Anyone living in a townhome??

ma28March 12, 2007

My DH and I are planning buying a tri-level townhome for our family( 2 girls- ages 3 and 9)It has 3bedr 2full bth 2 half bth. It also has a great room and the other rooms..... It seems great and I think we are making a right decision...

Just wanted to know if anyone can share their experiences with me, especially if you have young kids.

We were also thinking about a single family home, But I felt it was too much for us? Is something wrong with me? We also want (in the future) to buy a beach home (condo/townhome) and I figure this can be possible if we compromise now.

We are now renting a 2bdrm condo and anything would be better than this.

Thanks in advance


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A couple of things occurred to me reading your note, and the first is.. have you thought about the fact that for the indefinite future, you're consigning yourselves to townhouse living, even when you don't at all like your present place (I realize it's rented, maybe too small, but do you love the lifestyle it gives, or would you prefer a different layout altogether?). The advice always goes ... 'buy the most house you can afford in the right location to invest in the future (resale)" and while I'm not sure I agree with that - you also will want money to 'live' while you're waiting for an investment to be worthwhile sellling, you would have a real house to live in, vs what you have now, what you're thinking of buying and what you're planning as a vacation home. And just a reminder - as you get older, you begin to resent all those stairs! A condo (ocean front?) may make sense for holidays, but for me (if I had little kids) I'd want a house with a big yard, one I can overlook (to watch kids) while they're young, and have a garden, and maybe a playset of some kind, a shed for the mower, and only one set of stairs to climb at night for bed, and/or one set to spend the evening in (rec room), with options for guests, laundry, etc. Even a smaller single home (or possibly attached) will give you more potential in future (as long as it's not in a bad location) and more options for living.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 10:45AM
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There's nothing wrong with townhome living. Just make sure the association is well managed and has put money aside for capital improvements as mandated by law. Our association had not so when it came time to redo the roofs we were hit with a large fee. And look for a family friendly complex with amenities for children. We have since moved but really enjoyed all the amenities. Pool, spa, tennis courts, park , clubhouse, etc.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 12:14PM
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Unless the party walls are very well insulated (soundwise), end units are best IMO. Noise from adjoining units can be a real drag. I rented a townhouse with several other people while I was in college, even then I didn't care for the stairs (I had knee surgery while I lived there) and there was a big problem with noise from the adjoining units. The complex was almost all families-with-children - normally they didn't let students in but we all had reference letters from previous landlords attesting to our non-partying nerdiness - and it could get loud. Another good reason to look for an end unit is light, since on most end units you get light on three sides instead of just two.

Also make sure to look for something we call a condex - a condo/duplex. That means that each building only has two units. Usually the garages are in the middle and the living spaces are at each end, for maximum privacy and light, and minimum noise. I live north of Boston and condex developments are getting very popular up here.

I am fetishistic about my privacy, otherwise we would be looking at condos or townhouses because we both hate doing yard work and you get more for your budget.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 12:42PM
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Every experience with townhome living is sure to be different, ours was not all that great.

We purchased a townhome in June 2002 - thought we were buying our retirement home - and moved out May 2006. The townhome was less than a year old when we purchased it, and the young couple that had purchased it new were transfered, so it was "as new" and we got it for great price (anxious seller). The neighbor was a very nice person who was usually gone.

Problem #1: Noise was never a problem - until the neighbor picked up a "boyfriend" from the old goober bench at Wal-Mart- REALLY. The 75-year old boyfriend moved in and he brought his dog. Her son gave her a dog. You got barked at every time you went into your own yard - even though we had put up a 6-foot privacy fence to divide our back yards. They barked when they were left home alone, and you could hear them barking almost constantly....

Problem #2: Neighbor would water her yard and would forget to turn her water off. By the time we realized her error, we had our backyard flooded - SEVERAL times. Which would render our yard unusable and eventually did damage.

Problem #3: Paint color had faded after 2 years and we painted our half of the townhouse (the original color), but the neighbor never got around to painting hers, even though she assured us she was planning on doing so. She had her boyfriend finish the basement and had the deck covered. The two halves of the townhouse looked entirely different due to paint fading.

Problem #4: Neighbor got married and 3 months later he died - sold her half and moved, and new people moved in mid-March 2006. April 4, 2006 (a day I'll never forget) I took over the information about the paint colors and where we got it, etc. They calmly said they were going to put pearl gray vinyl siding on their half, even though there was an ordinance that the colors/exterior finishes of the townhouses were supposed to remain the same... That evening we put our townhouse on the market and moved by May 10.

