A hilltop condominium complex surrounded by trees

Austin condos and townhomes offer buyers a range of options beyond the traditional standalone house.

Buying a home isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. For those looking to take their first steps into the Austin real estate market, looking to downsize from a family home or looking for a lifestyle change, there are a range of interesting and exciting options. When looking at two of the most popular options for Austin real estate, condominiums and townhouses, it’s important to understand the differences between the two, and the advantages that each has to offer.

If you’re deciding to buy a home in Austin, let’s see whether a condominium or townhouse is the right fit for you.

Austin Condominiums vs. Austin Townhouses: The Big Picture

First, the basics: a townhouse is a dwelling built in a certain architectural style. Similar to a row house, the townhome shares one or more walls with the neighboring dwellings and have their own small private yards or courtyards. Owners own the land beneath their unit in a townhome. Austin has very few townhome complexes.

Condominiums, on the other hand, can come in almost any architectural style, from high-rise apartment buildings to communities of semi-detached cottages or free standing “house” style structures, and everything in between. What defines a condo is the ownership structure, where people can buy their private living spaces, then jointly share ownership of the shared and public spaces in a building or complex through a condominium association, or owners association.

Both will have Homeowner’s Associations and HOA fees, which range in coverage from yard maintenance, community maintenance, common insurance, some utilities, etc.

When you buy a home in Austin that is part of a building or a complex, you need to pay close attention to the details beyond just the purchase of your individual unit or dwelling. Everyone who buys into the building or complex will be bound by the rules of an ownership agreement, which governs how all of the owners in the building or complex share responsibility for the public or shared areas of the building or complex.

As mentioned, when it comes to HOA’s, these agreements can be quite extensive, depending on what sort of amenities the complex offers, and the amount of outdoor space and landscaped areas that need maintaining. These agreements can also govern things like parking, use of shared spaces, bringing guests to a pool area or a gym, etc. Whether you’re looking at a condo or a townhouse in Austin, make sure to get a copy of the agreement and consult with your agent or Austin Realtor® before making a decision.

Don’t Forget Potential HOA Assessments

Whenever there’s an association and an owners’ agreement, there are going to be additional fees to cover the maintenance of the shared spaces. Associations have the ability to raise levies for major emergency works when the cost of such works exceed the amount of money that the association holds in reserves, so you’ll want to take a close look at the governance and the financials of an association, as well as the quality of the ongoing maintenance in a complex and the likelihood of major works on the horizon.

Privacy and Security: What It Means in Your Austin Condo or Townhome vs a House

When living in a building or a complex where there are common walls and shared spaces, there will always be tradeoffs between privacy and security. While you’ll share at least one wall, and more often two, with your neighbors, there are more people living closer to you, thus less privacy, but more neighbors to keep an eye on your property. Your outdoor areas are generally private, and most of the time you’ll have your own parking

While you may be sacrificing some privacy with Austin condos and townhomes vs houses, because of their more communal nature, they offer more in terms of security. Many condominiums in the Austin TX area will have limited access entry gates and often secure parking. Multi-dwelling complexes might have a contract with a security firm, or secure entry via gated private drives. Shared outdoor areas will likely be fenced or secured if you have kids who want to play outside.

When weighing these tradeoffs, have a close look at the layout of a building or complex as a whole, and not just the unit you’re looking at buying.

Austin Condominiums vs. Austin Townhouses: It’s All About the Lifestyle

For many home buyers, the most attractive part of trading in a traditional free-standing house for a condo or a townhouse are the options that open up in terms of lifestyle and amenities. As urban neighborhoods become more densely populated, a townhouse or a condo is a great option for people who want to live closer to the heart of Austin and everything that the main area of the city has to offer, from restaurants to live music to the heart of the city’s culture, without breaking the bank by chasing the increasingly limited number of houses on the market. And because many Austin condo complexes offer amenities like exercise rooms and pools, you can get more bang for your buck and save on those gym memberships.

Habitat Hunters is here to help find the home that’s right for you, whether that’s an Austin condo, townhome, or house. We’ve been doing this since 1972, making us one of the longest-standing independent Austin real estate agencies. Contact us today and let us know your goals for your next home — we’ll be happy to help.