What is a townhouse? Are they right fit for you?

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You may have heard of a townhouse during your search for a property. In this article, we explain the facts about townhouses and why they could be a potentially good option for the right buyer.

what-is-a-townhouse

© Sime Darby

There are many types of properties in Malaysia ranging from bungalows, semi-detached, and terraced houses to flats, apartments, and condominiums. A townhouse is just another variant among the mix of property types on the market and it is often the least understood. Some think that living in a townhouse means having to share the same living space with strangers. To add to the confusion, townhouses have different meanings in different countries.

Read on to find out what is a townhouse in Malaysia and what makes this type of property so unique.

What is a townhouse?

The history of townhouses in Malaysia dates back to the 17th-century colonial era during a time when it was more practical to build multi-storey houses on a small footprint to accommodate two or more families living under one roof. During Dutch colonial rule, property owners were taxed based on their property’s frontage width. That resulted in the development of row-houses which had narrow front entrances but was long on the inside. These types of townhouse layouts are now heritage buildings that can be found in Penang, Melaka, and Ipoh.

As mentioned above, a townhouse has different meaning across the world. In the US and UK, a town house often refers to a detached home that’s attached in a multi-unit complex. They are between two and five stories high and can accommodate up to two families. On the contrary, a townhouse is created to look like a hybrid between a landed property and a high-rise apartment or condominium.

How are townhouses’ layouts designed? 

Designed to mirror the terrace house style, a townhouse is built with two houses stacking on top of each other and they’re usually three to four-storey high to incorporate two separate units within a single building.

Tenants who are living in the bottom floor unit have the convenience of entering the house through the main front door, however, the bottom units tend to be smaller in size. On the other hand, if you’re taking the top floor unit, you’ll get to enjoy a large space, but you’ll need to enter the house through the back door. A stairway will lead you to the top floor unit. The townhouse is designed in such a way to give the ultimate privacy to each owner. This means that they have direct access to their own home without crossing each other’s path.  

It’s also important to note that both bottom and top units do not share any of the interior space as each tenant lives in their designated space. However, some townhouse owners do share a garden and a car porch, so if you’re living in one, you might want to discuss the car park situation with the other tenant. Other than that, townhouse owners can also enjoy shared facilities like swimming pools and clubhouse. 

Townhouses in Malaysia are usually built in gated and guarded communities and their land titles can be either freehold or leasehold.

Interested to buy/invest in a townhouse? We have a wide range of selections just for you. Click here to find one that suits your needs.

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What are the benefits of living in a townhouse?

1. Strata title

Townhouses are generally less expensive compared with a similar private landed property because of the strata title which is a form of ownership issued for properties that are part of a bigger development, cluster or scheme, like flat, condo, apartment and serviced residence.

The owner of a property with a strata title has to share the common facilities such as the swimming pool, gym and garden with fellow owners and is also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the common facilities. This means each owner is obligated to pay for their share of the maintenance fee and sinking funds that as regulated under the Strata Management Act 2013. However, do note that a townhouse is relatively smaller than the other strata properties, so things like utility fees, maintenance fees and sinking funds will be much lower.

With land becoming more expensive, especially in big cities, developers are finding it more practical to built townhouses and market them at lower prices. According to data collected (on a review period between January 2020 to November 2020 from Brickz.my), the median price of a town house in Selangor is priced at RM345,000, whereas the median price of a terrace house in Selangor would cost you RM495,000. Hence, it makes sense for a homeowner to invest in a townhouse.

2. Privacy

Contrary to popular beliefs, you don’t share any living spaces with the other owners in a townhouse. Townhouse in Malaysia are designed to allow each owner to has their own designated living space. This means that both you and your neighbour live in the same townhouse without meeting each other.

Unlike other high-rise properties, you don’t share the same entrance with the other occupants as both owners have their own access to their homes. The one occupying the bottom unit can access through the main front door, while the one living above would have to enter via a private back door with a staircase leading up to the second floor.  Residents living here can also enjoy the same privacy as those living in private landed properties and there is very little difference in lifestyle and environment.

3. Convenience

There are many affordably-priced townhouses that are located within easy access to transport hubs, shops, restaurants, schools and hospitals. These properties would be appealing to busy young executives and first-time buyers as they can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without having to worry about mowing the lawn or repairing the roof, as all common areas are taken care of by a maintenance fund.

Some of the more upmarket townhouse projects have facilities and amenities that rival the best high-end condominiums but without the stress of a high-density living environment, making the townhouse even more exclusive and desirable. Townhouse are also highly appealing for large or multi-generation families with children and grandchildren living under one roof.

In some of the more upmarket gated and guarded townhouses, a clubhouse, swimming pool and landscape park may be part of the offering and this makes the property even more exclusive and appealing.

4. Close-knit community

If you like the idea of living in a close-knit community where you can socialise and get to know your neighbours, a townhouse may offer such an opportunity. It is comforting to know that you can sometimes let your children play with your neighbour’s kids while you are out doing groceries, for instance. In a private landed property, you basically drive into your own porch and enter your house without ever seeing your neighbour.