A year later, due to hail damage, the former (ordinances be damned) neighbor has replaced the shingles on his side with white shingles (we're expecting pearl gray vinyl siding any day now...), and the side we owned were replaced with the original dark shingles. Needless to say, we are very glad we moved out of the townhouse. Neither owners will ever be able to sell their halves for what they bought them for since one half looks like crap due to faded paint (now a dark mustard yellow, instead of medium brown) and a different shingle color....

We moved into a new development, new single dwelling house, and the next door neighbor, who moved just a couple months before us, owned a townhouse around the corner from where we had a townhouse. They swore the townhouse was the worst move they ever made, too.

You can't pick your neighbors...


    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 1:44PM
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Thanks all for your great advice......

This townhome that we are looking in is brand new and the home association fee covers lawn, snow and yard maintainces. And it also covers the roof maintaince.

I like what this home can offer for my family; sure later in life I can sell it, but for now I think it suits our needs. It has all what we need, bedrooms, baths, formal dining room and living room and a separate family room, with a study. It is kid friendly.

I guess after reading this and writing my own post, I can say I answered my own question.

Thanks all~~

    Bookmark   March 13, 2007 at 4:33PM
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I own a unit in a condex-type place and it's great. I'm in an end unit on a corner so I get a ton of sunlight through out the morning and the day. We have large 'greenbelts' through out which is our "big yard" for our child to play in. I don't have to do the strenous yard work (just maintain some flower beds), nor maintain the pool, hot tub, sauna, nor tennis court. Our association fees are $120 a month for all of these nice things. My daughter invites her friends over for pool & tennis -- nice activities that get them exercise and out and away from the TV. It's hard to afford all of those amenities with a single family home without an association.

The problems that grainlady posted could occur in a single family home as well -- as neighbor's yards do generally butt up against one another. There's nothing unique to townhomes about barking dogs.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 4:48PM
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I will try to remember to post tomorrow when I am feeling better since I live in a townhouse and have a lot of input. I am just so sick tonight and up this late only due to have the worst cramps. But there are townhouses like mine that are sound proof and there are others that are not.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 1:29AM
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Sorry for not getting back to this post but I got sicker and had to struggle to do work despite being so sick. I am tired but before bed, I thought I would try to answer this post.

I had wanted a house with both a family room and a living room and dining room so I could put a home office in the living room and dining room and have the kitchen and family room as my living area. I wanted a home that when a client walked into my home office, they never had to walk through the rest of the house (my townhouse is just like this and I love this feature). The places I could afford that had everything I wanted (9.5 years ago), were all needing so much work and were so old. Then my realtor showed me a diagram of a house that had the set up I was looking for and even had a fenced in small back yard with wood behind the fence. When I found out it was a townhouse, I at first said no but then I decided to see it. I fell in love and after talking to many neighbors, I learned that the walls were sound proof and since there were only 27 townhouses and the rest condos making up 100 units, it was only one block long and not a big complex. I loved how it was off a country road but in walking distance to two strip malls and 1/2 mile from the bank and driving 1/2 mile farther to the post office. there were two supermarkets within 3 miles from the townhouse complex and the neighbors were so nice.

I then visited a few other townhouse complexes to be sure mine was special and not because it was so modern and only 7 years old. I heard complaints from the neighbors that the walls were paper thin and everything was so far away to get to.

Hence, some townhouses are built very well like my townhouse was built and I can not hear my neighbors and I can't even hear when they are hammering to put up pictures. I do hear some noises from my windows like someone living in a house would hear.

I do wish I had an end unit for more windows but other than that, I got the space I wanted, one car garage, three bedrooms (despite none of them being big), walk in closets in my Master bedroom, a linen closet in my master bathroom, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and a family room to watch TV with friends in since my living room/dining room (a great room area) is a home office and the guest bathroom is right off of this room for clients. One of my spare bedrooms is filled with filing cabinets and bookshelves. The other spare room is small and is being used for personal files, prior season clothes and an exercise machine. I also love how I have a small laundry room across from my bedroom which many houses did not have. I do wish I had a basement but the townhouses with basements were more money and not in my complex.

Since there are two floors inside my home (no basement) and the inside of my home feels like a house and not a townhouse, I do not feel like I am living in an apartment. The taxes are high now, close to $7,000.00 a year but the houses down the block from me have real estate taxes around $20,000.00 so if I want to live in a nice neighborhood in North Jersey, what I have is nice.

