What is a townhouse?
The technical definition of a townhouse, or townhome, is a dwelling with one or more levels that is attached to other homes. Usually this is a sidewall, and townhouses are often referred to as row homes. Homes like this are typically built at the same time as the adjoining homes as part of a development, and share common components.
For example, attached townhouses in Victoria, BC can share roofs, recreational areas, secure parking garages, pools, gardens, walk-ways & sidewalks, yards, lighting, gates, fences, and many other things in addition to sidewalls. A townhome owner shares in the responsibility of maintaining these systems, and is part of a strata which sets out rules, regulations, bylaws and a maintenance and savings plan for the development. Sounds like a condo right? Well, legally there isn’t really any difference between a condo and a townhouse.
So is there a difference between a condos & townhouses?
The technical difference is that a townhouse entrance doesn’t necessarily require that someone enter the home via common property, like a lobby for example. The difference to a homeowner in terms of features can vary a great deal. We’ll dive into that in the next section.
Why should you consider buying a townhouse in Victoria BC.
Townhomes, at least townhouses in Victoria BC, typically resemble single family homes more than they do their legal twin, the condominium. Townhouses often have fenced in front and back yards for homeowners to enjoy. Usually (with one exception which we’ll dive into shortly) townhouses only have neighbours adjacent to them, and no one above them. This obviously affords people more privacy than a mid-floor condo with people on all sides of you. You can find out more about the Buying process here.
Other townhouse types.
There is a type of townhouse in Victoria, BC that has the potential for neighbours above or below the home. This type of townhouse is usually referred to as a stacked townhouse, and is built in much more similar fashion to a condo than typical free standing home. Many people consider stacked townhouses condos, because of how they are situated in a multi-level structure. On the flip-side, some people prefer the stacked townhouse to a traditional townhome because the internal layouts are the same, but the stacked townhouses don’t have yards or exterior walkways to keep clean and maintain. Find out more about rental restrictions and other strata bylaws in condo's here.
The Upside of Townhouses
Amenities & Rare Features
Some townhouse complexes have recreational facilities like gyms, pools and common meeting rooms - just like condos do! While single family homes can also have these same feature amenities, they become extremely costly when you build them into one home. Moreover, most people don’t use these amenities often enough to justify the cost. Townhouse owners pay a fraction of the cost for shared amenities, and get the best of both worlds. Learn more about strata fees here and strata documents here.
The Benefits of Location & Price
- Lower Relative Pricing
- Location you Want
On the topic of cost, townhouses in Victoria BC, are typically less expensive to buy than houses of similar size and age. For example, consider these sales figures from 2019 comparing a 3 bed 2+ bath, 1500-2000 sqft townhouse built in 2018, versus a single family house built with the same specifications in Greater Victoria BC:
2018 Built Townhouse:
Average Price: $617,676
Median Price: $569,900
2018 Built Single Family House:
Average Price: $739,141
Median Price: $703,500
So townhouses in this example sold for 16.4% less ($121,465 less) on Average, and 19% less ($133,600 less) based on the median price in 2019. That’s a significant difference when you’re considering the median price point for a single family detached home is over 3 /4 of a Million dollars in Greater Victoria*. Find out more about Assessed value versus market value here.
*based on 2019 MLS® stats
The other big benefit to townhouses, is that it often allows people to live in their preferred location. Fairfield is a popular area in Victoria where detached houses cost $1,182,397* on average. The townhouse strata counterpart in contrast sold for $733,770* on average which is $448,627 or 37.9% less!
The Downside of Townhouses
Timing of Repair & Maintenance aren’t up for much debate.
As much as we love townhouses, there are some downsides to consider. Some of these are obvious, while others aren’t.
The first is the fact that townhouse owners don’t get to make unilateral decisions on how and when to repair, or maintain the exterior of their townhouse. Nor do they get to choose when to repair or maintain the common areas they share “ownership” with the rest of the members of strata.
Many townhouse owners rightfully argue that having a savings plan for their townhouse by way of the strata collecting strata fees (which usually include savings for the strata) is a benefit. On the other hand, single family homeowners would argue that they could manage their own finances more effectively, and choose to repair and maintain their properties according to what works best for them.
Over the long run, there probably isn’t a significant difference between the savings plans for either other than insurance costs being higher in strata due to liability of living in close proximity to other parties (that’s assuming single family homeowners do indeed save money for necessary property maintenance expenditures). On the other hand, if buying a townhouse in Victoria BC is a short term housing solution (say 1-3 years), your strata fee is more likely to benefit a subsequent owner more than it does you.
Impact on Strata & Privacy
- Strata Conflicts
- Less Privacy
There’s a much higher probably of conflict with neighbours in strata titled townhomes because of the shared interests together. Stories of nightmare strata members aren’t common, but they do exist and when they do they are often between two adjacent neighbouring townhouses. Again, such situations are rare because most people who choose to live in a typical townhouse development, are like minded and usually have similar lifestyles.
The other downside of townhouses is that they don’t offer as much privacy as single family dwellings. With neighbours sharing walls, typically narrower yards, and often less mature trees, townhouses can sometimes feel much less private than houses. Moreover, you may have neighbours tightly packed behind your back yard as well, depending on the development.
Why aren't there more townhouses in Victoria, BC for sale?
Townhouses can be found in abundance in major cities like Vancouver, and Toronto, but are relatively scarce in Victoria. As of December 2019, there were 180 current townhouse listings on the MLS® system. 31.7% (57) of those were in the core of Victoria (which we define as the districts of Saanich, Victoria, Oak Bay & Esquimalt).
Compare that with the total number of available homes (all types from condos to 4 plexes) townhouses only make up 7.4% of the available homes. Compare that to condos, which make up 46.9% of the market, and it’s quickly apparent that we don’t have many townhouses to choose from. We expect that trend to change soon.
More townhouses are coming to Victoria, BC!
Over the past 2 decades, the areas considered to be in the core of Victoria (The City of Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich, Esquimalt) have gained density by way of condos. Condo development started peaked a year or so ago, and have since slowed.
They have slowed for 2 reasons. First, the municipalities have long drawn out processes to gain approval to build condos, and the cost to build said condos has gone up significantly. In turn, it’s not as feasible to build condos in Victoria, BC. Second, there are fewer pieces of land that can be developed these days. We always knew we’d run out of developable “condo” land, and that time is coming. You can find new Townhouse developments here, and learn more about a new home warranty here.
Amenities like pools, recreation / hobby rooms
Part of strata fee goes to paying for amenities you don’t use
Relatively lower pricing then houses
You may have less privacy than a house
Easier to go on vacation because of strata management
Strata fees add extra regular expenses.
Typically you can buy a townhouse in an area you want to live in for much less than a similar sized house.
Strata decides when repairs and maintenance occur
Strata payments and savings from them are favorable over the long term in a well run development.
Strata payments might be a financial disadvantage if you only own for a short period of time (1-3 years).
Higher chance of forming a community
Higher chance for disagreements over strata management.
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Disclaimer: Stats are based on 2019 VREB® MLS® data