What are the disadvantages of living in a townhouse?

what-is-townhouse-nosy-neighbour

© kumikomini | Getty Images

1. Lack of privacy

Though you get to enjoy some form of privacy, a townhouse property is still not on par with private landed property. There will be some facilities that are shared, such as the main driveway or car porch. You are also out of luck if you have a nosy or unbearable neighbour as there is nothing much you can do about it.

2. Shared cost of maintenance

A townhouse owner is committed to paying for the upkeep and maintenance of the common property together with other owners. If there’s an issue with the property, you’d have to share the repair cost with the other owners, even though you’re not the one who caused it. For example, if the other owner damaged the house gate, you’d have to fork out money to repair it as you’re obliged to share the cost of repair. 

3. Limits to renovations

There is a limit as to what the owner can do in terms of renovations and alterations as this is restricted by the shared development agreement. On top of that, properties under strata titles are considered a land parcel and they’re regulated under the Strata Management Act 2013 (in the Third Schedule).

This means the owner cannot change the layout or facade of the building – balconies, external windows, terraces, open areas and other exterior parts of the building –  without getting the approval of the Management Corporation (MC)The management has the right to disapprove any renovation works that you want to do to the building, including changing the facade or extending the living areas.

4. Limited facilities

Because there are fewer residents living in a townhouse development, the number of shared facilities is limited to reduce costs. In terms of choices on the market, townhouse projects have fewer facilities compared with other stratified properties like serviced apartments, condominiums, and apartments. In a typical high-rise complex, you’d get to enjoy things like a swimming pool, a lobby, a gym, a playground and others. While on the contrary, facilities in a townhouse community are only limited to a few like clubhouse, park and swimming pool. 

5. Limited selections

As desirable as living in a townhouse, they are less popular in the market than the traditional stratified and landed properties. A quick search on iProperty.com.my reveals that there are only over 2,400 townhouses for sale and over 600 townhouses for rent. On the flip side, there are over 54,000 condos for sale and over 55,000 condos for rent in Malaysia. Not to mention, townhouses is only in demand in certain areas like Cheras, Sri Hartamas, Puchong and Shah Alam, making the search even more difficult.

Pros of living in a townhouse Cons of living in a townhouse
They’re less expensive compared to landed properties because they have a strata title You won’t get complete privacy as you’ll be sharing the garden and car porch with the other occupants.
You have direct access to the house and does not share any living spaces with the other occupants You have to share the cost of maintenance for the house.
You can save cost on utility fees, maintenance fees and sinking funds. You have to get permits before doing any renovation works.
Most of them come equipped with facilities, some are even built near transportation hubs and shop lots. They have fewer facilities compared to other stratified high-rise properties.
You can form a close-knit community with your neighbours. They’re fewer selections as compared to the other property types in Malaysia.

Are townhouses better than condos?

As mentioned above, townhouse in Malaysia is unique because it has elements of both stratified and landed property. But does that mean that they’re better than a stratified property like a condominium? Let’s find out.

Townhouse may have more in common with condominium developments, where common facilities and amenities are shared and maintained by a sinking fund. The main difference is that there are fewer residents in a townhouse development, making it more exclusive and desirable for those who value privacy. Just like flats, apartments, or condominiums, townhouses are considered strata properties and they have strata land titles and are regulated under the Strata Management Act 2013. 

However similar those two property types are, they have their fair share of differences. First of all, those living in a townhouse do not share the same entrance as the other occupants, giving them utter privacy. This is the complete opposite of those living in other stratified high-rise complexes. Since there are fewer facilities in a townhouse, you can expect the maintenance fee, utility fee and sinking funds to be lower as well.

At the end of the day, it really depends on your wants and needs, as both properties come with their own pros and cons. If you can’t decide to choose one, then read on to find out if living in a townhouse is really the right choice for you.

Are townhouses suitable for you?

Are-townhouses-suitable-for-you

© Dean Drobot | 123rf

If you are looking for a middle ground between owning a private landed property with all the expensive repairs and maintenance issues, and owning a condominium unit where you have to abide by strict management rules and jostle with thousands of other residents, townhouse may be your answer.

Townhouse offer homeowners the option of owning a home without being completely on their own when it comes to maintenance, security, and services. It makes sense for first-time homebuyers and those with families who don’t mind having neighbours above, below or beside their units.

Today, townhouse has gone upmarket with many units being sold for over a million Ringgit. Some of the townhouse developments in and around Kuala Lumpur range from the Rimbun Sanctuary at Shah Alam, Park Villa at Puchong, and Pandan Mas at Cheras to the more upmarket Mutiara Tropicana at Petaling Jaya, Bukit OUG Townhouse at Bukit Jalil, Kiara Green at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, and Sunway Geolake at Bandar Sunway

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