When buying a home, most people think first about location and, of course, price. But an important decision that’s even more basic is deciding between a single-family home, a condominium, or a townhouse.

Should You Buy a House, a Condo, or a Townhouse?

Buying a condo, a townhouse, or a single-family home has a big impact on your lifestyle, as well as how much control and responsibility you have for maintaining and making changes to your home.

A condo is like an apartment, in that it’s one unit within a larger building or residential complex. What’s different is you own it instead of renting it.

A single-family home is a stand-alone house with space surrounding it.

A townhouse is a combination of the two. Like single-family homes, townhouses are often multileveled and have outdoor space. You own the interior and exterior of the home, as well as the yard space, and are responsible for maintaining all of it. Like condos, townhouses share walls with other homes, usually as part of a row.

The type of home you choose also influences how much you pay. On top of this, you may need to pay dues to a homeowners association that maintains and manages spaces and services for the larger community.

Back to top


If you want to be part of a community, have fewer maintenance responsibilities, and enjoy access to shared amenities, then a condo might be right for you. That said, condos often are smaller, and you own and control only the interior of your unit.

What is a condo?

A condominium, or condo for short, is a unit in a building or residential complex with common areas and shared amenities, such as gyms, swimming pools, event spaces, parking, and security. It’s like an apartment, but you own the unit instead of renting it.

So, how do condos work? You get to enjoy the amenities and common spaces, and only need to maintain the interior of your unit. You pay fees to an HOA that uses the money to maintain the common spaces, amenities, and building exterior on the community’s behalf.

How much does a condo cost?

Condos often are cheaper than townhouses and single-family homes because you only own what’s within the walls of your unit. You usually pay less in homeowners insurance and property taxes, but you do need to pay HOA fees, which vary depending on the property and aren’t optional.

The price of a condo depends on the property and the area, but below are some of the costs you can expect to encounter.

Upfront costs

Ongoing costs

Pros and cons of buying a condo

Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks to condo ownership.

Pros of buying a condo

  • Access to amenities and common areas.
  • Lower costs compared with a townhouse or single-family home.
  • Less responsibility for maintenance and repairs.
  • Part of a community, offering more social opportunities.

Cons of buying a condo

  • Smaller living space.
  • HOA fees.
  • No control over the exterior of the unit.
  • Resale value is typically less than it is for other home types.

Is a condo right for you?

Buying a condo is a good idea for first-time buyers, or for couples who aren’t ready to start a family or don’t plan to have children. Condos can be an affordable way for first-time buyers to get their foot in the door and begin building equity, and often are in desirable locations. Just keep in mind that condos — like apartments — mean living in close proximity to other people.

Back to top


A townhouse offers a middle-ground option. You should expect that any yard space you have will be small, and your home will share walls with other buildings.

What is a townhouse?

Townhouses share one or two walls with other homes, and usually are built in a row. They are individually owned and sometimes part of an HOA that takes care of community services, such as garbage pickup. Unlike with a condo, you control the exterior of your home and are responsible for maintaining it.

The difference between a condo and townhouse is that you must maintain both the inside and the outside of a townhouse, while you’re only responsible for interior upkeep with a condo.

As with single-family homes, living in a townhouse can mean having some outdoor space in the form of a yard.

How much does a townhouse cost?

Townhouses typically cost more than condos but less than single-family homes. Any HOA fees for a townhouse will likely be less than for a condo, since townhouse owners maintain the exterior of their unit, and there generally are fewer amenities.

Townhouse prices vary, but you can expect the following upfront and ongoing costs.

Upfront costs

  • Down payment.
  • Closing costs.

Ongoing costs

  • Monthly mortgage payment.
  • Property taxes.
  • Homeowners insurance.
  • HOA fees, if applicable.
  • Some or all utility bills.
  • Interior and exterior maintenance.

Pros and cons of buying a townhouse

If you want more space and privacy than a condo offers, but can’t afford a single-family home, then a townhouse could be a good option. Below are some of the upsides and downsides to owning a townhouse.

Pros of buying a townhouse

  • More privacy, space, and control compared with condo ownership.
  • HOA fees, if applicable, are usually lower.
  • Outdoor space, like yards or a rooftop deck.
  • Usually more affordable than a single-family home.

