If you are looking for a lower-maintenance home, townhomes and condominiums are a great way to go. They are ideal for the first-time home buyer, as they are often less expensive than single family homes. They are also a good fit for empty-nesters, as they often have a smaller footprint than single family homes and therefore less upkeep.
There are differences between the two, however, and it’s important you be aware of them. In a townhome, you own the land under your home. In a condo, all common areas and land are owned by the condominium association; you own only the interior of your unit.
Townhome associations usually maintain the external part of the development, such as landscaping and snow plowing, but have less say in the decorating of individual units or roof replacements. For this reason, condo fees tend to be higher than townhome fees.
Before submitting an offer on either, it is important that you look at both the bylaws and financial statements of the association. As well, have your real estate attorney review both before you prepare an offer.
Specifically, on the financial statements, look for how well the association is doing. Are there any obvious financial or money management issues? Is the association solvent? Have there been any significant increases in dues lately? How many of the units are in foreclosure? You want answers to all these questions before you make an offer.
While financing a townhome is more like financing a single family home, they usually have their own requirements that are a bit more restrictive. This is because the overall management, and therefore the curb appeal and property values of the development, are in the hands of the association. The better the job they do, the more people will to want to live there, and the more likely you are to sell your unit for a good price.