Difference between Condo, Townhouse and Apartment

Updated on June 27, 2018

When searching for a property to rent, lease, or buy, one should be familiar with the possible options in real estate. The options might include a condo, a townhouse, or an apartment. In choosing the right home or investment, several considerations come into play. It is then vital to learn more about each of the property types and how they are differentiated. Continue reading this article and we’ll provide you with information on each as well as their main differences.

Summary Table

CondoTownhouseApartment
Unit within a larger complex, from a low-rise or high-rise buildingCondensed single family home, with properties designed in rows so occupants share a wallUnit within a building with adjoining walls, floors, and ceilings
Generally smaller, has only 1 floorCan be quite large with multiple storiesCan either have one level or multiple stories
More community amenitiesWould sometimes have community amenitiesWould have some community amenities
Usually owned but only the inside structure/interior unitUsually owned; owners would also own the land (front and back yards) where the structure is built onUsually rented
Have higher homeowner’s fees for maintenance of amenities such as a pool, gym, etc.Upkeep is usually on the owners’ account and they pay a minimal amount on homeowner’s feesThe landlord shoulders homeowner’s fees
Able to remodel and re-furnishAble to remodel and refurnish when they own the propertyNot able to remodel and would have to ask permission if they want to refurnish

Definitions

condominium
A condominium

A condo or condominium is a single unit property that is part of a larger unit or building. The word “condominium” is made up of the prefix con, meaning “together,” and the word dominium, meaning “domain or property.” Hence, it is considered to be a “shared property” type of real estate with owners having possession only of the inside structure/unit and not the land.

row of townhouses
A row of townhouses

A townhouse is similar to a duplex in that it is a type of real estate that is considered an individual living space; however, owners share a wall with an adjoining property. Townhouses are usually identified as mirror-image or row houses that share side walls. Owners of townhouses have possession of the structure as well as the land that it is built on, including the front and back yards.

apartment building
An apartment building

An apartment is a type of living space that is usually inside a building. Apartment units often have adjoining walls, floors, and ceilings with other apartments. Here, tenants share common areas or amenities and do not have any private yards.

Condo vs Townhouse vs Apartment

The main differences between a condo, a townhouse, and an apartment are evident in the structure/living space, community amenities, ownership, liability, and maintenance.

Structure and community amenities

A condo is a single unit which is part of a larger complex, usually built in a low-rise or a high-rise building. A townhouse is a condensed version of a single family home, designed and built in rows, and sharing a wall with other townhouses. An apartment is a type of living space built within a building with not just an adjoining wall but also adjoining ceilings and floors with other apartments.

Condos are generally small, having only a single floor. However, condos usually have more complete and high-end community amenities. Townhouses, on the other hand, are larger, having 2-3 stories, but are limited in terms of community amenities. Apartments either have just 1 level or multiple stories wherein community or shared amenities are also available.

Ownership, liability, and maintenance

In terms of ownership, condos are usually owned but the ownership is limited to the inside structure or the interior unit itself. Condo owners pay higher homeowner’s fees for the maintenance of amenities such as the pool, gym, and other common areas. Townhouses are also often owned, along with the land the structure is built on. This includes the font and back yards. The upkeep of the property is on the owner’s account and they pay minimal homeowner’s fees. Conversely, apartments are usually rented and the landlord shoulders the maintenance fees as well as the homeowner’s fees.

One advantage to owning a condo or a townhouse is the ability to remodel and re-furnish as needed or desired as long as it doesn’t cause any trouble with the neighbors. On the contrary, apartment tenants do not have the freedom to remodel as they please. They need to ask permission from their landlords if they wish to refurnish or make any changes in the living space.

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