Cons of buying a townhouse

  • More maintenance required than with a condo.
  • Less space compared with a single-family home.
  • Lower resale value than a house.
  • Shared walls with neighbors.

Is a townhouse right for you?

Townhouses offer a middle ground between condos and single-family homes. You have more freedom than with a condo, but don’t have all the responsibility of owning a single-family home. However, that also means missing out on the total control of your environment that owners of single-family homes have.

Back to top

Single-Family Homes

If you’ve always dreamed of owning a house with a big yard, then you may have your heart set on a single-family home. Keep in mind that houses come with greater costs and responsibilities.

What is a single-family home?

The term “single-family home” refers to a stand-alone house. It’s often depicted as the classic, idealized version of homeownership.

Like with townhouses, single-family homes usually have yard space. When it comes to townhouses vs. houses, however, a key factor is that single-family homes have space on all sides of the dwelling and stand alone from other homes.

As with condos and townhouses, single-family homes can be part of a homeowners association — and it’s becoming more common. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 82% of new single-family houses sold in 2021 were part of an HOA, compared with 62% in 2010.

How much does a house cost?

A single-family home typically costs more than a townhouse or a condo because it is usually bigger and comes with more land. Additionally, you’re responsible for all upkeep and repairs.

The cost of a single-family home depends on several factors, including size and location. Here are some of the main costs of owning a house.

Upfront costs

  • Down payment.
  • Closing costs.

Ongoing costs

  • Monthly mortgage payment.
  • Property taxes.
  • Homeowners insurance.
  • HOA fees, if applicable.
  • Some or all utility bills.
  • Interior and exterior maintenance.

Pros and cons of buying a single-family home

Pros of buying a house

  • Reliable resale value compared with a condo or townhouse.
  • More space, privacy, and control over the home.
  • Outdoor space.

Cons of buying a house

  • Less affordable than condos and townhouses.
  • Full responsibility for repairs and maintenance.

Is a house right for you?

Buying a house is usually a good idea for people who have, or plan to start, a family. It gives you the most space and control over your environment. However, a house is more expensive and requires greater responsibility for maintenance.

Back to top

The Cost Differences Between Condos, Townhouses, and Single-Family Homes

The purchase price of your preferred home type isn’t the only cost difference you need to consider. For example, you might not pay HOA fees when you own a single-family home, but you have to maintain the landscaping yourself — or pay someone to do it for you.

Here’s how certain costs vary based on the type of home you buy.

And below is an explanation of how certain costs of homeownership may be affected by the type of home you choose.


The purchase price of your home influences different areas of your mortgage, such as the down payment, closing costs, and size of your loan. So, choosing a more expensive home type could result in greater difficulty putting 20% down — which is required to avoid private mortgage insurance on a conventional loan — as well as higher expenses over time in the form of interest on your mortgage.

A mortgage calculator can help you figure out how much home you can afford.

Compared with buying a single-family home or townhouse, purchasing a condominium can be more complicated. That’s because condo financing may be subject to restrictions, depending on the property, and whether it’s a warrantable vs. nonwarrantable condo.

A warrantable condo is one that meets the guidelines of federally backed mortgage corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A condo is deemed nonwarrantable when lenders determine that it’s too risky of an investment, based on factors such as whether the building or community has too much commercial space or allows short-term rentals.

If you’re interested in a government-backed loan, the Federal Housing Administration keeps a searchable database of FHA-approved condo projects. You also can request a customized condo report with a list of projects approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Homeowners insurance

With less space in a condo, you may be able to save on homeowners insurance. Condos also can be cheaper to insure because the policy only needs to cover the interior of the home.

Similarly, condo owners don’t need to pay for liability coverage outside of their units. The overall building would have its own insurance policy to cover the rest of the property, says Michele Hass, president of Brooklyn MLS, a platform for real estate agents in New York City.

Homeowners insurance for townhouses and single-family homes, on the other hand, must cover the entire property.

Home resale value

The resale value of your home depends on market conditions at the time you put it up for sale, plus how well you’ve maintained it.

If you’re looking for the best resale value overall, a single-family home is the safest bet, says Simon Isaacs, owner and broker at Simon Isaacs Real Estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

“I believe houses have better long-term resale value followed by townhouses and condos,” Isaacs says.

With a condo, you have less influence over your home’s resale value because you can’t control how the building or residential complex is maintained. However, that also means you won’t have to do as much to protect the value of your home, since you aren’t responsible for the exterior and common spaces.

