Row of colorful townhouses with wrought iron fenced in front yards.

What Is A Townhouse?

Carey Chesney4-Minute Read
July 22, 2021

When it comes to deciding on your domicile, the possibilities are plentiful. Traditional single-family homes, vacant land for new builds, apartments, duplexes, condominiums and townhouses are some of the options to consider. We all know the difference between a house and vacant land but many wonder what the difference is between the rest. Some of the most common questions revolve around what a townhouse is, how it differs from a condo, and what the pros and cons of townhouse living are. Let’s explore.

Townhouse Definition

Townhouses are defined as connected structures that are owned by individual people. Since the owners of townhouses next to each other share at least one wall, they look a bit like row houses. These differ from traditional houses in that they don't usually afford the same expansive land, in addition to sharing walls. If privacy and space to stretch is high on your needs list, townhouses may not be the right fit. If you feel connected and cozy being in a close knit neighborhood, it might be right up your alley (or row?). They also usually are more affordable than traditional houses, making them a great choice for the budget conscious and first-time home buyers.

Characteristics Of A Townhouse

From an architectural terminology perspective, townhouses are defined as adjacent homes with continuous roof and foundation with a wall dividing them. People who live in townhouses are the owners of their walls (interior and exterior) and roof. In some cases, their lawn can be solely owned but in other cases, they share it with neighbors. Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the key traits of townhouses.

Single-Family Home Style

Townhouses are designed to function similarly to free-standing, single family homes. Unlike apartments or some condos, they focus on mirroring the layout and general feel of a traditional house.

Homeowners Association (HOA) Affiliation

A homeowners association (HOA) is an organization that makes and enforces rules for a group of properties. If an HOA is present, people who buy a property covered in the HOA become members automatically and pay fees (usually monthly). These fees can cover a variety of services depending on the type of property but can include things like maintenance on your specific home as well as the upkeep of common areas like a pool. You may have heard of an HOA in relation to condominiums but they often – but not always – are present when it comes to townhouses as well.

Shared Wall 

As you have likely surmised, Townhouses are always right next to each other. But what does that mean for the wall in between? Well, usually it’s a single wall that you share with your neighbors, but in some cases, there is a double wall with a very small space – mere inches – in between. Needless to say, being friendly with your neighbors is a critical piece of townhouse living. 

Shared Outdoor Space

In addition to sharing a wall, townhouse owners often have to share yard space and other outdoor areas with tenants on either side of their property. This isn’t always the case though, as some yards are solely owned by the residents of one of the townhouses. So there is still hope if you are the “get off my lawn” type of homeowner.

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Townhouse Versus Condo

At this point you may be wondering what the difference is between a townhouse and a condo. I’m glad you asked! While similar, these two types of properties differ in some key ways. For example, both may have HOA fees, but condo fees tend to be higher than townhouse fees because they usually finance common areas like swimming pools or work out facilities. The fees are also higher because condo HOAs take care of more of the maintenance for you than in a townhouse. While townhouse owners have to maintain the home’s exterior (roof, siding, yard, etc.) condo owners rely on the HOA for that same work. Pool and home maintenance are great, but condos tend to be more restrictive with other things. Everything from what you can have hanging on your front door to when you can take the trash out can be restricted and although townhouse neighborhoods still have rules, they usually have a lot more wiggle room for individual preferences.

In addition to condos, it is also easy to confuse townhouses with duplexes, cohousing, or co-ops. Duplexes offer space for two families to live apart from each other in the same single-family home. With co-ops or cohousing it’s even more cozy, with many people often sharing the same kitchen, bathrooms and other common areas.

Pros And Cons Of Townhouse Living

So, now that you know a little bit about what a townhouse is and what it might be like living in one, what do you do with that info? Well, a good way to decide if it’s the right move for you is to look at some of the pros and cons.


Townhouses usually give you the feel of a close-knit neighborhood more than a condo and are usually more affordable than both condos and traditional homes. They also offer the peace of mind that you aren’t solely responsible for fixing and maintaining everything you would in a traditional home. Townhomes also tend to offer a little more freedom from HOA restrictions when compared to condos. 


Remember that wall with little or no space between you and your neighbors? Yeah, that can be interesting if you are living next to ... say ... an avid drummer. While some like that feeling of closeness with their neighbors, others may want a little more personal space. Another drawback is that even though townhouse HOA fees tend to be lower than condo fees, they aren't zero. And some of us just can't accept fees, no matter how small they may be. Some of us are also really keen of the idea of fully owning our own home, so if you fall in that category there’s another con when it comes to buying a townhouse.

The Bottom Line

Now you know what a townhouse is, how it’s different from the many other living options available to you, and what to think about when deciding if it’s the right choice for you. So, if after weighing the pros and cons of townhouse living you’re ready to jump in, contact a Rocket HomesSM Partner Agent today!

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Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of real estate sales and marketing experience to his buyers and sellers as they navigate highly competitive markets. Carey and his wife Ilze work together as Realtors® in Michigan.