Renting or buying a townhouse or row house can definitely be a more cost-effective alternative to a semi-detached or detached home. While you may hear the phrases “row house” and “townhouse” used pretty interchangeably, they are indeed separate styles of homes. But what is the difference between a row house vs. a townhouse? In all honesty, they are fairly similar, but there are some distinct differences. First, let’s explore how a row house or townhouse might be “defined.”

Townhouse definition

A townhouse is a dwelling that is generally two or three stories and is attached to other dwellings by shared walls on either side of the unit. Townhomes are typically built tall and narrow. They are often used in planned unit developments or clustered housing.

Townhouses originated because they were meant as second homes for wealthier families who predominantly resided in the countryside. Townhouses have always been established in urban and metropolitan areas, originally to offer these families from the countryside more convenient dwellings closer to the heart of larger cities.  

One of the most distinct qualities of a townhome is that they are typically configured in unique ways and do not all necessarily look the exact same as the other townhouses surrounding it. It is not uncommon for townhouses to be situated or configured in different layouts within one particular development. 

As time has gone on, townhouses have also become staples in many suburbs. They tend to be good starter homes for families with young children, especially in an area that is close to parks and schools, without having the larger price tag of a detached home. 

Rowhouse definition 

Some may wonder, if that is the definition of a townhouse, then what is a row house? How is a row house any different? Well, similar to a townhouse, a row house is a single-family dwelling that is attached to other units by common walls.

The biggest difference between a row house and a townhouse: the outside. Row houses got their name because these houses are lined up perfectly in a row along a street. It differs from a townhouse because a row house often looks exactly the same as all of the units surrounding it. These homes have a very uniform look to them, with a common façade.  

Row homes became particularly popular in the 19th and 20th centuries because they were quick, easy, and inexpensive to build. They became a go-to type of home in inner cities.  

Row housing is particularly great for urban and metropolitan areas because they can more easily, and more effectively, fit into a city’s infrastructure than other types of housing. These compact homes are simple enough to work in a metropolitan area as there is not much more to think about other than the chunk of dwellings.   

Pros and Cons of Owning a TownHouse 

Pros 

One big pro of choosing a townhome is that they often have many of the admirable qualities of detached homes, like a garage or driveway. For many people, this can be a deal-breaker, as they own their own vehicles or simply want a garage for extra storage space. A driveway also means that the townhouse is set back a little bit farther from the road, so you’re not as close to traffic whizzing by. 

Another pro to living in a townhouse is the yard that often accompanies the home. Townhomes often have at least a little bit of a front and back yard. This allows owners space to potentially plant gardens, let children play, or simply arrange a patio set. For these reasons, families with younger children tend to prefer townhomes to row homes. 

Finally, although this isn’t a deal-breaker for many, it is still nice to consider your townhome unique-looking in comparison to the uniform look of row homes. With a slightly distinct look to the surrounding townhouses, you can really decorate your townhouse to represent your taste. 

Cons

Something that many people view as a negative side to owning a townhouse is that many require you to be part of a homeowners association. This means that you may not have much autonomy in what you can do with your townhome, and there may be necessary payments for maintenance purposes.  

Pros and Cons of Owning a Row House

Pros

One big plus side to living in a row house is that they are typically located in metropolitan areas. This means that they are extremely convenient if you work nearby in the city, or even just like to be close to stores, restaurants, and more!

Another big convenience is that row houses don’t require as much maintenance. Due to their common lack of yard space or driveway, there is much less upkeep. 

Finally, something that is attractive to many buyers is that row houses often don’t have homeowners associations like townhomes due to the lack of maintenance or common areas.  

Cons

Some downsides to row houses are the lack of front or back yards. This means that, although it is one less space to be maintained, it is also less space for people to hangout. This may be a con for many families, as there isn’t space for little ones to run around outside. 

Another con, though not a deal-breaker for most, is the uniform look of row houses. Some have said that this makes them less elegant or decorative, but for others, the simple look is what they want.  

Conclusion

Just like any important decisions, the type of housing you choose should best suit the needs of you and your family, your budget, and your lifestyle. What works well for one person may not be best for the next. Consider the things that are important to you, like whether you value a unique looking home with a yard, or whether you prefer a seamless uniform look with less maintenance.