So you’re ready to buy a home in New York City. Congratulations! Among many other considerations – such as what borough you’d like to live in, what design style you’re most drawn to, what the market is like, etc. – you may also be weighing different types of homes. NYC real estate is flush with co-ops, sure, but there are a plethora of lovely condos and townhouses just waiting for lucky new owners as well. But what exactly is the difference between a condo vs. townhouse, and how do you tell which option is the right one for you? We’re here to walk you through all the elusive terminology and subtle distinctions associated with these two equally exemplary types of homes. 

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    When weighing the choice of condo vs. townhouse, the biggest consideration lies in the terms of property ownership. When you purchase a condo, you are not only buying the individual unit but also paying for shared ownership of the building in which your unit resides. This is significant because condo buildings typically provide amenity-laden common spaces – such as a mail room with attendant, laundry room, or pool to name a few. By contrast, purchasing a townhouse simply guarantees ownership of the townhouse itself, plus the land it sits on. 

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    HOA Fees 

    In addition to a monthly mortgage, condo owners must pay a set monthly fee to their Homeowner’s Association (HOA). A Homeowner’s Association is an organizing body made up of tenants who oversee maintenance, rules and safety within the community. Paying into the HOA on a monthly basis helps fund timely repairs and updates to both individual units and common spaces. In a condo community, this means shared areas as outlined above and the building’s grounds. Other things that an HOA can help with are removing trash and addressing pest problems. 

    Townhouse owners may sometimes be given a choice between paying into an HOA and assuming sole financial responsibility for maintaining their home. Should you purchase a townhouse and opt into HOA fees, repairs and updates to spaces like your roof, lawn(s), driveway and sidewalk may be covered. 

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    Cost Differences

    As a general rule, condos tend to be more affordable than townhouses. Additionally, insurance policies for a townhouse are typically more expensive than insurance for a condo. However, condo HOA fees are often costlier than those associated with townhouses. When comparing the costs for a condo vs. townhouse, be sure to tally up everything – from the monthly mortgage and fees to the home inspection costs and taxes  – to truly understand which is the better deal. 

    Shared Walls

    An additional difference between a condo vs. townhouse is the amount of shared walls that you can expect in each type of residence. A condo is more similar to an apartment in that it is typically one of many units nestled within a larger building. Thus you can expect to share multiple walls on either side, above and/or beneath you, depending on your condo’s location in relation to the other condos in your building. A townhouse will always feature at least one and at most two shared walls with an adjacent townhouse, but you likely won’t have neighbors above or below you. 

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    Space Layouts

    Another major distinction between condos and townhouses are the types of layouts you can expect to find within each of them. Condo layouts can vary greatly depending upon the larger design of the building they’re housed within. This means you can come across a condo that stretches across one floor like an apartment or a slimmer unit that contains two or more floors. Townhouses are generally more uniform in their layout, offering multiple floors and high ceilings. 

    Materials used to build townhouses can also vary widely, especially in New York City. This is helpful information to know before purchasing a townhouse, as certain materials require more upkeep than others. It’s also important to note that generally speaking, townhouses almost always come with more square-footage than condos. In New York City, you’ll often find townhouses split into individual units, making them great investment property options. 


    As previously discussed, paying into HOA fees every month provides built-in coverage for any necessary home repairs to your condo or townhouse. So if your renovation is purely functional (i.e. your pipes burst and you need a valve replaced), you can report your needs to your HOA and they will take care of it. 

    However, homeowners are responsible for any aesthetic renovations or upgrades to the space. With both types of properties, you may need to get approval from your HOA board before you begin your renovation – and they might not always say yes. Additionally, there might be local building or municipal permits that need to be obtained before work can begin. It’s important to note that even if you own your townhouse and had the ability to opt out of HOA fees, you could still be beholden to certain renovation rules and regulations for your specific townhouse community.

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    Sense of Community

    Due to its shared nature, a condo building might provide more of a sense of built-in community and even offer special group events or activities. Of course, these types of amenities are entirely optional and dependent upon the individual building owners and/or managers. So if this potential aspect of condo living is especially appealing to you, be sure to ask about it during any open houses that you attend. By contrast, any sense of community or neighborly bonding that could happen in a townhouse is largely initiated by individual tenants. If you prefer to control the frequency and depth of interactions with your neighbors, a townhouse might be a better option.

    Condo vs. Townhouse: It’s a Personal Choice!

    When it comes to choosing between a condo and a townhouse, there’s truly no wrong course of action – budget, convenience, style and community are all valid factors that can help you make the best choice for yourself. Now for the fun part: shopping! Check out StreetEasy’s condo listings here and townhouse listings here, plus more tips on NYC home ownership here.

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    Disclaimer: Any and all information contained within this article is provided for promotional or informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon as a professional opinion whatsoever.