What Is The Difference Between a Row House and a Townhouse?

When exploring housing options, understanding the difference between a row house and a townhouse is crucial. A row house is a single-family dwelling with shared walls on both sides, forming a continuous row. On the other hand, a townhouse refers to any home attached to other units, but the design can vary, and they’re often part of a homeowner’s association.

Are you contemplating a move or curious about housing styles? “What Is The Difference Between a Row House and a Townhouse?” is a question many potential homeowners ask. Unraveling this mystery can influence your living experience, community engagement, and even budgeting for your next home.

The distinction between a row house and a townhouse lies in their architectural design and ownership implications. Row houses are known for their uniform appearance and shared walls, creating a cohesive street view. Townhouses, while also sharing walls, offer more architectural diversity and often come with communal amenities managed by an association, impacting ownership responsibilities and fees.

Understanding the Basics

Definition of a Row House

A row house is like a chocolate bar with many pieces stuck together; each house is one piece of chocolate, sharing walls with the neighbors on either side. These houses are usually found in a long line, like a train of homes, and they typically look very similar or even identical to one another.

Definition of a Townhouse

Imagine a townhouse as a slice of cake in a multi-layered cake stand. Each townhouse is one slice, sometimes sharing one or two walls with neighbors. They offer more levels, regularly with the living area on the bottom and bedrooms above. Unlike row houses, townhouses can be part of a complex with shared amenities like a swimming pool or park.

Architectural Features

Design and Structure of Row Houses

Row houses are known for their uniform look. They often have the same brick or stucco exterior and similar windows and doors, creating a consistent street view. Inside, they’re often narrow and deep, with rooms arranged in a line – living room at the front, kitchen at the back, and bedrooms upstairs.

Design and Structure of Townhouses

Townhouses mix individuality with unity. While they might share a common design theme, each unit can have its unique features. They often have multiple floors with a distinct separation of living spaces – social areas on the first floor and private bedrooms above, sometimes even with a private garage.

Ownership and Legal Distinctions

Ownership Model of Row Houses

Owning a row house is like having your slice of the street. You own the building and the land it sits on, and you’re responsible for all maintenance inside and out. There’s no homeowners’ association (HOA) to answer to, giving you more freedom.

Ownership Model of Townhouses

Townhouse owners usually belong to an HOA. This means while you own your unit and possibly a small yard, the HOA oversees the common areas and exterior maintenance. You’ll pay fees for these services, but it also means less personal hassle for upkeep.

What Is The Difference Between a Row House and a Townhouse?

Table: Quick Comparison between Row Houses and Townhouses

FeatureRow HouseTownhouse
StructureUniform, shares two wallsCan share one or two walls, more varied designs
OwnershipIndividual, no HOAOften part of an HOA
MaintenanceOwner’s responsibilityHOA handles most external maintenance
AmenitiesFewer, community-basedOften includes pools, gyms, etc.
Historical CharmOften older with unique featuresVaries, some modern, some historical

This table provides a snapshot to help you weigh your options. Remember, the best choice is the one that feels like home to you.

Historical and Cultural Context

Historical Significance of Row Houses

Row houses have deep roots, especially in older cities. Originally built to house the working class, they’re now cherished for their historical charm and community feel. Walking down a street lined with row houses is like stepping back in time.

What Is The Difference Between a Row House and a Townhouse?

Historical Significance of Townhouses

Townhouses were the city dwellings of the wealthy in centuries past, offering a stylish and luxurious city living. They’ve evolved to suit a range of people, but many still retain that sense of elegance and exclusivity, often found in quieter, more residential parts of the city.

Pros and Cons Comparison

Advantages of Living in a Row House

  • Community Feel: Close neighbors often lead to a tight-knit community.
  • Historic Charm: Many have unique architectural details and storied pasts.
  • Ownership Freedom: No HOA means you can make changes as you see fit.

Advantages of Living in a Townhouse

  • Amenities: Many come with perks like pools, gyms, and security.
  • Less Maintenance: The HOA often takes care of exterior work.
  • Privacy: Multiple levels mean more separation between living spaces.

Challenges Associated with Row Houses

  • Space Limitations: They can be narrow and have little outdoor space.
  • Noise: Sharing walls means potentially hearing your neighbors.
  • Upkeep: You’re responsible for all maintenance and repairs.

Challenges Associated with Townhouses

  • HOA Fees: These can be high and increase over time.
  • Rules and Regulations: HOAs come with rules that might limit what you can do.
  • Variability: Quality and management of HOAs can vary greatly.
What Is The Difference Between a Row House and a Townhouse?

Choosing the Right Option

Considerations for Potential Buyers of Row Houses

  • Are you ready for the responsibility of full property maintenance?
  • Do you enjoy being part of a close community?
  • How do you feel about potentially limited space and privacy?

Considerations for Potential Buyers of Townhouses

  • Are you looking for a home with less maintenance responsibility?
  • Do you value amenities like a pool, gym, or security?
  • How do you feel about adhering to HOA rules and paying monthly fees?


Summary of Key Differences

Choosing between a row house and a townhouse is much like picking your favorite kind of home. Row houses are like a cozy book with a rich story, offering charm and a sense of togetherness with neighbors. They give you the freedom to make it your own, but remember, all the upkeep is up to you.

On the flip side, townhouses are like a favorite series with different volumes. Each one has its style and often comes with extra perks like a pool or gym. They’re easier to care for with the help of an HOA, but this comes with monthly fees and some rules. Both have their special qualities, and the right one for you is the one that feels just like home.


Do row houses and townhouses share walls with neighbors?

Yes, both typically share at least one wall with a neighboring home.

How does ownership differ between row houses and townhouses?

Row house owners have full control over their property, while townhouse owners often belong to an HOA and share responsibility for common areas.

Are there any unique architectural features in row houses?

Row houses are known for their uniform, narrow design and often historical architectural details.

What kind of maintenance responsibilities come with owning a townhouse?

Townhouse owners usually have less exterior maintenance due to the HOA, which manages common areas and exterior upkeep.

Can you customize your living space in a row house or townhouse?

Row house owners have more freedom to customize, while townhouse owners may face some restrictions from their HOA.

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