What Is The Difference Between Townhouse And Row House

distinguishing town house vs row house

In real estate, the terminologies can often feel overwhelming, particularly when distinguishing between different housing styles. Two such terms that often create confusion are ‘townhouse’ and ‘row house.’

Both terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not entirely synonymous. While they share similarities in their structural setup—residential units that share common walls—there are nuanced differences that set them apart.

These differences could be in architectural designs, ownership structure, the presence of outdoor spaces, and certain location-specific aspects.

Unraveling these differences could significantly influence your next property choice, whether you are a potential homeowner, real estate enthusiast, or professional.

So, let’s embark on this comparative exploration to draw a clear line between a townhouse and a row house.

Key Takeaways

  • Townhouses originated in England and were traditionally kept in the city, while the primary residence was in the countryside.
  • Townhouses are often part of a connected row of similar-looking units, while row houses extend the entire length of a block.
  • Townhouses typically have a front and back yard, while row houses seldom come with yards but frequently have a back parking space.
  • Townhouses are typically found in suburban areas and often have a more suburban feel, while row houses are prevalent in urban areas and contribute to the compact, bustling cityscape.

Defining a Townhouse

characteristics of a townhouse

Originating from England, a townhouse is a type of dwelling traditionally kept in the city while the primary residence was in the countryside. It is characterized by a uniform design and color palette and typically being part of a homeowners association.

These attached homes, often grouped in a row, are individual units that provide a unique blend of shared community and personal ownership in real estate. Townhouses often comprise a connected row of similar-looking units, reflecting a uniform design that enhances their aesthetic appeal.

This linear architecture, where homes are attached, creates a sense of community among the homeowners. These row units are usually designed with at least two levels, providing ample space for families.

One of the unique characteristics of townhouses is the presence of party walls. These walls separate the individual units within the row, providing privacy to each homeowner. They represent a crucial aspect of townhouse design, allowing each unit to be distinct while being part of a larger, cohesive structure.

Townhouses are typically part of homeowners’ associations, which govern the community’s standards and regulations. These associations play a vital role in maintaining the uniformity and aesthetics of townhouses, ensuring the value and appeal of these properties in the real estate market.

Understanding Row Houses

exploring urban architecture features

Diving into the realm of row houses, we find a unique architectural style with its roots firmly planted in the urban fabric of cities like Washington, DC. These structures, also called rowhouses, are a distinctive feature of many urban landscapes, noted for their uniformity of design and the efficiency with which they utilize space.

Understanding row houses requires acknowledging their basic structure. Typically, rowhouses share walls with the units on either side, forming a continuous line or ‘row’ of houses. This design means that each unit is directly attached to other units, with shared walls separating each home. Most rowhouses tend to be two to three stories high, although there can be exceptions.

One of the most significant differences between rowhouses and detached homes is the attached nature of the units. This contiguous layout offers certain advantages, such as a sense of community, ease of maintenance, and generally lower costs. However, it also means owners have less privacy than they would in a detached home, due to the shared walls.

The architectural design of rowhouses also contributes to their unique character. Most rowhouses have a uniform façade that extends across the entire row, creating a harmonious streetscape. These units offer a surprisingly spacious living environment, often spread over three stories.

Ownership and Costs Comparison

comparing ownership and expenses

Building on our understanding of the architectural nuances of row houses, let’s now explore the implications of ownership and evaluate the cost differences between townhouses and row houses.

The terms ‘townhouse’ and ‘row house’ are often used interchangeably to describe attached housing, yet they each possess unique features that affect ownership and costs.

Townhouses are typically part of a homeowners association (HOA), which can provide benefits such as shared amenities and exterior maintenance but also entail additional costs. As part of an HOA, townhouses exude a uniform design, which may impact the aesthetic appeal and property value.

Conversely, row houses are less likely to be part of an HOA, offering more architectural freedom and shifting maintenance responsibilities onto the homeowner.

The ownership and cost comparison extends to how these properties are occupied. Row houses are often rented, providing a more affordable upfront cost for new homeowners.

