Condos Vs Townhomes: Which Should You Choose in Northern VA?

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The Great Debate

I am going to tell you upfront, this question does not have an easy answer. You want to know which is better, condos vs townhomes?

Or, more specifically, which should you buy?

Like most questions in real estate, the answer is, “it depends on your situation”. For me to give you an answer of “townhomes are always better” or vice versa, would be impossible.

If you are first time home buyer who wants a home you can live in for 10+ years, that answer will likely be different than if you are retiring and looking for a low maintenance place to live.

But, I can tell you what this article will give you. More information about both. And with that, the power to decide which is right for you to look into.

Oh, and also you can find townhomes and condos for sale in Northern VA at the end of the article.

One of my favorite things about real estate is that it changes with every market, both over time and geographically. Every area is different.

I am an expert in Northern VA real estate. And this is written for our market here.

If you are in, say, New York City, much of this may not apply. So find a real estate expert where you live to help with your decision.

And if you happen to be in NYC, try reaching out to the Eklund Gomes Team.

What is the difference?

First of all, what is the difference between condos vs townhomes? And how does it affect you day to day? Let’s look at that first.

Townhomes

A row of new townhomes, with well manicured yards and two green trees. Black roofs over the towhomes and the awnings over the doors.
Townhomes are built in rows, here you can see a row of new townhomes.

Townhomes are built side by side, in rows. The sides of the home have shared walls with the neighbors.

End unit townhomes only share one wall with the neighbors, since it is the end of a row.

End units are usually worth a little bit more because they offer more privacy, a few more windows and a bigger yard.

Townhomes in Northern VA are called “fee simple” ownership, along with single family homes.

This means you own the whole structure of the home and also the land that it sits on.

This means you will also maintain everything within the home, but also everything outside of home including roof, windows, etc.

The “typical” townhome in our area has 3 levels. However, some are 2 levels and others are 4 or more.

Condos

A close up shot of a mid rise condo in Virginia. Brick and concrete siding with white trim and windows, some windows with black safety rails.
A view of a new condo community in Virginia, as you can see condos are built vertically and most units are on top of the previous floor.

Condos come in a few different styles. Many look exactly like an apartment, built in 1 level units on top of each other, with a varying numbers of floors.

However, starting in the 90s, more and more condos started to be built with either a loft area, 2 full levels, and even 3 levels or more.

Some look exactly like a townhome, the only difference is the type of ownership.

In a condo, you own everything inside the walls of your unit, but the exterior and common areas are owned by the association.

Each complex is a little different. For example, in Northern VA condos often you are responsible for replacing your windows, but in some communities you are not.

Comparing Condos Vs Townhomes

Ok, lets go head to head, condos vs townhomes in good old Northern VA.

Here are 7 things to consider when buying each, and why one may have an advantage over the other.

Size and Useability

home

Advantage: Townhomes

Townhomes are bigger, with more outdoor space and storage.

Are you are looking for something to grow into, with good storage, multiple large levels and an outdoor area? A townhome is probably the direction you will want to go.

Kitchen with granite counters, glass tile backsplash, stainless appliances and lots of recessed lighting.
Townhomes commonly have the kitchen and the recreation areas on one floor, with bedrooms on the top floor.

Townhomes are bigger than condos if you are comparing properties built around the same time.

And they also are more likely to have a basement with storage, a rec room and separate laundry room.

Condos tend to be 1 level, an if they are multiple levels still rarely give an outdoor space that is your own.

Although condos have increased in size over the years, the townhomes have as well.

Maintenance Cost / Time

build

Advantage: Condos

Condos have less to maintain which can free you up.

This one is pretty simple. In a townhome, you will be maintaining the exterior as well as the interior and the yard.

In a condo, you are only maintaining the interior. In some buildings, even the utilities are common.

This equals less weekends on house projects and/or less money spent on upkeep for condo dwellers.

Association Fees

attach_money

Advantage: Townhomes

Fees for condos cover the extra maintenance. Townhomes have less shared maintenance, so lower fees.

The lower maintenance for owners of a condos means more maintenance for the association to take care of. This cost is shared among condo owners in the form of association fees.

For some, that extra cost is worth not having to maintain as much of the property. But for others, a townhome gives them more control over what they spend on maintenance.

For some buildings, more common areas can mean a higher chance that fees will increase or a “special assessment” will be used to cover a large repair.

Purchase Price Amount

account_balance

Advantage: Condos

Condos are priced lower on average than townhomes, making them more likely to fit more budgets.

If you are looking to get into a home but do not have the resources for a townhome or something bigger, condos can be an affordable option.

Also, in 2019 they relaxed the FHA standards a bit for communities so it can be easier to get them with a first time home buyer, low down payment loan.

This does not mean, of course that condos offer more value, but simply pointing out that they are priced lower.

Value is very much case by case and each property is different.

Appreciation (Rise in Value)

timeline

Advantage: Differs By Area / Market

Appreciation is a funny thing. Picking a winner here would be be too narrow minded. It depends on the market and the neighborhood.

This one is frustrating to try to analyze. Early in my career, many people told me that townhomes appreciate better than condos.

I took that as fact. I think to some degree it may have been true through the great recession in the early 2000s.

