Philadelphia is one of those unique cities where you can drive around for just 15 minutes and see a wide variety of different housing styles in that short span, from single family row homes in West Philly on to large sprawling houses on the mainline. When home shopping in the City of Brotherly Love you might want to consider a condo or townhouse. While either is a perfect starter home for first-time homeowners, small families, and single people, and both usually require owners to pay association fees, they also have a number of distinctions that you should keep in mind as you’re doing your research.
When you buy a condominium, you’re purchasing one living unit that is located on a common piece of property that is co-owned by a number of other condo owners. You purchase the individual living space as well as a portion of the land, property, and amenities. In other words, a condo owner shares ownership of just about everything located on the property with others, including the roof and staircases.
When you purchase a townhouse, you take sole ownership of the home, the roof, and the land that lies below it. Though the townhouse is usually a part of a community association, each person has his own separate living space.
When deciding between a condo or townhouse, you’ll find that the general floor layout is the main point of difference. Many condos in Philadelphia resemble standard apartments in that the living space is commonly consolidated to one floor or a portion of a floor depending on the format of the building. The condo buildings in Rittenhouse Square and the museum area are an example of this. Some high-rise condominiums resemble skyscraper buildings.
On the other hand, townhomes usually have multiple floors—sometimes as many as three or four in one unit for one common family. Some townhomes are attached to twin units, but each owner still has exclusive access to all the floors in his own home.
Owners of townhomes may also have the benefit of more convenient amenities, such as a private garage or driveway and a personal lawn where they can grow a garden. Condo owners must share just about everything with the others who own the unit.
Condo associations have a reputation for being very strict when it comes to the rules of the property, particularly when it comes to items that are visible to the outside community. Since many households share a common condo property, they all play a role in keeping its market value strong. While townhouses also have homeowner associations, those associations tend to give residents more freedom in decorating their living spaces. Some people look at these associations as a bother, but many others prefer to the governance of a homeowner’s association to help keep the property clean, well-maintained, and valuable.
The overall difference between these two popular home styles is that with a condo you can expect to share a lot more with your neighbors. As you’re shopping around Philly for a condo or townhouse, keep this important difference in mind.