Buying a Townhouse - Benefits, Pro/Cons & Costs Explained

Buying a Townhouse – Benefits, Pros, Cons & Costs Explained

Buying a Townhouse – Benefits, Pros, Cons & Costs Explained

Posted on: 23rd February, 2021

Last updated on April 22nd, 2022 at 04:12 am


When it comes to buying a house, there are lots of options.

Whether it’s a house, townhouse, terrace, semi, duplex or a villa — there’s pros and cons for each type of building.

Town planner and Consult Planning director Aaron Sweet says that “there are 10 different classes of building under the Building Code of Australia, but dwelling definitions change from state to state and council to council.”

“We’re a nation of colonies, and each has held onto its own land title system,” says Sweet.

“The planning system is highly complicated and constantly evolving. An experienced town planner can sniff things out very quickly and can give an investor, purchaser or developer a wealth of information on what applies to any given site.”

The purpose of this guide is to dig a little deeper into townhouses to see if they are the best building type for your goals, dreams and budget. But before we do that, let’s provide a quick overview of the other building types.

Non-townhouse building types

Freestanding house

The freestanding house is the traditional and most flexible building type and the closest thing to the “Australian dream.” It can be knocked down, renovated or extended easily.

They’re a popular choice for Aussies because it’s likely the type of house that many grew up living in and brings that element of nostalgia. Plus, they usually come with a bit of land and a backyard, making them a popular choice for families.

According to the ABS, freestanding (detached) houses still equate for the majority of all homes in Australia. Having said that, townhouses are hot on their heels! More on that below.


Usually found in the inner-city and very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. terraces offer low-maintenance living close to amenities.

They range from single storey to four storeys in height, with a front and backyard (or courtyard) and many share party walls.


A semi or semi-detached house shares one common wall with the neighbouring house. They’re essentially a freestanding house cut into two and they provide a more affordable option, especially in inner-city areas.

Offering more space than an apartment or townhouse but less maintenance than a house, semis are very popular.


A duplex is the modern-day semi and is defined as two dwellings with a shared roof and common wall.

From a town planning perspective, they’re considered as a self-contained dwelling and can be on either a single or two titles.

Duplexes make great investment properties because they require less land (and a lower price) than two freestanding homes but offer two rental incomes.


The term villa can sometimes be used interchangeably with townhouse, depending on location. A villa is a small, single-level home usually with an attached garage and small courtyard.

They are generally strata titled and subject to body corporate fees.

What is a townhouse?

As mentioned above, although freestanding (detached) homes still account for the majority of all homes, townhouses are experiencing exponential growth.

Regarding building approvals and the increase in townhouses and other detached housing, Daniel Rossi, Director of Construction Statistics at the ABS, said: “Rises were recorded across all building types…with private sector dwellings excluding houses increasing 6.2 per cent and private sector houses up 3.1 per cent.

“The continued strong demand for detached housing follows the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in most states and territories. Record low interest rates and a range of Federal and state-based incentives are also providing support for the housing sector,” he said.

So townhouses and other detached housing is here to stay.

A townhouse — the focus of this ultimate guide — is sometimes attached to another property with a common wall, but sometimes it can be freestanding.

Townhouses are normally built in a row or complex with three or more dwellings at a time. Because of this, townhouses are generally strata titled and subject to shared body corporate fees and common property with other owners in the development. This also means that all owners pitch in to cover common property maintenance, insurance and compliance.

In some parts of Australia, a hybrid model is used where townhouses sit on freehold (instead of strata) title.

In terms of design, they are usually two storey on a small piece of land with a front and back courtyard and a garage or carport for parking.

“In some cases, common areas such as shared accessways may need to be covered by easements. In other cases, these may form common property with access areas only being subject to a body corporate, a kind of hybrid scenario,” says Sweet.

What are the benefits of townhouse living?

Townhouse living is gaining popularity in Australia for a number of reasons — namely: affordability, low-maintenance living and modern design.

For these and other reasons, townhouses offer great value-for-money to first home buyers, forever home buyers, downsizers and investors.

1. Value for money

Townhouses provide great value-for-money and usually offer a reasonably priced option for buyers wanting to live closer to the city with a shorter commute to work.

They’re also a family-friendly option with more space than an apartment. Because they sit on a small parcel of land, they’re compact and usually well-designed offering a lot of home with no dead space.

