TOWNHOUSES

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.

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So is there a difference between a condo and a townhouse?


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.

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Why you should consider buying Townhouses 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.

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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.

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. 

  • 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 2018 built 1500-2000 sqft townhouse versus a single family house built with the same specifications in Greater Victoria BC:

Victoria, BC
2018 Built Townhouse:

Average Price: $617,676

Median Price: $569,900

Victoria, BC
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*.

*based on 2019 MLS stats

The Downside of Townhouses


As much as we love townhouses, there are some downsides to consider. Some of these are obvious, while others aren’t.

Timing of Repair & Maintenance activities aren’t up for much debate:

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.  

  • 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.

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 starts 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.

More people are moving here...


Given that Victoria’s population continues to grow as people across Canada are making Victoria their new home, there is significant demand for more housing. While there are hundreds of acres to be developed on the Western Communities, the vast majority of people looking to buy a home look to do so closer to downtown Victoria. Victoria and Saanich have an abundance of single family zoned land, and much of that will be re-zoned into townhouses due to the demand. In 2020 and beyond, we should see the supply of townhouses in Victoria, BC increase significantly and buyers have much more to choose from.

Summary


PROS

CONS

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 then 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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