outbuilding? No problem (again, you’ll need to check a few boxes first). You don’t need permission from anyone other than city ordinance laws and neighborhood covenants; it’s yours and you may do with it as you please.

Single Family Home Pro: More Space

Single family homes, in general, have much more space and privacy. When in the market for a single family home, you control yard size and distance from your neighbors. You choose how big, what shape, and how close your house is in relation to the next closest property.

Single Family Home Con: More Work

With more freedom comes more responsibility. As a single family home owner, you are responsible for maintaining your property per city ordinance. You’ll have to make sure to mow the yard before that pesky neighbor down the street with the perfect lawn stops by. This adds time and dollars to your already busy schedule.

The Bottom Line

The pros and cons between a townhome vs. a single family home should be considered when buying a new home. Ultimately, it will come down to personal preference, lifestyle, and what works best for you and your family. For more tips, download the Homebuyer’s Checklist and be prepared for every step in the home buying process!