Want an affordable mortgage? One strategy is to aim for a property with a low purchase price. Even better, find a low-priced property in a desired location where home values are on the rise. Enter townhouses, condos, and fixer-uppers. Buying a townhouse can be a great first step to becoming a homeowner, with a few payoffs along the way.
Townhouses and condos both offer lower maintenance and community living. On the other hand, a fixer-upper offers a solid opportunity to buy an under-priced house in a great location. But does the idea of a fixer-upper sound like a mountain of stress? Sometimes DIY is better on Netflix.
Townhouses are growing in popularity for a handful of reasons–prime locations, minimal maintenance, lifestyle amenities, and a sense of community in a home that still offers privacy. So if you’re looking to become a homeowner in 2021, buying a townhouse is worth considering.
Condo vs. Townhouse vs. Single-Family Detached Home
What’s the difference? And which is best? In broad strokes, all three are individually owned properties and are considered single-family dwellings. As a new homeowner, it comes down to lifestyle and what’s important to you in a home. Do you want a low-maintenance property that’s close to downtown and has shared amenities? Would you rather spend your weekends on a fixer-upper with lots of privacy?
Condos offer lifestyle amenities similar to apartment living. Homeowners are responsible for the interior and that’s it. The exterior, landscaping, facilities and community spaces are maintained by the HOA (Homeowners Association). Be prepared to share a few walls and the noise that comes with it. The upside: condos are low-maintenance and offer shared access to amenities like fitness gyms, pools, and parks.
Townhouses might just be the perfect balance between condos and single-family detached homes. When you buy a townhouse, you own the dwelling plus the land (usually a small space in the front and back). As the homeowner, you’re responsible for the interior, exterior, and land maintenance within your property line.
A townhouse offers more square footage in a multi-story dwelling. You’ll have a private entrance and 1-2 shared walls (on either side of your property.)
Townhouses offer more privacy than condos, front and backyard spaces, a private driveway and garage, and community amenities. The HOA is responsible for maintaining shared amenities such as pools, tennis courts, clubhouses and the like.
SINGLE-FAMILY DETACHED HOME
Detached means no shared walls! Single story, multi-story, or a sprawling compound, your home is privately owned right up to the property line defined by the title. As the homeowner, you own both your dwelling and the land.
You’re free to use your land however you’d like (limited by city ordinances). Build a workshop, raise chickens, install a built-in kitchen, or plant an orchard. What’s more, with a detached home you’re free to tear it down and build your dream home. You own everything within your property lines. Ask your real estate agent about any restrictions set by the city.
One Caveat on HOA fees: Many single-family detached homes are built as part of a planned community that includes a Homeowners Association. You’ll enjoy shared amenities such as pools and tennis courts, but you’ll also have to pay HOA fees. In addition, any home renovations or landscaping updates will need to meet HOA regulations.
Find Your Neighborhood
Location is still the biggest determiner of home prices, and buying a townhouse is no exception. Look for a townhome property that fits your lifestyle and your wallet. Consider a few things: Do you want to buy a bigger home after a few years and keep a townhouse as a rental? Are you downsizing now and the townhome is your new forever home? Take note of resale values, school districts, lifestyle and community events in the area.
Q&A on Buying a Townhouse (what our clients are asking)
Is buying a townhouse less expensive than a single-family home?
Not always. Townhouses are often viewed as a low-cost alternative for first-time homebuyers. But townhouses can often be in a similar price range as single-family homes, especially in desired locations with rising home values. You’re paying a premium for the area, not necessarily the square footage of your home.
For example, let’s say you are looking to buy a property for under $700k in a premium location with well-rated schools, high safety ratings, and rising home values. You find a townhouse and a single-family home, and both list for $680k. Both properties are in the same school district with similar neighborhoods and access to restaurants, public transportation, parks and the like.
The difference here will most likely be the condition of the home. The $680k detached single-family home might be on the lower end of the housing market for the area. As a result, it will probably be much older and need a fair amount of work and renovation.
By contrast, the $680k townhouse will likely be newer and in better condition, updated with modern appliances and amenities.
As with any new home purchase, don’t forget about closing costs, which we blogged about here.
Do you have to pay HOA fees when you buy a townhouse?
Yes. Homeowners Association (HOA) dues are standard when you buy a townhouse. The fees are paid quarterly or monthly to cover ongoing upgrades and maintenance for all shared amenities.
Worth noting, not all HOA fees are created equal. When you’re ready to buy a townhouse, take time to compare amenities and costs with other townhouse developments in the area. Are the grounds and facilities well maintained? Do they have the amenities that are important to you, like tennis courts or expansive poolside areas?
You get to decide if the fees are reasonable and whether or not the community spaces offer what you want.
Is it easier to qualify for a mortgage when you buy a townhouse?
The easiest way to qualify for a mortgage is to work with an experienced mortgage advisor to get pre-approved. Buying a townhouse isn’t much different when it comes to home loan options, but there are a few factors to consider.
Buying a townhouse will require a few more steps required by mortgage lenders to get approved. Often, the home appraisal will include an inspection of the entire grounds to ensure the community spaces are well-maintained and up to code.
A mortgage advisor can keep things moving forward stress-free. Find out how to get pre-approved quickly, which we blogged about here.
Get Pre-Approved For the Best Financing
Getting pre-approved is the best way to secure an affordable mortgage at a low mortgage rate. You’ll know exactly how much you can afford and shop with confidence.
Note that financing a townhouse is different than getting a mortgage for a condo or single-family detached home. Mortgage lenders have specific regulations when it comes to buying a townhouse. Be prepared to provide additional documentation to meet mortgage requirements.
Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will help ensure you’ve got everything in place before you make an offer.
Talk to a local mortgage advisor about your financial goals. Buying a townhouse in 2021 can put you on the fast track to financial freedom. Getting preapproved for a mortgage is the best next step!
The Final Remix
Buying a townhouse can be a perfect choice when you want a low-maintenance home with modern appliances, good square footage, and a small footprint. Enjoy the benefits of community spaces, shared amenities, and privacy without the maintenance required for a detached single-family home. When you’re ready to get pre-approved for an affordable mortgage, buying a townhouse is the perfect next step.
Mortgage pre-approval is a smart move when you’re buying a townhouse. An experienced mortgage advisor can help you get pre-approved and get your financing secured, so you can shop with confidence. Connect with a mortgage advisor to discuss your options and get an affordable mortgage that saves you money. We’d love to help.