On the other hand, townhouses are usually purchased, potentially offering long-term investment benefits and the satisfaction of owning a single-family home.

Lastly, the cost of building a new townhouse is typically higher, ranging from $115,000 to $250,000, depending on location and size. Row houses, mostly rental properties, have varying rental prices that depend on the city, impacting the upfront and ongoing ownership costs.

Architectural and Design Differences

contrasts in architectural style

When it comes to architectural and design differences, townhouses and rowhouses exhibit distinct characteristics that influence their visual appeal, functionality, and the lifestyle of their inhabitants.

Townhouses, often used in planned unit developments, typically form part of a uniform design scheme, offering consistency in color palette and structural design. Apart from shared walls, these homes often come with a front and back yard, adding to the allure of suburban life while retaining urban convenience.

Townhouses often feature one or two attached garages, offering homeowners easy access and added security. On the other hand, rowhouses present a charming blend of uniformity and individuality.

Since rowhouses extend the entire block length, the front exteriors of these homes offer a harmonious visual appeal. However, homeowners are usually free to personalize their colors, fostering a vibrant and diverse streetscape.

The shared walls in rowhouses are not just a design element but a testimony to the efficient use of urban space. While rowhouses seldom come with yards, they frequently feature a back parking space secured by a roll-down garage door or a stand-alone garage, adding a layer of practicality to their design.

Location and Community Factors

influencing job satisfaction

Invariably, the location and community factors play a crucial role in differentiating between townhouses and rowhouses, as these housing types are often associated with distinct geographical settings and urban planning models.

Typically found in suburban areas, townhouses are often part of a homeowners association (HOA) and share common spaces. They are frequently arranged in clusters or groups, forming a neighborhood-like setting with houses on either side of the street. Yard space, including backyards, is a common feature of townhouses, adding to the suburban feel.

Conversely, rowhouses are prevalent in urban areas where they often line entire street blocks, contributing to the compact, bustling cityscape. With the density of urban areas limiting yard space, rowhouses typically lack the expansive backyards in townhouses.

Unlike townhouses, rowhouses are seldom part of a homeowners association and lack shared common spaces.

New posts in the real estate market often feature these two types of housing, each appealing to different lifestyle preferences and needs. Choosing between a townhouse and a rowhouse significantly depends on one’s preference for a specific location and community factors.

Those who prefer quieter, suburban living may opt for a townhouse, while those who enjoy the vibrancy of city life may choose a rowhouse.


important information for consumers

Are you considering a townhouse or a rowhouse for your next home purchase? While this guide comprehensively compares the two, it is crucial to note that variations may exist due to regional differences, architectural styles, and community guidelines. The key is to stay informed and consult a real estate professional before deciding.

This article serves as a general guide and is not intended to replace professional advice. While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, we cannot guarantee its absolute correctness. We strongly recommend further researching and seeking professional guidance to suit your needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Townhouse the Same as a Rowhouse?

A townhouse and a row house are not the same. Row houses are typically a series of homes sharing walls and extending across a block, whereas townhouses are usually in smaller groupings within rows.

Why Is It Called a Row House?

A row house is named for its architectural layout, where homes are built in a continuous line, sharing common walls. This design creates a uniform, linear appearance, emphasizing the proximity and structural linkage of the dwellings.

What Makes a Townhouse Different?

A townhouse is typically part of a homeowner’s association, has a uniform design, and may include a garage. It’s usually part of a larger development, whereas row houses are individual units lining a single street.

What Is Another Name for Row House?

A row house, also known as a townhouse, is a style of residential housing where individual units are placed side-by-side, often sharing common walls. In European contexts, they may also be referred to as terraced houses.


In conclusion, while townhouses and row houses may appear similar, they differ in ownership, design, and location. Understanding these nuances is vital for informed decision-making in real estate transactions.

Whether it’s the unique architectural features, the location, or the cost and type of ownership that appeals, both property types offer unique advantages. Knowing these disparities ensures a more comprehensive understanding of the real estate landscape.


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