Should Your First Home be a House, Townhome, or Condominium?

Should Your First Home be a House, Townhome, or Condominium?

Buying your first home is a big decision – actually, a series of big decisions: Neighborhood? Budget? Must-haves vs. wants? One of the first choices to make is the type of home that’s best for you. The tendency to let financial and practical factors drive the decision is valid and understandable, but it’s a lifestyle decision as well, and it’s important to factor in what will make you happiest in the place you’ll call home, whether that’s for the next several years, or the foreseeable future.


If you’re not a seasoned home buyer, you may find this basic breakout of home types helpful. But while this information is generally true, your next – and smartest – step is to talk to a RealtorÒ with specific expertise in the market and neighborhood(s) you’re exploring.


The Basics

  • A single-family home is a dethatched dwelling; you own the home and the lot it sits on.
  • Townhomes are sometimes detached, but more often have 1-2 shared walls between homes; you own the unit and the property it sits on.
  • Condominiums usually share walls with units on both sides and have neighboring units above and below; purchasers own their unit, but not the property it sits on.


Costs Involved

  • Single-family home buyers are responsible for the down payment (usually 20% of purchase price), monthly mortgage, all maintenance and repairs. The average median sale price for a single-family home in the Seattle area is $775,000.
  • Townhome buyers are responsible for their down payment and monthly mortgage, and potentially for monthly Homeowners Association (HOA) fees, if the townhome has an HOA. The average median sale price for a townhome in the Seattle area is $700,000.
  • Condominium buyers are responsible for their down payment and mortgage, along with monthly homeowner dues. The average median sale price for condominiums in the Seattle area is $592,000.


Lifestyle Alignment

Single-family homes are a longer-term investment and tend to appreciate more in resale value. They’re great for couples with (or looking to start) families who want to be close to suburban area schools. If you value privacy (no shared walls) and love fixing up or otherwise remodeling your home to make it your own (which can also increase resale value), the higher cost of a house may well be worth it. On the other hand, if you dread dealing with repairs and maintenance, or prefer to be closer to downtown offices, events and amenities, a townhome or condo might be a better choice.




Townhomes, while often requiring higher down payments, are still generally more affordable than single-family homes given their lower maintenance, utilities, and insurance costs. You’ll have equity in your home and usually room for a small outdoor living/gardening space. If you value the safety and sense of community a townhome development can foster, it’s a great option to consider, if you don’t mind potentially sharing one or two walls with your neighbors.


Condominiums, generally the least expensive home type, can be ideal for first-time buyers, down-sizers, or those wanting a shorter-term lease. Homeowner fees are higher than that of townhomes, but they cover more maintenance and shared community amenities. They also come with more rules regarding property amendments, pets, and other requirements, but if you prefer a more relaxed lifestyle and shorter chore lists, condos shouldn’t be overlooked. You will likely share walls (and sometimes floors or ceilings) with your neighbors, but if you’re looking for a home in or close to urban centers and all they offer, you’ll find condominium homes to be the most convenient, plentiful, and varied of options.


Still mulling which home type might be right for you? You should be – we’ve just scratched the surface here. That’s why the Ensemble team has developed our Buyer Brainstorm, which provides more information, considerations, and a detailed questionnaire to help you and your agent land on the decision – and the home – that’s best for you. Let us send one your way today; we’re here to guide you through one of the most exciting milestones of your life.


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