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Condo, Townhome or House – Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted by Lisa Kohl on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 4:26pm.

Condo Townhome House

When it comes to buying a Boise home, some have visions of the quintessential single-family home, white picket fence and lush lawn. For others, that vision isn’t as appealing.

A condo or townhome, over a traditional single-family home, may be the best option when it comes to making your next purchase. Maybe spending weekends caring for a lawn and other home-related chores isn’t quite what you had in mind. Perhaps you crave a location that puts you close to all the things you love. Then here’s what you need to know about living in a condo or townhome.

What Type of Person Buys Condos and Townhomes?

There’s a simple way of describing living in a condo or townhome- lock it and leave. Let’s face it, people today are busier now than ever. Whether it’s a job that keeps you on the run or just life in general. Not everyone wants to be held prisoner to house chores and general home care in their spare time especially when any downtime is limited and precious.

For a someone who travels frequently, be it for work or pleasure, having a whole home to care for while away can be daunting. Maybe you’re looking into downsizing. Meaning gaining more of your free time back to enjoy the things that are really fun. Choosing a condo for sale in Boise, or townhome, may not be for everyone but for those who prefer this way of life really reap the benefits of low maintenance living.

Maintaining a home is not only a responsibility, but it’s time-consuming and can be expensive. The beauty of condo/townhome life is that it’s likely there will be an HOA that will shoulder some of the responsibility that comes with homeownership. Need to mow and weed the lawn? The HOA will usually take care of that. Will the exterior of the building need paint in the near future? The HOA will have it covered. How about when seasons change and it’s time to rake the leaves or shovel the snow? You get the picture.

What About the HOA

Homeowner associations tend to get a bad rap. Yes, you will pay a fee in addition to your mortgage that can be charged monthly, quarterly or annually. Yes, there will be certain restrictions on what you can or cannot do to your home. The reality is doing your research BEFORE you buy is key here. This helps in determining whether or not you feel you can live within the rules of the HOA as they are all so different.

With condo and townhome living the reality is the HOA is what keeps life low maintenance. They arrange for lawn care, maintenance of the common areas, repairs- you name it. Many times the HOA will cover many of the mundane things that come with homeownership. On the flip-side, they can offer some great benefits for a would-be owner such as pools, gyms, handyman services etc. The items your money will go toward.

Getting the Most for Your Money

Building Boise townhouses or condominium developments comes slightly cheaper than individual single-family homes. As a buyer, you’re going to get finishes that you might not otherwise be able to afford in a single-family home. Not only that but the amenities a community has to offer is also a selling feature. Having access to community pools, gyms and tennis courts all without having to leave home and saving money by not having to pay for these items individually.

Location, Location, Location

Sounds cliché but if being close to the mix when it comes to urban locations is a plus for you then condo/townhome life could very well be in the cards. These types of homes take far less land to build which in turn allows them to be built in sought after areas. Being stuck out in suburbia isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Many times, people would rather be closer to work in lieu of a long commute, dining, entertainment or would just rather be in the center of it all.

Lack of Privacy or Sense of Security?

One of the biggest concerns when consulting with buyers on condos or townhomes is the lack of privacy. Or worse, the loud party in the unit above us in the wee hours of the night. While all of that is of valid concern, newer construction can provide excellent soundproofing of walls and thoughtful layout of individual units. For townhomes think of garages or living spaces sharing walls instead of bedrooms.

With condo/townhome life usually comes a sense of community. Yes, you will likely share walls and common space with your neighbors, but the other side of that coin is that there’s a safety aspect to that too. Some condominium complexes are only accessible to owners via a doorman or secure entry. This puts access to entrances entirely indoors, shielding against would-be intruders. Townhomes tend to be more accessible, but by getting to know your neighbor, even casually, you’ve got eyes on your home even while you’re away.

What’s the Difference Between a Condo and Townhome?

Condos can come in many shapes and sizes as can townhomes. With a condo, you typically will own the air within the walls. Sounds a little crazy right? Sometimes it can be considered from the studs in or at least the drywall. Don’t let the madness get to you- hear me out. Walls are filled with everything from insulation, wiring and plumbing. With air rights, that could mean if you have a pipe burst- it’s the HOA’s responsibility, not yours. A light switch isn’t working? Guess what, not your problem.

With a townhome, you own the land AND have ownership of the actual structure of your home. Which means you are solely responsible for everything in and between your walls.

Disadvantages of Buying a Condo

In recent years, federal regulation has made it incredibly difficult for a buyer to obtain financing specifically related to condos. This coincides with the number of rentals versus owner-occupied units in any given building. Therefore limiting the loan options to buyers for the purchase of a condo.

While local lending institutions have partially filled in the gap, unfortunately, it doesn’t allow for buyers to take advantage of first time home buyer loans or FHA loans. Even though times are changing, legislation is working its way through the system, but until that happens, this will continue to be a challenge for some.

Another hurdle buyers must consider is whether or not the complex (Condo or Townhome) is maintaining their FHA certification. This ensures the federal government that they complex is being maintained to a certain standard. Think no peeling paint or major deferred maintenance.

Some HOA’s will forgo this to keep costs lower or to just simply not have to deal with inspections. Either way, this is something to strongly consider not only when you purchase but also when the time comes to sell. Think if your buyer pool was literally cut in half all because your home could not accept a particular type of financing.

Closing Thoughts

While the purchase of a condo or townhome certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The pros versus cons when comparing against a single-family home couldn’t be more different. While options do vary from area to area, it really comes down to wants and needs from the buyer.

Boise Real Estate Agent Lisa KohlLisa Kohl

Lisa Kohl is a full-time Boise, Idaho real estate agent and Realtor®. Lisa helps buyers purchase homes throughout Idaho. Lisa can be contacted at (208) 391-4466. She would be happy to share her local knowledge and expertise with you! We Know Boise Real Estate provides service in Boise and surrounding Idaho cities including Meridian, Eagle, Nampa, Kuna, Middleton, Star and Caldwell. Email Lisa

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