As you begin your house hunting journey, the first step is to decide what type of home suits your needs and budget. Single-family homes are generally larger (and come with a bigger price tag) and are typically found in the suburbs or outside of downtown cores. A condo apartment, on the other hand, often gives homeowners the feel of city living – they’re usually located close to walkable downtown amenities and transit, and tend to be on the lower end of buyer budgets. 

While these two home types offer differing lifestyles, those looking for the best of both worlds often find townhouses for sale to be a great option; units tend to be priced in the mid-range, offer the benefits of low-rise living and larger square footage than a condo apartment unit, and may even come with some of the same convenient amenities such as on-site pools and gyms.

Here’s a look at the types of townhouses available and which may be the better fit for you.

Different Types of Townhouses

Townhouses can be broken down into two main types: a condominium ownership and a freehold. Depending on your household’s lifestyle and preferences, one type of townhouse may appeal to you more than the other. 

A condo townhouse means that you own everything inside of the unit’s structure, while the exterior is owned and maintained by a condo corporation. This can include common areas on the property, parking spaces, and the yard. 

A freehold townhouse, on the other hand, gives you the exclusive ownership to the land that your townhouse sits on, both interior and exterior. 

But which type is right for you? Here are a few things to consider when making the decision between a condo and freehold townhouse.

Condo Townhouse Pros and Cons

This option is right for you if you are looking for:

  • Lower price: As shown in the Ottawa Real Estate Board’s December report, condo townhouses sold for an average price of $595,129 and townhouses not defined as under condo ownership had an average price of $713,815 for the 2019 calendar year.

  • Less maintenance: The cost of required maintenance to the outside of the unit will be covered by your monthly condo fee. This includes things such as snow removal, lawn care, and the upkeep of common areas. 

  • Amenities: Monthly maintenance fees are partially used towards the preservation of shared amenities usually including pools, gyms, entertainment rooms, parks, and sports courts.

However, remember to also keep these in mind:

  • Special assessments: As outlined by the Condominium Authority of Ontario, “special assessments can be charged on top of regular monthly fees … without getting permission from condo owners.” Special assessments may be used due to unforeseen expenses, under-budgeting, or losing a lawsuit.

  • Less autonomy: The exterior of your unit is governed by a condo association and will likely have set rules on what you can and can’t do to your home.

  • Higher maintenance fees: As previously mentioned, condo townhouses require you to pay a monthly maintenance fee to care for the amenities outside of your unit.

Freehold Townhouse Pros and Cons

This option is right for you if you are looking for:

  • More autonomy: Owning a freehold townhouse gives you the freedom to change both the interior and exterior of your home as you please.

  • No condo fees: This can help you save a couple of hundred dollars every month to go towards something else.

  • Greater property appreciation: There tends to be higher buyer demand for freehold units, and they appreciate greater value at a faster pace.

However, remember to also keep these in mind:

  • Additional responsibility: You will be responsible for things that a condo maintenance fee usually covers, for example, the upkeep of your lawn, snow removal, and exterior repairs.

  • More expensive: As they are in greater demand than condo townhouses, prices for freeholds are in turn higher as well. 

  • No control over neighbours:You and your neighbour have complete freedom to change both the interiors and exteriors of your homes, provided they coincide with zoning by-laws. With this said, you can’t really do anything if your neighbours choose to do something outrageous with their home, whereas such actions would be enforced upon by a condo board.

Affordability Breakdown of Townhouses vs. Houses / Condos

After determining which features and amenities would best suit your lifestyle, it is time to look at MLS listings thoroughly and consider home prices. According to the latest TREB report, the average price of townhouses for the 2019 calendar year came to about $60,000 more than condos and significantly cheaper than semi- and detached homes. This condo type affordability with a single-family home feel is what makes townhouses such a popular option. 

Buying a home requires extensive research and consideration for what you need. Do you see yourself expanding your family? Will you be able to maintain a home on your own? Do you want a place that offers amenities? As you make this decision between a freehold or condo townhouse, remember to take into consideration both your short and long term needs.