Is this a Rincon Valley Condominium, or a townhouse?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Saint Francis Property Santa Rosa, CA 01368633

Is this a Rincon Valley Condominium, or a towhouse?  I know most real estate agents can look at an attached home in a common interest development, and determine if it's a condominium, or a townhouse...  can't they?  Well first let me say I use the word "townhouse" to really mean an attached home in a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

Do you think you can tell the difference by looking at the homes from the curb?

Take a look at these two Rincon Valley residences in common interest devolpments, and guess if either is a condominium.











Both of the above are condominiums.  Not so easy is it.  Sometimes what appears to be a townhouse, can turn out to be condominium.  Condominiums and townhomes are both referred to as "Common Interest Devolopments" or CID's.  How can we tell them apart, and what's the true difference.

The easy question is "What's the difference".  Lets look at them both side by side:


  1. The owner owns a specific amount of "air space" between defined walls and the floor and ceiling.
  2. Each residence is referred to as "Unit"
  3. Common area such as the building itself, sidewalks, lawns etc is described in the Title as being owned as a percentage of all the owners. 1/42 of common area described as lot #16 shown on map...
  4. Condominiums are frequently stacked on top of each other (as seen in the Rt. photo above).  As a result, condominium owners do not benefit from ownership rights above or below their unit.


  1. The owner owns the land and all the improvements on it (the home).  Nobody lives above or below the residence.
  2. What's owned is referred to as a "Lot"
  3. Common area is usually owned by a homeowners association.
  4. Owners own the land their unit sits on and enjoy property rights both under their unit, and above their unit. 

Lets look at our second question.  How can we tell them apart? 

In the area I live in, we don't have stock cooperative, so most attached homes in common interest developments are either condominiums, or townhomes.

In the case of my photos above, the tricky one to figure out is when the homes are attached and are stacked next to each other.  The easiest way to know if your dealing with a townhome or condo is to ask a knowledgable owner.  I would take this with a grain of salt though.  Owners are frequently mistaken about what type of ownership they have.  The best thing to do is to ask to see a title report.

So I know what your thinking...  Go look at a title report!   How many of us really request a title report before listing a home.  95% of us who list homes, never see a title report until an offer comes in, and the buyer orders it through escrow. 

Do you see any problems with listing a common interest development incorrectly as either a condo, or a townhouse?    Do you think there is a difference in value between just owning "Air space" and owning the "land"?  So if you don't know what type of home your dealing with, at least you know the importance of doing some research, and making an accurate determination.  Don't just rely on the MLS history of agents before you who have thought they knew.

Why did I write this blog? I own a townhouse in Rincon Valley that I keep as a rental.  I'm on the board of directors for the association, and keep a close eye on what's for sale.  I don't list them all, but I try!  Every agent other than me, lists my developement homes as  condominiums.  Don't make that mistake when your listing common interest development homes.  In a worse case senerio, it could result in a potential lawsuit should a buyer or seller feel they did not recieve a fair deal based on how the home was represented.

Just to reiterate, townhouse is an expression that has no legal meaning.  I use it to refer to a single attached home in a Planned Unit Development, where the owner owns the lot.

If you own a condominium or townhouse (or are not sure which)  in Rincon Valley,  Santa Rosa, and would like to talk to an expert in this matter, please call me.

Good luck!




Posted by

Jim Cheney, Broker

"Your Realtor in Rincon Valley"

Wine Country Real Estate

Santa Rosa, Sonoma County



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Michael Regan
The Regan Team Home Loan Group - Petaluma, CA
Home Loan Extraordinaire

Good post Jim.  From a lenders prospective, I love PUD's as they're treated as a SFR.  Condo's on the other hand tend to be much more difficult to finance.  Every agent that takes a condo/PUD listing should check to see exactly what it's classified as.  That way you can market the property a certain way and know what offers have the best chance of closing.  Good rule of thumb so as to not waste your time or your sellers. 

Mar 25, 2010 10:11 AM #1

As a VA buyer, this is super helpful information and the difference matters tremendously for us. We can only use our VA loan for certain condo complexes that have been pre-approved and there aren't many of those. But PUDs are fair game for VA loans.

Mar 08, 2018 10:26 AM #2
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Jim Cheney

Rincon Valley Realtor 707.494.1055
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