Sally Dunbar

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*Condo, PUD, Townhome... What's the Difference?


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What is the difference between a condo, a PUD, and a townhome? Good question.  But, first, what the heck is a PUD?

Crosswoods, citrus heights,A PUD, is a “Planned Unit Development”. Which is a fancy schmantzy term for a neighborhood with a master plan. The homes may be attached (which we think of as condos), or detached homes. There will be a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) charging monthly dues, whose duties will vary.  Some may maintain the homes, or the landscaping.  Some may only be responsible for the common area landscaping.  Or maybe maintaining a front gate, or private roads. This varies widely, as do the dues.

But the key ingredient is that in a PUD the homeowner owns their own home and the land beneath it.

A condo, on the other hand, (short for condominium) may look the same as a PUD, but the homeowner only owns the interior walls and the interior airspace of the home.  They do not own the exterior of the building or the ground beneath. That ground is owned collectively by all the homeowners in the development, along with the rest of the common area, like pools or walking trails. Typically, the HOA is responsible for the exterior maintenance of the unit, plus all landscaping.  I have found that the responsibility for the maintenance of decks varies greatly from condo to condo. Some HOA’s will maintain them, while with others, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility. And decks are expensive, so check before you buy!

While "condo" refers to the way you own your land, and PUD says you are a planned development, "townhome" is totally different.  A townhome is an architectural style.  We usually think of a townhome as a two story unit, frequently a condo, and frequently with a garage on the first floor.  Whenever anyone asked me to show them a townhome, I have to ask a lot of questions to see what they really want.

The confusion between these terms is understandable. We tend to refer to them as condos when they look like “condos”. But, in truth both condos, PUDs, and townhomes can look the same. In fact frequently they are the same. Imagine a two story condo in a planned unit development! Crosswoods, in Citrus Heights, above, is a good example of a PUD that looks like a condo or a townhome, but the owners technically own the land beneath the units.  But it is referred to as a condo development, since in buyer's eyes, that's what it looks like. No wonder you are confused!

When buying a PUD or a condo, it is important to know the difference. If your appraiser uses the condo appraisal form, only to find out it is a PUD, your escrow may be held up while the appraisal is redone on the right form. So you'll want to know going into it.

Confused??  Don't worry.  If you like it, buy it. That's what will ultimately make you happy.