Are Townhouses a Good Option for Retirees?

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As the so-called silver tsunami of baby boomers heads for retirement, many will be looking to downsize their homes. Sprawling McMansions with two-car garages can seem unnecessary during the golden years, and who has the energy to do all that cleaning?

While for many boomers downsizing will mean purchasing a condo, others may be reluctant to give up the lifestyle associated with living in a detached home.

From this perspective, Toronto townhouses offer an attractive compromise. They provide the autonomy of a detached home as well as some outdoor space – but at a fraction of the price.

However, before you dive headfirst into the Toronto real estate market and put down an offer on that adorable Toronto townhouse, here are some possible drawbacks to be aware of:

Stairs Can be a Setback

Stairs are perhaps the biggest downside of choosing a townhouse over a condo when it’s time to downsize.

“As you get older mobility becomes an issue and stairs become an issue,” says Ara Mamourian of Spring Realty.

For this reason, it isn’t typically boomers who are buying townhouses, Mamourian says. It’s first-time buyers who have been priced out of the market for detached homes.

“The townhouses have become an option for people not because they necessarily want a townhouse but because they can’t afford a house anymore because of price increases and mortgage rule changes,” Mamourian says. “So they’re kind of compromising.”

That said, a townhouse can be a good option – so long as your health and mobility remain intact. Do you anticipate that going up and down the stairs could be a problem for you a few years down the road? If so, you might want to stick with a condo – or at least go for a bungalow townhouse.

Size Matters

Townhomes tend to be roughly the same square footage as a larger condo. But because they are typically split up into multiple levels, they can often feel smaller, says Mamourian.

“There’s square footage wasted on stairs and hallways and things like that,” he says.

And while they do come with outdoor space for gardening or hanging out on the deck during the summer months, townhouses typically don’t have very large backyards – at least compared to detached homes.

Consider Maintenance Fees

Just like condo units, townhouses come with maintenance fees that are used for repair and upkeep of common areas. But before you panic, keep in mind that houses have repair costs associated with them as well, even if they aren’t laid out explicitly.

“Just because you’re buying a house doesn’t mean you don’t have any costs associated with that,” Mamourian says.

Most homeowners are familiar with the surprise expenses that often crop up as part of normal wear-and-tear.

“I always think of maintenance fees as a benefit because it’s a fixed cost,” Mamourian says.

“Whereas with a home it’s variable. One year you might pay nothing, the next year you might pay a thousand dollars for maintenance. At least in a townhouse or a condo you know what that cost is every month.”

Additionally, the maintenance fees associated with owning a townhouse are often lower than those that come with condo ownership. That’s because there are usually fewer amenities to maintain, Mamourian says.

Lastly, paying a corporation a fee to maintain common areas can be a huge load off your shoulders.

“The benefit is it’s carefree, just like a condo, and you have the semi-freedom that you would get with a regular house,” Mamourian says.

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