In Australia’s capital cities, the great Aussie dream is shifting away from the ‘white-picket fence’ house with a big backyard, with the latest Census data showing that more Australians choose to live in higher-density housing such as townhouses and apartments.
Driven by affordability, lifestyle and demographic changes, it’s expected that more and more Australians will choose to buy a townhouse or apartment over a house in the coming years.
Those looking for the lock-up and leave, low maintenance lifestyle that apartments offer, yet desire more space akin to a house, townhouses bridge the gap. They are growing in popularity with single professionals, young families, and downsizers.
To assist investors who are considering the benefits of buying a townhouse vs a house or apartment or want to know the key factors to look out for when purchasing a new townhouse, we’ve put together this townhouse buyers guide.
What Is A Townhouse?
At its most basic level, a townhouse is a multistory home that shares at least one ground-to-roof wall with an adjoining house. But that could describe a few kinds of attached single-family homes, so we’ll need to parse it a little more.
Though they’re attached, townhouses are self-contained and individually owned. With a side-by-side multifamily home or a duplex, more than one unit shares an entrance, basement or another area.
While a development with multiple groups of townhouses may look like a condominium complex, townhouse owners own the land on which their townhomes sit and are often responsible for their homes’ exteriors — condo owners only own the interior of their units. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best dual occupancy selection to make your house a dream come true.
A rowhouse is one type of townhouse where the individual homes are built in a row, as the name implies. They may share the same building material or architectural style and almost always share the same roofline.
In costly cities, rowhouses have often been split into rental apartments. But even when they’re single-family homes, usually all their owners share are walls.
In contrast, townhouses in suburban areas can resemble sprawling condominium developments, private streets and shared spaces like pools and playgrounds. These townhouse developments are also usually run like condo complexes, with townhouse owners paying monthly dues to the development’s homeowners association.
Why Buy A Townhouse?
When they’re in the right location, townhouses play an essential part in residential housing. In a well-planned community, apartments are usually the closest to shops, transport and other amenities. Houses are found further out in the quieter, private streets – and townhouses fill the gap between them.
In middle ring suburbs (10-20km from a city centre), townhouses are often the preferred housing type for developments, as free-standing new houses can be prohibitively expensive, and apartments not suitable for the local area. More robust demand exists for those located in very close proximity to shops, transport and schools.
In outer-ring suburbs and ‘greenfield’ developments (20km and more from a city centre), townhouses have become increasingly common, providing a more affordable entry price than house and land packages. In master-planned house and land estates, they are usually adjacent to parks, schools and retail centres.
Because of their smaller size, buying a townhouse is generally more affordable than an existing home or a house and land package.
That said, it’s important to compare like for like when looking at prices. We often see new investors compare the cost of an existing house in a suburb to a brand new townhouse – two completely different properties.
When looking at the price of a new townhouse in an established area, investors need to understand what the cost of new housing in that location is.
Often, you’ll only be able to get a brand new house by buying an old home, knocking it down and rebuilding – comparing this to a newly built townhouse, and it’s easy to see their relative affordability. When looking at townhouses within a master-planned estate, often pricing can appear very similar to the entry-level pricing of a house and land package. Investors should be wary, though, as sometimes the house and land packages’ advertised price does not include everything. More money will need to be spent updating the home to get it to a ‘turn-key standard, for example, landscaping, driveway and fencing.
Strong rental yields
It varies market-to-market, but a well-built townhouse in a good location usually sees more robust rental yields than houses in the same area. For investors seeking cash flow for their property portfolio, townhouses can be an appealing option compared to a free-standing house.
Factors To Consider When Buying Your Dream Home
The features you’ve always wanted.
Congratulations on looking for your dream home! You deserve it. It’s essential to go into this purchase with a new mindset. In the past, you’ve probably looked for a property that met your needs – it had enough bedrooms for the whole family, or the commute to work was a breeze.
This is different. A dream home is more about fulfilling wishes than meeting needs. Don’t be afraid to make a sizable wish list. Everyone’s wish list is different. Some may dream of waking up each morning to watch the sunset rise over a lake, while others hope for picturesque snow-capped mountains. While you may love the thought of having a community fitness centre just a few steps away, your partner might prefer the secluded quiet of a single home.
The neighbourhood and surrounding area
Remember that your property does not exist in a bubble. It’s part of a larger community that you will live in daily. With that in mind, you must find a neighbourhood that suits your needs before buying. Is the great escape one that gives you all the peace of a secluded forest or tons of energy from a bustling city centre? Do you want to be able to walk to a coffee shop each morning, or would you prefer not to have to contend with potentially noisy neighbours? Whatever your heart desires, don’t hesitate to do your research before starting your search.
Take a drive and spend some time there, if possible. Go out to eat at local restaurants and take a walk through a nearby park. Once you find areas that you like, let your real estate agent know. He or she will use this information to focus on showing you will have you feeling comfortable.
Lot location and size
The lot is often an afterthought for purchasing a property, but it should be at the forefront of buyers’ minds. It is the one thing about a property that cannot be altered. Think about it: You could knock down a house and rebuild it from scratch, but regardless of the changes you make, the lot will stay the same.
When looking at specific properties, consider the lot’s location and size carefully before submitting an offer. Do you long for a back yard big enough for your kids to run around in? Does the lot have a view that you can see yourself enjoying for years to come?
If anything about the lot seems like a compromise to you, don’t hesitate to walk away. It will easier to find a similar property on a better lot than it will be to continually settle for a less-than-adequate location day in and day out.