I could sell my home (has appreciated in value more than the house I almost bought that had more land and a 2 car garage in a lower cost neighborhood a few towns away) and move to a cheaper area and buy a house with more land but for now the townhouse with no outside maintenance lifestyle suits me fine and I love the location of my townhouse which is so convenient for clients to find and convenient for me. I consider my townhouse an investment since I bought it for the desired location as well as for the space it provided.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2007 at 12:45AM
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I guess I worry about the "paper-thin walls" with having two youngs kids, there will be some noise. And since this townhome is new construction,there is no one to talk to about the noise factor.

The townhome meets our requirements-3bdrms 2 1/2 bth familyroom with fireplace-living&dining rooms and eat-in-kitchen. Master bdrm has everything we need and we have a basement that we can later finish. With a one car garage.

Deciding on a smaller house, will benefit my family for the future.

Thanks all

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 12:51PM
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Before I bought my townhouse, I was living in a modern 2 floor apartment that had two small bedrooms, 1 & a 1/2 small bathrooms, a small balcony off of the small dining room/living room combination and galley kitchen. It was on a second and third floor. It was expensive but modern and had a dishwasher and a small washer/dryer combo in a small closet so finally after years of having to go to that laundry mat, I could do laundry at home. I was in heaven when I first moved into the apartment compared to the old not attractive apartments (remember I live near NYC so everything is priced at ridiculous amounts) in I was living in that cost a fortune and were noisy. I could hear the people underneath me and on both sides of me. So even though it was nicer than all my other apartments that were one floor, it still was not sound proof and that is why I at first did not want to even consider a townhouse.

But my current townhouse feels so roomy (and is so pretty on both the outside and the inside) since it is an open plan type of townhouse and not skinny and tall so inside it feels like a home and is sound proof. I would only buy a sound proof townhouse. If the neighbors would have told me that they could hear each other, I would have just bought the house in the lesser neighborhood to have the room I wanted which would still fit into this small sized house forum since houses are so much in North Jersey.

I grew up in a house that cost hardly anything in South Jersey (about 3 hours south of where I live now) that is so much bigger than what I have now with a lot more land than I have now. I know my house cost 3X as much as my friend's home in another state and her home has more land and is bigger. It took me so long to accept this fact about North Jersesy and that I could just not save and save for the size house I grew up in especially with the expenses I have so it was difficult to save much each year. Finally I just made up my mind to accept what I could afford in my area and stop comparing it to other areas and what I wish I could have. I stopped paying the high rent prices and bought a home about 9.5 years ago.

Renting is not always so bad but in my case I needed more room and it would have been more costly to get an outside office and rent an apartment than buy a home bigger enough for both (a home and an office)like I did. I still wish I had a basement, wish my Master bedroom was a little bigger, wish I had more land in my backyard and wish I had an end unit. I also wish I had two zone heat and I wish I did not have forced hot air drying heat. :) But other than those wishes, I love my home and the location and the fact that I can't hear my neighbors.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 1:54AM
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You & Dh are the only ones who what you need, what you want & what you dream of for the future, but ask your realtor to show you the one you'reconsidering & one next door at the same time. Have your hubby 'n kids go into other one and make noises at different levels while you listen from the one you want to buy. Have the children run up & down the stairs...that should give you clue as to noises you're likly to hear. I'd be very leery if that request is refused.

Whatever you decide, be prepared to hear noise- whether it's someone who decides to vacuum at midnight, toss tennis shoes in the dryer at 2:00 a.m., blast their music/TV, have a Super Bowl party or whatever.

I spent nearly 30 years managing & living in lovely, well built upper rental range 2300 sq. ft. tri-level townhomes & now that we're in our own (smaller, single story home) with a huge yard, I'd have to get really desperate to go back to the other place & lifestyle. Give me the yard work any day!

Our son grew up with ALL the amenities + a Director of Entertainment...but guess who he thought was lucky? Kids with "real" houses, as he used to say.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 10:28PM
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grittymits, If my neighbors vaccuum, turn the TV loud, run up and down the steps or have a party, I can NOT hear them. My townhouse is sound proof. I know others that are not.

My two floor apartment I lived in for three year before this townhouse was much smaller and had paper thin walls and floors.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:29AM
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I guess I worry about the "paper-thin walls" with having two youngs kids, there will be some noise. And since this townhome is new construction,there is no one to talk to about the noise factor.

