Townhouse vs. Condo — What’s the Difference?
January 20, 2023

Townhouse vs. Condo — What’s the Difference?

Perhaps your children are grown with families of their own and it’s time to downsize. Perhaps you’re just starting out in the real estate market and want to get your feet wet before diving in headfirst. Or, perhaps you’re looking for low-maintenance, resort-style amenities. Whatever the reason, a townhouse or a condominium may be the right choice for you.

But what exactly is the difference between a townhouse and a condo? And how do they differ from detached single-family homes? Although “townhouse” and “condo” are often used interchangeably, they differ in design, features and ownership. Following is a brief description of each. Your Lyon Real Estate agent can help you determine which is the right fit for you based on your individual needs.


Find Townhouses and Condos for Sale in Sacramento



Photo courtesy Lyon Real Estate Downtown

One of the oldest types of residential structure, a townhouse once referred to as a secondary home within a city (versus a primary home in the country). Today, they are defined as single-family homes with at least two floors that share a wall with another unit. They can be located anywhere — cities, suburbs or rural areas.

Townhouses are narrow, multi-level structures with their own entrances, usually with a small parcel of property in front of or behind the home. Although their square footage can be equivalent to that of a detached home, multiple floors mean their footprint is smaller. Some also have private garages. Unlike rowhouses, which share a common façade along a street, townhouses may be grouped throughout a development and may not share a consistent roofline with the other units.

Unlike a duplex, townhouse units are owned individually. Typically, townhouses are more similar to detached homes in that the resident owns the interior and exterior of the building, including the roof and the land. This means the owner is responsible for any exterior repairs. However, shared amenities and common spaces are owned by a homeowner’s association.

Townhouse owners can personalize and renovate their homes (within reason) because they bear much of the responsibility of the home’s exterior, outdoor areas, and yard. However, major changes to a townhouse’s exterior are typically not permitted.


Who Should Buy a Townhouse?

Townhouses are a great in-between for those tired of renting but not quite ready for a detached single-family home. They’re also great for those looking to downsize. Townhouses are often located in residential areas and can include shared amenities such as swimming pools. Because they only share walls with neighbors, not ceilings or floors, they tend to be more private than condos, though less so than detached homes. But because they are multi-level, they may not be the best choice for young families or those with mobility issues who struggle with stairs.



Condominiums refer to divided, individually owned units of a larger, unified structure. The resident owns just the inside of the unit, while the building itself, amenities and common areas are jointly owned by the residents. Condos can be multi-level or single-level, similar to apartments. Although many condos are located in multi-story buildings and high-rises, some can even be detached.

Although less expensive than townhouses or detached homes, condos typically come with higher HOA fees. These fees go into maintaining shared spaces, such as landscaping and walkways, as well as amenities such as swimming pools or gyms.

Because residents do not technically own the structure of their homes, they are limited in their ability to update or renovate their homes as they see fit. Many also have strict regulations regarding shared spaces and aesthetics, ranging from where you’re allowed to park your bike to the type of window coverings you’re allowed to hang. Violations of these regulations can often result in fines.


Who Should Buy a Condominium?

Condos appeal to those who don’t want the responsibilities that come with keeping up a home. In other words, you won’t be spending your weekends mowing lawns or painting fences. But the tradeoff is higher HOA fees.

Because condos are often located in densely populated urban areas, they are ideal for those who want to be close to the city center. Short commute times, proximity to entertainment, and walkable neighborhoods are some of the draws. Because they tend to be smaller, they are great options for single buyers or those looking to downsize.

They’re also a good bet for those who prefer community living and shared amenities. In addition to swimming pools and gyms, some condo complexes even have amenities such as co-working spaces, party and game rooms, rooftop decks, and onsite cafes. Most also provide security.

Search for Townhouses and Condos in the Sacramento Area

Townhouses and condominiums appeal to a variety of buyers. Whether you’re looking to downsize or just want a low-maintenance lifestyle, a townhouse or condo may be the ideal solution. With plenty of options in the greater Sacramento area, your Lyon Real Estate agent can help you find the right home for you.


This post was written, in part, by information provided by Windermere Real Estate.


Category Real Estate

Elizabeth Penney

Elizabeth Penney is a content writer for Lyon Real Estate and the Lyon Local blog. A Sacramento native with a marketing background, she shares her insider knowledge on restaurants, attractions and outdoor activities throughout the greater Sacramento area and beyond.