HOA rules and fees

No matter what type of home you live in, you must abide by your HOA’s rules. Breaking them can result in unpleasant consequences, like a fine or ban on using some of the community’s amenities.

HOA rules vary significantly by home type.

Condos tend to have the most constraints, from pet and rental guidelines to limitations on the remodeling you’re allowed to do. Fees for condos are typically higher because they take care of maintenance on your home’s exterior, as well as the larger building or residential complex. Condos also tend to offer a variety of amenities that hike up fees.

With townhouses and single-family homes, you can expect to pay lower HOA fees because you’re in charge of maintaining your home’s exterior and the surrounding property — but this also depends on what services are provided by the HOA.

Back to top

How To Decide Between a Condo vs. Townhouse vs. House

When deciding between a condo vs. house vs. townhouse, it really comes down to your priorities. If you want to become a homeowner without having to deal with exterior maintenance or landscaping, a condo may be a better fit than a house.

“Condos are best fit for working professionals looking for smaller spaces and convenience of the amenities that might be present in the building, young couples buying their first place, and retired couples that are looking to downsize,” Hass says.

On the other hand, single-family homes offer perks like increased square footage — both inside and outside of the home — as well as more freedom to do what you want with the property. This also can mean higher costs and a less central location, but for some people, the trade-off is worth it.

“I would recommend a single-family home for those clients who have young families and/or love the freedom of having their own space and backyard,” Isaacs says. “While there is more upkeep, there is something to be said for having the space to entertain, and personalizing your backyard.”

For certain homebuyers, townhouses offer the best of both worlds: more space and reasonable costs.

Cost Differences Between a Condo vs. Townhouse vs. House

Home TypeCostsWhat You OwnWork RequiredBest ForAmenities
Condo– Down payment and closing costs.
– Monthly mortgage payment.
– Property taxes.
– Condo insurance.
– HOA fees.
– Some utility bills.
The interior of your unit.Maintaining the interior of your unit.— First-time buyers.
— People looking to downsize.
— Often has pools or gyms.
— Front desk staff and security.
Townhouse– Down payment and closing costs.
– Monthly mortgage payment.
– Property taxes.
– Townhouse insurance.
– HOA fees, if applicable.
– Some or all utility bills.
Your unit and the property it sits on.Maintaining the interior and exterior of your unit, as well as any private outdoor space.— People who want a middle ground between condos and single-family homes.
— More space than a condo, less responsibility than a home.
May include amenities, but it’s less common than with condos.
Single-Family Home– Down payment and closing costs.
– Monthly mortgage payment.
– Property taxes.
– Homeowners insurance.
– HOA fees, if applicable.
– Some or all utility bills.
Your home and the surrounding property.
Maintaining the interior and exterior of your home, as well as your yard space.— Couples looking to start a family.
— Established families.
You have control over what amenities to add.

Here are some factors you’ll want to consider when deciding which type of home to buy:

  • Finances: Evaluate your income and debts to see what type of home fits your budget. Remember that townhouses are generally less expensive than single-family homes, and condos may offer amenities that otherwise might be unaffordable if you buy a house.
  • Location and community: A condo or townhouse can make it affordable to live in a more populated, central neighborhood. A single-family home may be farther from amenities and require more travel.
  • Lifestyle: If you commute to work every day, then a condo or townhouse may be closer to your job and save you time and money. But, if you need more space for kids and pets, then a single-family home might be a better fit.
  • Rules and regulations: If you choose a condo, be ready to accept the rules set by your HOA. Townhouses and single-family homes also can be part of HOAs, though the rules usually are less restrictive.
  • Fees: Condos, as well as some townhouses and single-family houses, require that you pay regular HOA fees. These fees tend to be pricier for condos because they cover more expenses, such as maintaining the building exterior.

Back to top

The Bottom Line on Buying a Condo vs. Townhouse vs. House

Condos, townhouses, and single-family homes all offer the satisfaction of homeownership, a place to plant roots, and the opportunity to make a financial investment. However, each has benefits and drawbacks. When you’re shopping for a home, be sure to weigh how much space you need, where you want to live, and how much you’re willing to pay so that you can choose the home type that best suits your needs.

T.J. Porter contributed to the reporting of this article.