Why a Townhome Could Be the Best Single-Family Home You Buy
By Michele Lerner
Whether you are looking for an affordable first home or a newly built home to match the lifestyle you want, you may want to consider a new townhouse as an alternative to a single-family home.
Today’s townhomes range from affordable to luxurious and their designs are a far cry from the box-like rows of the past.
Architects and builders maximize the limited land of townhouses with balconies and rooftop terraces and open up the interiors with high ceilings, oversized windows and open floor plans.
Designs for openness
Today’s townhomes tend to be larger than many in the past, often with as many square feet as a small single-family home.
Even the most affordable new townhomes in the Houston area, with prices starting in the $100,000s, have 1,600 to 2,300 square feet, says Alex Rezende, real estate agent and owner of The New Home Dude in Houston. He says luxury townhouses in downtown Houston have more than 3,000 square feet and are priced from the upper $300,000s to the $500,000s.
In the Washington, D.C. area, townhouses from Miller & Smith range from the low-to-mid $300,000s and up, while new single-family homes start around $500,000 and up. Miller & Smith’s smallest collection of townhomes at Signal Hill in Manassas, priced from the low $300,000s, has 1,973 square feet, while their other collections of townhouses are as large as 2,300 square feet.
“Every single townhome we build, from our entry-level homes to our large luxury townhomes, has a wide open feel, particularly on the main level,” says Kim Ambrose, vice president of marketing for Miller & Smith a residential developer and home builder in McLean, Va.
The main level in even their smallest townhouse is completely open with a great room at one end, an open kitchen with an oversized center island in the middle and a dining area at the opposite end.
“The luxury townhomes in Tallahassee all have open floor plans on the main level and many of them have a first-floor bedroom to appeal to empty-nesters who want to age-in-place,” says Debbie Kirkland, broker/owner of Century 21 First Story in Tallahassee, Fla. “These are relatively expensive townhouses that have a bigger footprint.”
Rezende says the luxury townhouses in neighborhoods closer to downtown Houston are as expensive as older single-family homes, but offer the advantage of new features and amenities.
“These townhomes often have a big, open family room on the lower level and an open floor plan with a great room on the main level,” he says. “They have wood floors, nine- and ten-foot high ceilings, tray ceilings, crown moldings, a big glass-enclosed shower in the master bathroom and nice granite in the kitchen, all features that they can’t find in an older single-family home at a similar price point.”
In addition to open main levels, Ambrose says another important feature in today’s townhomes is a large master suite with a walk-in closet and a “wow” factor in the bathroom, typically an oversized, glass-enclosed shower.
Guests welcome? You Bet!
“The secondary bedrooms are a challenge in a townhouse, but we’ve tried different layouts to make sure they feel large, too,” says Ambrose. “In one model we turned one bedroom sideways and made the other room more vertical so the rooms aren’t identical.”
Anissa Willis, vice president of sales for Miller & Smith, says the company looks at the target market for townhomes in each community and designs the interior to match their lifestyle, while maximizing space wherever they can.
“About 40 percent of our buyers opt for a bedroom on the lower level, even if they plan to use it as an office for now,” says Willis. “They like the flexibility of having a downstairs bedroom for guests or to use as a bedroom themselves at some point.”
In the quest to make each townhouse feel as large as possible, Miller & Smith has increased the ceiling height in the upper level hallways to nine feet, while keeping the bedroom ceilings at eight feet.
“We install the biggest windows we can and make sure they are placed to allow for as much natural light as possible,” says Ambrose.
While many townhome buyers choose this home type for the price, others simply prefer a home that requires less maintenance and is typically in a neighborhood within walking distance of community amenities and restaurants and shops.
“Older first-time buyers in their 30s and 40s want to live in a more urban, walkable neighborhood, so they are buying these new townhouses that have green building features and a trendy industrial feel,” says Kirkland.
Rezende says townhome buyers in downtown Houston are often travelers who like living someplace where the homes are closer together and the neighbors can watch out for each other.
The trend for indoor-outdoor living is also addressed in townhouses today with roof terraces or balconies.
“Our Grand Central collection at Signal Hill offers the option of a full deck or a deck that is half open with a screened porch on the other half,” says Willis. “That screened porch adds a little privacy and extra living space. Every one of our buyers there has chosen that option.”
Whether you’re looking for an affordable house, a low-maintenance lifestyle or walkability, consider a townhouse as an attractive alternative to a single-family home.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. You can find her on Google+.