And I would love to just come out and say that is true. But it really depends.

Condos have shown solid appreciation, outpacing the rest of the market over certain timeframes and in certain zip codes.

While others areas and times, townhomes show better appreciation.

Here is what I have come to accept: future appreciation of a property is hard to predict.

The real estate market is always changing in Northern VA (and wordwide) and is influenced by many different factors.

You can always look at the historical appreciation just for your info. A good real estate pro can pull you that data.

If you are going to be living in the home, fitting in with your lifestyle is very important. Rising in value long term is icing on the cake.

Privacy

people_outline

Advantage: Townhomes

Townhomes have less shared walls than a condo, nobody overhead, and private entrances.

This may or may not be important to you. In fact, if you like to interact with the neighbors, you may enjoy more common areas.

But the less shared walls of a townhome can mean they are less noisy. Although, some of that depends on your neighbors and how insulated walls are.

Condo buildings a lot of the time have shared hallways when you exit the building. Where a townhome your door will walk you right out into your yard.

Outdoor areas in a condo complex are all common, while a townhome you usually have a private yard, even fenced.

Amenities

pool

Advantage: Condos

Condos and townhomes vary with amenities. But it is more common for condos to have extensive amenities.

Amenities vary by community. However, I know of condo communities that have shopping on the bottom floor, basketball courts, large gyms, large outdoor pools, coffee stations, work areas and are nearly connected to a metro.

Townhomes are much less likely to have extensive amenities like that. Pools, walking trails, basketball/tennis courts are seen in townhome communities.

An indoor basketball court at a condo community. Blue and tan floor with a separately mounted basketball hoop on the wall. Condos usually have more amenities than townhomes.
Indoor basketball court at Halstead at the Metro in Merrifield, VA.

But on average, condos sport more amenities within the community.

To some, this is not important. But to others they appreciate not having to go far for recreation.

Which Should I Choose?

Without talking with you about your specific situation, this is hard to answer. But you can probably answer it yourself.

Here are some tips.

Make a List

Make a list of what is important to you, in the order of importance.

Are you retiring, and want a low maintenance option? Do you want something that you can rent out a room? Do you want something bigger, or do you not need the space?

Budget vs. Market

Ok, so at this point you probably have an idea of where you want to live, or atleast between a couple of areas.

Once you determine your budget (a lender can help with this), see what types of homes are in that budget.

How Long Will You Own?

Whether it is townhomes vs. condos, or both of those vs. a single family home, how long can you see yourself owning the home?

If you want a townhome in 1-2 years, but for now you could buy a condo, it might be worth it just to save up, rent somewhere cheap and wait to buy the bigger place.

The longer you own a property, of any type, the better. You will have closing costs involved both when you buy and when you sell.

These can eat into your bottom line if you move too often over a short period of time.

Sometimes moving is unavoidable, but if you can own for longer that is preferable.

Townhomes For Sale in Northern VA

If townhomes are the winner for you, start your search here. If you would like to tour a property send a request right from any listing.

Open House Sat, Nov 28, 1 PM
$475,000
Townhouse For Sale
Active
3
BED
3
TOTAL BATHS
1,840
SQFT
9145 Silvershadow Court
Lorton, VA 22079
LAUREL CREST Subdivision
New Listing - 35 minutes online
$430,000
Townhouse For Sale
Active
3
BED
3
TOTAL BATHS
1,220
SQFT
6355 Generals Court
Centreville, VA 20121
HERITAGE FOREST Subdivision
Open House Sun, Nov 29, 2 PM
$450,000
Townhouse For Sale
Active
3
BED
3
TOTAL BATHS
1,625
SQFT
2205 Wheelwright Court
Reston, VA 20191
RESTON Subdivision
Open House Sun, Nov 29, 1 PM
$589,000
Townhouse For Sale
Active
4
BED
4
TOTAL BATHS
1,640
SQFT
6425 Wainfleet Court
Springfield, VA 22152
RHYGATE Subdivision

Condos For Sale in Northern VA

Maybe a condo is what you are looking for. Below are some for sale. See all results with the button.

New Listing - an hour online
$179,000
Condo For Sale
Active
1
BED
1
TOTAL BATHS
566
SQFT
Hollybrooke #201
6182 Greenwood Drive 201
Falls Church, VA 22044
New Listing - 2 hours online
$404,900
Condo For Sale
Active
2
BED
2
TOTAL BATHS
1,067
SQFT
Hunters Branch #415
2921 Deer Hollow Way 415
Fairfax, VA 22031
New Listing - yesterday
$269,990
Condo For Sale
Active
1
BED
1
TOTAL BATHS
741
SQFT
Acadia #214
9480 Virginia Center Boulevard 214
Vienna, VA 22181
New Listing - yesterday
$199,900
Condo For Sale
Active
1
BED
1
TOTAL BATHS
673
SQFT
Hunting Creek Cl #1601
2059 Huntington Avenue 1601
Alexandria, VA 22303

The Next Steps

I own a townhome in Fairfax County and a single family home in Fairfax City. By the time you read this I am own a condo too!

But I have helped clients all over Northern VA buy and sell all types of properties, from condos, townhomes, large single family homes and plenty of new construction homes.

What are your real estate goals? Send me a message!

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.

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