What to Ask Before Buying a Townhouse
If you are considering a townhouse for your next move, you may have a few questions. While townhouses are similar to other types of housing, there are some important differences.
We will be looking at the things you need to ask when buying townhouses - sometimes known as townhomes - so that you don't find yourself living in a home you regret purchasing.
What Makes a Townhouse Different?
Lots of consumers ask real estate agents, what is a townhouse. Typically, the question is asked because they want to know how a condo is different from a townhouse. Townhouses are homes that share one or two walls with their neighbors. They will have multiple floors and are narrower than normal single-family homes.
Townhouses usually also benefit from some outdoor yard space and frequently include a garage for your vehicles.
Neighboring townhomes will either be identical or share a common architectural theme. The walls and roofs of neighbors’ homes will be connected, with a shared wall between dwellings, known as a party wall.
This type of property shares some similarities with condos. Like a condo, a townhouse is owned rather than rented and normally part of a homeowner association community.
The big difference over condo living is more space, inside and out, as well as only having neighbors on one or two sides and not above or below. So while condominiums and townhomes share some similarities, they are clearly different.
Questions you Need to Ask With a Townhome Purchase.
There are a few things that you need to find the answer to before you decide to purchase your townhouse.
What is the homeowners association like?
Townhouse developments are normally part of a homeowners association. The HOA will take care of maintenance in the communal areas, arrange community events, set and enforce rules, and charge you a fee for doing it.
The HOA fees can be substantial and could go to funding things that you have no interest in and don't benefit your home directly. The HOA will have meetings to decide on rule changes and the administration of the community, which you can attend.
Other expenses that you would normally expect to be responsible for in a single-family home can sometimes be included in HOA fees. Things like garbage collection, water, and even cable, might be paid for by the HOA.
If the townhouse is part of a community with an HOA that isn't run well, it is likely to affect your living experience in the home negatively. Good HOAs will create a better community that will add value to your home and your life.
Find out what the fees will be before you commit to purchasing a townhome. This will let you know if you can afford them on top of your mortgage payments each month. Also, check if there are any major repairs planned, as you will have to pay your share of the costs.
Above all else, make sure you can handle the rules. With a home, you are the king of your castle. This is not the case with townhouse ownership. You don't want to purchase a townhouse only to find out the garden you wanted to plant won't be possible.
What amenities are available?
Another benefit of choosing a townhouse is the amenities you have access to. The development might have a gym, parks, a clubhouse, or a swimming pool. If you have access to these sorts of benefits, you will have to pay for them through increased HOA fees.
Find out what amenities are offered, and check their condition to make sure they are well maintained. This will give you some indication of how well the HOA is run.
If you are a health-conscious individual many of these perks could be why you want to purchase a townhouse. Choosing a healthy neighborhood has become a popular consideration among many buyers.
What restrictions are there?
Living in a community regulated by an HOA means that there will be some covenants, conditions, and restrictions. You need to know what these are before you decide to buy so that you know you will be able to stick to them.
They could have rules regarding the color you paint your house, the pets you keep, and parking restrictions. These exist for the benefit of the community but can be too restrictive for some people.
As previously mentioned, these kinds of restrictions should be thought through carefully. A common reason people hate living in condos or townhomes is being told what to do.
How much are the fees, and what do they cover?
One of the more essential questions to ask when buying a townhouse is how much the fees are and what they pay for. You'll want to make sure that the fees are not expected to rise dramatically.
Asking whether there are any upcoming special assessments will be vital. Making sure the fees are going towards things you want should be an important consideration.
As part of the fee, there should be what's referred to as a "reserve fund." Checking on this is critical. You will want to ensure the association is setting aside monies for large expenditures that could arise over time.
For example, if the roofs need to be replaced. Not having sufficient monies could mean huge outlays in the future when you least expect it.
How much privacy will you get?
Living in a home with neighbors just on the other side of a wall can cause problems. If there isn't adequate soundproofing in the dividing party wall, you may know more about your neighbor’s lives than you would want.
It is best to ask how good the soundproofing is before deciding to purchase a townhouse in that development. You don't want to move into your new home only to discover that your neighbor likes to play the drums late into the night.
The association should be able to provide you with the kind of insulation that was used in building the party wall. It would also be advisable to ask one of the existing owners their opinion.
What is The Townhouse Rental Policy?
Understanding the rental policy for the townhouse community is another essential consideration. There is a fine line between being able to rent your place vs. having your neighborhood overrun with rental property.
You might need or want to rent your place in the future for any number of reasons. However, having a neighborhood infiltrated with too many renters could decrease the value of your home and make it harder to sell.
Lenders also will not grant loans to buyers when the ratio of renters to owner-occupied is too high. Make sure you check on the rental policy before moving forward. Usually, lenders want at least two-thirds of ownership.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Townhouse
There are many advantages to living in a townhouse. It may mean that you can live closer to the center of a city, in a walkable community that offers more amenities than a single-family home would normally prove.
But there are downsides too. However, if you know what to look for, you can make sure you move into a townhouse that is right for you.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what questions to ask before buying a townhouse. Knowing what to ask will put you in a much better position to be happy with your purchase. Make sure you work with a top-shelf buyer's real estate agent who has experience will townhouses purchases.
Bill Gassett is a thirty-two year veteran to the real estate industry. He enjoys providing helpful information to buyers, sellers and fellow real estate agents to make sound decisions. His work has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, RESAAS, Credit Sesame and others.
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