In a prior post, we looked at what people should think about if they’re considering downsizing to a townhouse – Namely, how to get rid of stuff you no longer need, and planning in advance for outfitting the new place with furniture and accessories. That all falls under the ‘how’ of downsizing.
But for some people, the ‘why’ of downsizing includes a desire to get away from all the maintenance associated with a detached home. For this reason, many people consider townhouse condos in the Toronto real estate market and elsewhere.
What are Townhouse Condos?
The term townhouse condo may seem confusing at first. Is it a townhouse or a condo? In truth, it’s a bit of both. A townhouse condo is simply a townhouse in which the interior is the property of individual owners, but the lot and communal areas are the joint property of all owners. So even though you’re living in what looks and feels like a townhouse, the rules governing the property and structure are more akin to a condo.
Why This Matters for Townhouse Maintenance Fees
When you own your own home (along with the property on the outside), you’re responsible for maintaining and, if need be, repairing it when things get old or broken. At some stages in your life, this may not be an issue. You might have both the time, energy and inclination to take on this work. But if you’re older or just have less time to devote to maintaining and repairing your home, it might be time to think about downsizing to real estate that is more manageable.
If the home you’re looking at qualifies as a townhouse condo, there will be an association that governs the development. Just like a regular condo, you’ll have to pay a monthly maintenance fee to cover ongoing expenses incurred by the condo corporation (you may also have to pay a “special assessment” fee if a major repair is required). And as with all condos, you should do your due diligence before you buy: ask about what the monthly fees are, what the trend has been over the years, and about the size of the reserve fund. You may find out, for example, that the fees for a place you’re looking at are much higher than you would incur if you simply did repairs yourself. In this case, you should look elsewhere.
Assuming you do downsize and buy a condo townhouse, there are a number of maintenance and repair items you won’t be responsible for, beyond paying your monthly fees. These include landscaping in warmer weather and snow shovelling during the winter. You may still be responsible for your own backyard (although the lawn may be taken care of depending on the particular development). Having said that, a condo townhouse backyard is typically much smaller than a single-family home’s backyard.
You Will Still Have Some Responsibilities
Even though communal aspects of the townhouse development will be taken care of through the condo board, that doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook for maintenance and repairs. As with a standard condo, the individual unit holders are usually responsible for upkeep with respect to the inside of their particular unit. So, if you buy a new fridge and it breaks down, you will have to get someone in to fix it.
Another important responsibility you will have as a townhouse condo owner is participating in the affairs of the condo association. This can involve attending meetings, voting on proposals and reviewing documents related to the overall property. Needless to say, whether you own a detached home or a townhouse condo, there will always be at least some work involved.
Are you considering buying a townhouse? Share your story with us in a comment!