The age of a property
When it comes to buying a home, especially the home you’ve been thinking about for your entire life, age does make a difference. Buying older homes and brand new ones each have their pros and cons, so be aware of what you’re signing up for before submitting an offer. Do you swoon over the irreplaceable charm offered by old homes? Would you fall in love with a property that showed its built-in dumbwaiter and a hidden servant’s staircase? If so, tailor your search to those historic diamonds in the rough. However, be aware that older homes tend to require a bit more TLC than their newer counterparts.
Alternatively, does your ideal property require no more work than turning the key in the front door? Do you dream of a closet large enough to hold your more-than-substantial wardrobe and an updated master bath that feels like a spa? In that case, new construction may be a better fit. If you can get in on the ground floor, you may even be able to select specific features while the home is being built and customize it further to your tastes.
Your ideal home style
Whether it’s a style of living or the actual aesthetic of your property, you want to make sure your home is one that you’ll feel proud to pull up to each day, since how a home looks are one of the first things that you (and others) notice about a property, finding a home style that fits your personality is critical.
Single homes make an excellent choice for those who want the freedom to customize a property to its exact specifications. Condo living is for people who want to own their own home while still having access to hotel-style amenities. Townhome living offers a compromise between the two, but each association is different, so make sure you’re aware of the policies associated with each community.
Once you know which style of living you prefer, focus on aesthetic. A modern and minimalist condo community looks like night and day from a single Victorian property. As you go about your day, think about the different types of homes you see. Make a note of the one’s you could see calling home and which styles are a complete turnoff. Finding the right Melbourne home builders is an important decision. Check out our range of the best home design constructions at MJS Construction Group.
The right amount of space
When it comes to finding your dream home, the trick is figuring out how much space you truly need. Buying a too-small home for your family will leave you continually trying to configure the area to make it work for you. In the same vein, buying a too-large property will allow you to spread out but will wrap up high costs.
Think about the space that you currently live in. How does it feel? Do you have enough bedrooms, or do multiple family members have to share? Is there enough storage for all of your belongings?
In addition to considering your current living situation, you should also consider your plans for the future. If you think you may be making an addition to your family sometime soon, plan for a little extra room. Ideally, you’ll want a happy medium that will give you room to grow without going overboard.
A layout you love
Not all square footage is created equal, which is where the floor plan comes into play. If you compare two properties that are 2,000 square feet, one could dedicate most of the space to the living area while the other could focus on more spacious bedrooms.
While it is possible to redesign your floor plan after moving into the home, it’s a long process that requires a considerable commitment of time and finances. Unless you are particularly handy, it’s a project that will require hiring a team of contractors.
Be sure to focus on finding a layout that is as close to perfect for you as possible. Picture yourself using the space as you walk through the property. Think about things you’d like to do over the years you spend in your dream home. If you take pride to host the family holiday party every year, consider an open-concept plan that will you’re your guest’s plenty of room to roam. However, if each of your family members relishes having their own private space, a more traditional layout might be a better option.
The potential for future projects
Even your dream home is going to require a little bit of customization – as it should. Whether you’ve spent years wishing for a chef-style kitchen, poolside backyard oasis, or a tricked-out media room, it’s unlikely that those features will be exactly to your specifications from the moment you sign the deed.
Keep an eye on how much customization will be required in each property you see. Be honest with yourself about how much of that work you’ll be able to handle, even if it happens slowly over time. If you know your way around power tools, make sure you’re okay with the investment of time that will be required. If you’d prefer to have, a professional do the job, get ready to set aside a sizable chunk of change. Think about big and small projects – everything from painting the dining room to completely gutting your master bathroom.
What Does An Excellent Townhouse Look Like?
Townhouses have the most appeal when they are bright, spacious and modern. Location is crucial –everyday conveniences should be in close proximity. If you are looking for strong capital growth and tenant appeal, look for a townhouse that is only a short walk from everything a potential tenant would need – good local retail, public transport options and local parks.
When it comes to design, a well-built townhouse makes the most of natural light. They may have neighbours on two sides with windows only at the front and rear – but this doesn’t mean they have to be dark and gloomy. A well-designed townhouse is sensitive to its aspect and neighbours, capturing natural light from different angles through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors or skylights.
Though they’re smaller than houses, townhomes should never feel cramped or be lacking in storage. There should be space to move between living and dining areas and ample storage freely. When buying a townhouse, check the floorplan for built-in robes, sizeable pantries, and plenty of storage space suitable for bikes or sports equipment.
A checklist for choosing the best townhouse investment
- Local retail, parks, schooling and public transport links in close proximity
- The floorplan suits a range of household compositions like downsizers, families or young professionals
- The design lets in a lot of natural light to living spaces as well as bedrooms
- There’s plenty of storage space throughout – think built-in-robes, linen closets, and storage space within the garage
- What common facilities are within the development, and will this add value and appeal to tenants or owner-occupiers?
- The type of title (strata, community or freehold) suits your property investment needs.
Who Do Townhouses Appeal To?
In recent years, townhouses have soared in popularity, attracting a wide range of buyers and tenants. Young families, professional couples and downsizers all seek out the easy-care living that townhouses can offer.
According to the ABS, the proportion of family households has been declining. In the mid-80s, families made up 77% of Australia’s households. In 2016, this figure dropped to roughly 70%. Over the same period, the number of single-person homes increased from 19% to 24%.
There’s less need for a big backyard with smaller family structures and greater demand for affordable, low-maintenance homes. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best home builders selection to make your house a dream come true.
Who Is Townhouse Buying Best For?
First-time homebuyers living in densely populated metro markets may find townhouses a perfect and affordable option, says Yun.
They can also be a solid choice for anyone interested in a low maintenance lifestyle who wants a lock-and-leave property, notes Simmons.
Overall, if you don’t want the exterior maintenance that comes with homeownership, but you would still like the equity, and wealth-building aspects of owning a home, buying a townhouse in an HOA is worth consideration.