2. Low maintenance

Similar to terraces, villas and duplexes, townhouses offer low-maintenance living. Even if they do include a front and back yard, normally they’re pretty easy to care for with minimal upkeep.

Unlike an apartment, townhouses offer the best of both worlds — low-maintenance living but with some space to entertain and hang out with friends and family.

3. Amenities

Because townhouses are normally positioned in inner-city locations or within thriving communities, they’re usually within walking distance of parks, schools, cafes and public transport.

This makes townhouses a great option for first home buyers, downsizers and investors who value convenience and amenities.

4. Community

Because a townhouse is in close proximity to neighbours, it naturally provides the perfect environment to meet new friends and create a community spirit.

Couple that with the parks, schools and cafes nearby, living in a townhouse is definitely a way to feel part of a thriving community.

5. Design and inclusions

Townhouses also provide a range of benefits around design aesthetic, functionality and inclusions.

Modern facades, street appeal, open plan living spaces, generous bedrooms, chic bathrooms and natural light, are some of the benefits that townhouses provide.

In addition, many townhouses feature a range of high-quality inclusions like air conditioning, stone benchtops, landscaping, Colorbond roof, timber floors and so on.

What are the cons of townhouse living?

When considering whether a townhouse is the right option for you, it’s important to identify the disadvantages that may impact your lifestyle and needs. One of the most common concerns that home buyers face is the lack of space within townhouses compared to the dimension of a standard home including the smaller lot of land accompanied within the property.

Another key factor to consider is whether the price of this dwelling aligns with your budget, as townhouses can be more costly than an apartment, and they come with a shared title due to a strata scheme. In addition to multiple ownership, you’re also subject to less privacy than in a house and can expect to share walls, layouts and design with the neighbouring buildings in the dwelling complex.

Finally, it’s customary for townhouses to span across two to three storeys which may not suit the needs of older or disabled home owners. The value of this type of property also experiences a lower resale value than a house, averaging around the same return as an apartment.

How much does it cost to build a townhouse?

While no two projects are the same, the cost of building your own townhouse can be adapted to meet your specific budget. As you plan your project, we recommend understanding how each stage of this build will differ in cost and how the value of your forever home will align with your ideal price point.

Beginning with the early design costs, you will want to factor in the price for land surveys, site tests, arborist reports, drafting and town planning.

In the development stages, designate an estimated budget for aspects such as demolition, tree removal, labour and hire costs, construction engineering documents and council rates.

Once you commence construction, elements including earthworks, contracts, building permits and approvals can vary depending on your design, project timeline and builder.

What to look for when buying a townhouse

An important feature to review when contemplating buying a townhouse is location. While it’s not uncommon to find townhouses in neighbouring suburbs or your outer city circles, they still tend to be placed in close convenience to bustling communities, shops and accessible forms of public transport. While it may not be the same as inner city living, we recommend keeping an eye out for any townhouses that allow you to enjoy an array of amenities such as dining and entertainment facilities.

Additionally, for many prospective homeowners, buying a townhouse in an area you love or a competitive market is more affordable than buying a house. This option is great for those looking to experience all the benefits of the local area but don’t have the budget or desire to settle on a full block.

How long does it take to build a townhouse?

When you’re planning to craft a townhouse, having a clear timeline is essential for a stress-free building journey. For a pre-designed townhouse, you’re looking at around 4 to 6 months for construction, whereas custom designs can take up to 8 to 12 months. It’s also worth noting that the location of your build, level of communication with your builder, and material delays and shortages may have an influence on the progress of your build.


As the data shows, although the “Australian dream” might still be a freestanding house, townhouses and other detached housing is experiencing a lot of growth and for good reason.

Townhouses provide value-for-money, low-maintenance, amenities, a sense of community and a range of modern design and inclusions.

They make a great choice for first home buyers, downsizers and investors who are keen to stay connected to the city and amenities, but still want the lifestyle that a contemporary home design provides.

Do you know that Achieve Homes is an award-winning townhouse specialist? Click here to learn more.

Whether you’re interested in building a townhouse for you and your family or for an investment opportunity, you want a home builder that understands your requirements and can deliver upon them. Achieve Homes differs from other home builders because we take the time to consider what you want for your home, ensuring that your home is built with high quality and value for money.

As the proud winner of the 2017 HIA Townhouse/Villa Development of the Year award and a finalist in 2019, Achieve Homes is the townhouse builder that you can trust.

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