Jul 12, 2017
I know the feeling. You raised your kids to be well-adjusted, upstanding, self-sufficient adults and they had the nerve to leave you. It’s a big adjustment. I can remember thinking that I just might make a big meal and yell “dinner” out the door and see who showed up. I missed them terribly. Plain and simple. Well, life changes and this might be the time to think about townhome living. In this article, I’ll give you some pros and cons I have found and some main points to consider. Let’s get moving.
Some people get attached to their homes and even the thought of moving can send chills up their spine. But let’s face it: with the kids gone, the house seems different. I stayed in my home for a few years after my kids left and, other than being lonely and ever-so-quiet, it was fine. That is until I started to consider that I was living in a space much too large for me and driving that same long distance to work every day — into the sun with the same daily traffic jams.
It doesn’t take too long to realize there might be a better way. Life had changed, and I was ready to adjust to it. You might be close to that conclusion as well.
These are all good reasons to think of selling, and townhome living might be a good choice. Townhomes are generally constructed with at least one shared-wall and side-by-side living. They may be one-level or multi-level. Multi-level townhomes are prevalent because as you build upward, you gain much more space for the footprint and can comfortably place more homes in the neighborhood. You may also find detached townhomes (called patio homes in some regions) which are much like single-family homes except the association will take care of the yard work and snow removal, and sometimes exterior maintenance as well.
Townhome living usually means downsizing and simplifying in one way or another. Take a look around. Are you ready to live in a smaller space and have fewer possessions? Townhomes are generally smaller spaces than what you are used to, and you need to be ready to declutter and live without four sets of dishes and five TVs.
Many of us accumulate a lot of stuff, and if you’ve been living in a large house, you end up with lots of furnishings and accessories. When I moved from the house my kids and I lived in, I could hardly believe how much could be stored in those rooms, closets and garage. Yikes. Luckily, I was ready to simplify. I recycled, donated, sold things and gave things away. Granted, I still had a large truckload of belongings, but it was now manageable.
Downsizing also means that your social events will likely be smaller and quieter. You will no longer have room to accommodate two families as week-long guests or entertain for parties of 40. If your home has always been social-central, you might welcome the change to smaller groups of people. It’s actually a nice change if you can manage it.
Depending on the size of townhome, if you will have kids coming home to stay or relatives visiting from out of town, you may not have room for everyone. It’s not so bad. You can check on local hotels that would also provide a pool, waterpark or activities for your guests.
Most townhomes have a smaller yard, both front and back. In fact, some are designed so there is no backyard since you have adjoining neighbors on both sides and behind you. There are a variety of styles in townhome communities so you should find something that appeals to you. You may find a large common area as your backyard, or the yards may be a bit more private with fences, shrubs and trees.
You can look for a patio or deck style for your outdoor spaces, and if you like gardening, check the patio size for planters and whether there is garden space available for actual in-ground planting (most do not offer this). If you’ve also been a fan of clotheslines, composting or fire pits, check the association rules. Many have restrictions. All in all, if you can make the adjustment, it’s a comfortable lifestyle, and you’ll find many new ways to make it a happy home.
One advantage of townhome living is the lower cost of utilities because the space is undoubtedly smaller. Also, since you are sharing walls with another home, you have fewer exterior walls exposed to the elements which will decrease your heating bills.
For example, if you opt for a two-story townhome with adjoining homes on all sides except the front, you will be amazed at the efficiencies. The other thing to remember with this style of home is that, with only one exterior side exposed, you also only have windows on one side of the home. If you need a lot of light (or a lot of plants), you’ll want to add interior lighting and choose hearty plants. Mirrors also help to give the illusion of more open, spacious living areas.
If you have cars, trucks, ATVs, RVs, campers, boats, motorcycles or bicycles, you’ll have to think this through. A townhome generally will have a one- or two-car garage and limited storage space. With a more expensive townhome, you may be able to find more garage space but it still might not be enough for all your toys. You’ll have to decide if you are ready to part with some of your transportation options unless you have another spot for safe storage.
Sometimes this is a completely welcome aspect of townhome living—fewer decisions and responsibilities. You will want to check the CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions) that spell out homeowner responsibilities and obligations to see what the rules are for painting or individualizing your home. Typically, this is well defined so that all buildings and units appear uniform from the outside—right down to the color and style of the entry door and the varieties of shrubs and plants in the landscaping.
There may be specific times you can put the trash out and a specific date when Christmas decorations must be taken down. Many associations have rules about pets, including size, breed and tethering; some don’t allow pets at all. You’ll also find some communities that are strictly for seniors. The nice thing is that you have options. Hopefully, you’ll find exactly what suits you, and you can always decorate and enjoy the interior according to your own comfort, style and color preferences.
An adjustment for some people is that your neighbors will seem rather close — because they are. There are benefits to this because, hopefully, everyone looks out for each other. They will notice if someone is at your house who shouldn’t be or if something seems out of place. Check out the neighborhood. When everyone respects each other’s privacy, it can be enjoyable for all.
Many associations also have planned events; and if there is a pool, golf course, or community area, you might have many hours of good times with your new-found friends.
Another nice thing about townhomes vs. condos is that you’ll have adjoining neighbors, but you won’t have someone living above or below you. You should expect everything to be side-to-side. This will provide a “homey” feel and no noise issues from someone above or below you.
I found that, once you get used to the close quarters, you can maintain the privacy you need while enjoying the fellowship of neighbors. You all have at least one thing in common: your vested interest in the neighborhood.
Many people are delighted to give up these chores to gain more time for work or play, but some people relish the idea of firing up the lawnmower. This should also be given consideration. If you love the idea of get-outside-and-do-it-yourself, you may not be ready for townhome living; but if you have had enough, want more freedom or never enjoyed these chores anyway, you’ll be overjoyed with the new way of life. It’s almost like having elves finally show up to do the dirty work.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s never any of this work to be done. If the snowfall is light, you may need to shovel your driveway. You might also need to sweep away the leaves that spin across the neighborhood and make their final landing on your front step. Once you’re used to having someone else do most of the upkeep, this light-duty work will seem like a cakewalk.
Your board of directors will decide on major improvements like roofing and siding, the appearance of the grounds, and community amenities like parks, pools, tennis courses, golf courses, etc. You should be able to voice your opinion, and you can take it a step further by joining the board of directors to increase your level of participation in the decision-making process. Giving up control is difficult for a lot of people and a welcome relief to others. Think this through, and you’ll know if you can manage in this environment or how involved you’ll want to be.
Townhome living can be a satisfying choice for many homeowners. You don’t need to settle for one-size-fits-all. Townhomes come in all sizes, and you should be able to find a good fit.
You can simplify, relax and enjoy, or you can work hard while having fewer chores to do at home. This lifestyle can offer less worries about maintenance and more freedom to travel or live part of the year in another region. If you find a community with a caring, principled board of directors and capable property management team, you will feel confident in their decisions.
I hope this article helps you envision townhome living from your own perspective. Buying a home is a major decision, and understanding and adapting to an association-led community can produce some anxiety. Take a little time to understand what it will mean to your preferred lifestyle and how to adjust comfortably, and be sure to talk it over with your realtor who will be a reliable source of local information. If you have learned something and gained clarity about your possible move, please share this article with a friend who could also benefit from it.