by Dan Krell
As list prices of many single family homes have been reduced, many home buyers find themselves weighing the option of purchasing a townhome versus purchasing a single family home. The numerous options create a dilemma for home buyers, requiring them to think twice about their home requirements, lifestyle and long term goals. When faced with such a decision, home buyers often need to clarify their beliefs and misconceptions between townhomes and single family homes.
Given the selection between a single family detached home versus a townhome, what would you choose? The answer may not be as easy as you may think. There are reasons why a single family home may be competing with a townhome. Often times, the single family homes may be in fair to poor condition, needing obvious repairs or requiring immediate attention from the home buyer. Sometimes the homes may be a pre-foreclosure or short sale requiring third party approval, which has its own subset of considerations (dealing with a third party and trying to keep your interest rate lock through the lengthy wait). However, some single family homes may be well cared for but have prices reduced because of an atypical floor plan or style that does not fit the typical home buyer’s lifestyle.
Is it about the size? One misconception that home buyers have is that townhomes are inherently smaller than single family homes. However, many townhomes have living areas that are comparable or superior to that of single family homes; many townhomes are built with over 2,000sf gross living area and have a 1 or 2 car garage! Of course, depending on your lifestyle, the size may be secondary to the floor plan or layout of the rooms and amenities. Although townhome living has been described as vertical living, larger townhome interiors have high ceilings and open floor plans making it feel like a single family home.
Another misconception that home buyers have is that single family homes are not bound by a Home Owners Association (HOA). Although the chances are very good that the townhome you are considering is governed by the rules, restrictions, and covenants of a Home Owners Association (HOA); however, many single family homes are also under the authority of a HOA. Additionally, there may be restrictions even if there is no HOA. A home that is located within a protection area, which is imposed by the county or locality, has land use restrictions that may prohibit building, additions and/or tree removal. If you would like to research land usage for a specific home, you can visit the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in Silver Spring (the staff is friendly, helpful and knowledgeable).
A common belief is that maintenance costs are higher for singe family homes than townhomes; when comparing homes, it is important to examine costs for upgrades as well as monthly operation costs. Repairs and maintenance vary on the home’s materials and systems. Additional maintenance considerations include painting, roof replacement, landscaping as well as daily expenses that include heating and cooling.
Home buyers will be surprised this spring as homes come to market; they will be surprised by their home buying options as well as prices.
This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 7, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.