I've lived in two different townhouses, both as a married couple without kids next to other marrieds without kids. Both were end units (seemed more like a house than not having windows on two sides). On the first one, built cheap, we could never hear voices or TVs, but anytime someone slammed a drawer in the bathroom along the common wall or shut the patio door, we heard the thump. The second one was much quieter -- we never knew when our neighbors were home unless we saw their cars in the driveway.

One thing we did was to walk into the model houses with a boombox. One of us stayed in one model while the other went to the next one and turned on the boombox full-blast. Didn't hear music in either place (this test does not identify the drawer-slamming issue). If there are model houses, it's something you might try out.

Oh -- regarding earlier comments about townhouse associations: make sure you see a copy of the by-laws before you sign up for the house. Granted, this means less with new construction because the developer likely will "own" the rules until a majority of the units are sold. But joining a townhouse association is kind of like getting married: be sure you can live with the rules before you sign up. Expecting change after the fact usually leads only to unhappiness.

And once the association belongs to you homeowners, make sure there is a capital set-aside for eventual long-term repair or maintenance projects. Just covering routine maintenance is not enough -- there needs to be money set aside so dead trees and roofs and old paint/siding can be replaced years down the road without sticking homeowners with a huge assessment.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 10:03AM
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I'm in a large townhouse in a condo complex - attached on both sides. The construction of these homes is ingenious - they are very quiet because of the interior design. The sides where the townhomes are joined contain the entrances, stairwells, closets and other "dead space" where possible. They are also on a hill, so the homes aren't completely side by side.

So take a good look at the interior architecture to see whether anything has been done to help noise.

I would not live here if I had children. I would be in a SFH with yard space all around.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2007 at 6:29PM
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lots of choices and options - if you find a townhouse /community that suits your needs - for now its not such a bad thing. the end unit is definately a plus and I wouldn't buy an inside, ever. Meanwhile not all home construction is wonderful - old or new but you can purchase sheet rock "quietrock" which - while not inexpensive, would be a worthy investment - for you while you live there and as a selling feature in the future and can make a significant difference -
as much as single family home living has its perks - I hate listening to everyone mowing their lawns - all at different times of the day and days of the weeks - of course on the days you also want to be outside.. unless you can find five acres somewhere....

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 1:16AM
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So Maria (MA28), Did you move to the townhouse? If so, how did it work out? I'm in the same boat trying to decide if the townhome with maintainance, pool, fitness center included in the HOA is worth the tradeoff of privacy/space between neighbors. I have kids and am currently in a single family home that requires LOTS of yard and home maintenance. I'd rather spend the weekend playing with the kids than cutting grass and weeding! On the other hand, I don't want to be kept awake at night because the neighbor likes to sleep with the tv on.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 7:25AM
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> you can purchase sheet rock "quietrock"

Another option is a second layer of regular drywall with green glue, which is usually less expensive. The best option would be to put in a baffle channel between the walls, but that's not always practical. Move the outlets, too. Most construction pairs these so that there's a hole straight through the wall from your home to your neighbors wherever there's an outlet. These are the major route for noise from one unit to the next.

I live in a townhouse and I like it. It could definitely use more soundproofing, though, and that's on the list for when we finally get around to remodeling.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 11:01AM
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I'me just wondering if there is a real difference in the two dwelling styles, or if they are used interchangeably?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 2:30PM
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love it! we love townhouse living completely.

i know this sounds strange. people always want single family homes and as big as they can afford. but that just isn't our style, you know?

we used to live in a large, split level with a large back yard. we basically only lived on two of the five levels. some rooms were absolutely never used, two bathrooms completely untouched. and the backyard? we did some basic planting and spent all our free time at the beach, playground or park. we also really enjoy traveling.

so my husband was transferred and we leased a condo for a short while. we LOVED it! we had a community, a great life guard, taught the kids tennis and walked to the playground every evening. we had very little responsibility and fixes. and we felt really connected with lots of life around us. neighbors who actually said "hi". lol

when we settled out we knew instantly we wanted a town home. we sleep high on the 3rd floor with a great view of the valley. we have a big open floor plan and since it's new there's no maintenance. we have no sound issues and it's way more energy efficient than our older home so we saved money there too! and the community is outstanding. if it's new, if people care- your neighbors will stick to the rules, the management will keep up the grounds but you have to stay connected and aware of what's going on. there's usually a message board or someone in charge to call regularly for updates. =D

anyway, i can't say enough about it being exactly what we need for now. and yes, i'm aware my children will grow up and want more space.. so they can use the entire currently unused first floor as a hang-out. because even in a town home, there is room to grow.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:28PM
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