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Buying A Townhome Requires New Questions

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Buying a home, whether it's a house or a condo, can be a lengthy process that requires you to ask a series of questions about HOAs, assessments, noise levels, and more. Those two types of dwellings aren't the only ones you can buy, which means you have more choices, but you also have to ask more questions. Townhomes occupy an odd niche in between individual houses and condo complexes, and as you look at townhomes for sale, you need to understand exactly where the property falls in that range.

Is There an HOA or Common-Property Management Company?

Some townhomes function as condo complexes, where you buy a unit but have a shared management association that handles issues with common property, such as landscaping in parks or near the mailboxes. Others are more of a free-for-all, with the townhomes treated as individual houses, just with shared walls and roofs. You need to know exactly how people in the townhomes handle common-property issues and lifestyle issues. If there's an HOA, look at the regulations. If there's nothing, you need to know who handles what property care that falls outside your unit's boundaries.

What Can You Do to the Common Walls?

When you buy a townhome, you're going to have at least one shared wall (if you're an end unit). Some complexes with separate structures for each unit call themselves townhomes, but in most cases, your unit is connected to others. What can you do to those common walls? In your unit, you'll be able to put up pictures, but can you rewire the wall to add outlets in your place? Can you add sound insulation? Anything you do inside those walls affects your neighbor, so you'll likely have to get their permission, or at least their acknowledgment, and you need to know how far you'll have to go in getting their agreement.

What Costs Are Shared Between the Units?

Along with figuring out who's handling the care of the common property is figuring out which costs are shared between the units. If the entire roof of the building needs to be replaced, all the units in that building will likely have to pay. But if one unit just needs some patching directly overhead, is that unit the only one who has to pay? If you need a minor repair, do you need permission from the rest of the townhome owners in that building?

Speak with your real estate agent about what you'd want in these situations and see what townhomes are for sale in your area. Your agent will help you find units that meet your needs.