wikiHow to Buy a Townhouse

Townhouses are considered single family homes even though each townhouse shares common walls. Townhouse owners, unlike condominium owners, also own the parcel of land the townhouse sits on, and may also have shared ownership in centrally located courtyards or other common spaces. Buying a townhouse is not radically different from buying other types of homes, but you should be aware of the distinctions.


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    Contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of townhouse ownership.
    • Most townhouses consist of two levels, and sometimes three or four levels. The living and dining space, and perhaps a half bath are usually situated on the first floor, and all bedrooms, office space and additional bathrooms are on the second and third levels. If you aren’t willing, or aren’t able to, climb stairs on a daily basis, you might not want to buy a townhouse. (Some townhouse units are on one floor, but it isn’t as common because one floor of living space to each townhouse requires too much land.)
    • Investigate the construction of the townhouse you are considering. Like apartments and condos, townhouses share common walls. Noisy neighbors aren’t a serious problem if the walls have been adequately constructed with sound insulation.
    • Read the fine print of any homeowner’s association (HOA) contract. Most townhouses are governed by a HOA, but restrictions vary wildly. You may be prohibited from having a dog or pet of any kind, or you may be responsible for more exterior maintenance than you would like. There may even be age restrictions and limited parking options. Last, but not least, your HOA may come with a hefty annual fee, and there is no room for negotiation. On the plus side, many HOA's cover the cost of roof repair and replacement, exterior maintenance, common area maintenance, and other large expenses.
    • Although you probably won’t have to worry much about maintenance and repairs, you also may not have any leeway in making changes to the exterior or even the interior of your townhouse.
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    Think about your privacy concerns. Having neighbors on either side of your walls might alleviate any security concerns you have, but they might be noisy or obnoxious and hard to avoid.
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    Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of landscape upkeep. Most townhouses include a very small yard or patio area that the owner is responsible for. On the plus side, you will save money and time by not having to maintain a large yard, but if you want to be completely free of any exterior maintenance, consider buying a condo instead.
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    Consider the fact that you may want to sell your townhouse at some point. If a homeowner’s association agreement has unusually harsh restrictions, you may have problems finding a buyer for your townhouse.


  • Walk around the neighborhood, both during the day and the evening. Are there any conveniences within walking distance? Look for small grocers, dry cleaners and restaurants. While you are on your walk, look at the general condition of the homes and lawns on the street. Notice if there are any unsavory aspects in the near vicinity of the townhouse that would cause you concern should you decide to live there.
  • Get permission from your realtor to spend some time in the townhouse you are considering buying. If possible, ask if you can stay in the vacant townhouse unit for a few hours at a time at different times and on different days to get a feel for the noise level from the neighbors and from street traffic. You might also want to wander through the various floors to see how much sunlight, if any, each room gets. If you adore sunny windows and the townhouse is surrounded with shade trees or blocked in by other buildings, you might never be happy living there.
  • Shop around for a mortgage lender. With the exception of a HOA, buying a townhouse is not much different than buying a single family dwelling. You will need to get qualified for a loan, be able to make a down payment and have your lawyer review the purchase agreement and the HOA.
  • Take a laptop and a Wi-Fi hotspot to the townhouse and test the Internet reception. If you go online daily and you have a slow connection, you will have many frustrated days in your new home.
  • If you have children and there is a nearby playground, go visit it while children are playing. Observe the children playing and any parents that are there. Ask yourself if you would be happy to send your children to that playground.


  • Give parking a high priority. If you have only one car and only one parking space is allotted, you are fine most of the time--but where will your guests park? What if your spouse or other family member buys a car?
  • You will always be living in close proximity to your neighbors. Think about what that might portend. Will you have any recourse if a neighbor’s dog barks all night? If the neighbor’s cat constantly destroys your flowers along the front sidewalk?
  • Try to purchase a townhouse that has a laundry room on the second or third floor. If the laundry room is located on the first floor, you will always have to transport all the laundry up and down the stairs. If the laundry room is located on the same level as some of the bedrooms, you will only need to carry a few dish cloths and towels to and from the laundry room upstairs to the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor. It’s a lot more convenient than carrying laundry baskets full of clothes and linens from the first floor to the upper floors.
  • If you own some pieces of furniture that you simply cannot part with, make sure that furniture will fit into the townhouse you are considering (including the outside door). The rooms in many townhouses are narrower and a bit smaller than the rooms in traditional dwellings. If you and your spouse have to sleep in a California king bed, you’d better be sure the bed will fit in the master bedroom. Measure all the rooms in the townhouse. Note the placement of windows and doors. Then go home and measure all the furniture you plan on taking with you. If you can’t bear to part with the massive cherry hutch that’s been in the family for generations, you might want to reconsider.
  • If you have young children, or if you are planning on starting a family, negotiating 2 or 3 flights of stairs daily can present safety issues.

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