Get EducatedThinking About Buying a Townhouse in Seattle? Then You’d Better Read This!
June 10, 2021
Buying a townhouse can be a tricky business. In this post, we’re sharing some of our clients’ voices of Christmas past, so you’ll learn what they loved and what they hated so you don’t make a mistake with your townhouse purchase!
I’m not sure how many townhouses Ian, Amber, and I have toured over the last ~15 years, but suffice to say it’s been THOUSANDS. There were some years that I’d say that 70% of the homes we sold to buyers where indeed townhouses. In my mind, I can hear the voices of clients past criticizing floor plans, finishes, and of course, locations. Now obviously, there is way too much to go over in one blog about the nuances of every search for the holy grail of townhouses, but I thought I’d focus on the three big L’s as we fondly refer to them as:
If you have a good combo of these lovely L letters, your townhouse will be a hit now and when you sell in the future.
Here are a few things to consider as you hone in your focus on LOCATION, LAYOUT, and LIGHT:
Okay, this is true with every house, but now you have to put on your little townhouse thinking cap.
What makes an excellent location for townhouses? To do this thought exercise, I like to think of who will be likely buying a townhouse. Probably someone who is newish to their career, and maybe they’ve already owned a condo or rented in the middle of the city. They would perhaps prefer a quieter location, but it had better have a high WalkScore and be close to to as much as possible—or at least as much as can be afforded.
Townhouses should have a walk score of 70+. And keep in mind that the higher the WalkScore, the higher that price will be (or the smaller the townhouse will be). I know; there are always trade-offs. Townhouses should not be on a main road, and not too far from the center of activity. They typically don’t sell well or appreciate well in either of those scenarios.
This is SUPER important for a townhouse, given physical limitations of a stacked home with a small footprint. Some townhomes are not particularly well-designed, and with these you’ll find layouts that feel cramped and even some “dead” space that can be hard to figure out what to do with.
Now, what layout you want will depend on your lifestyle. For example, many townhomes have a layout where there are 1-2 bedrooms on the ground level, then there’s a main level with kitchen/living room/dining, and then on the top floor there’s a primary suite. For some, this may be ideal. However, for those who may wish to start or grow their families, having your child in a bedroom that’s separated by an entire floor is not usually ideal! In this case, having a townhome layout where there are 2 bedrooms on the top level could be your ideal arrangement.
Okay, this is one of those critical features that 90% of all our buyers say is crucial to them. But with a townhouse, it is particularly important. Vertical life means small floor plates stacked. If the home does not get adequate light, townhouses can become a little depressing real quick. That will kill your resale. So, getting an end unit or stand-alone if you can afford it would be ideal. Or if you can’t find an end unit or a stand-alone, find a townhouse where the most significant amount of glass faces south.
(Also, when you’re touring, remember to turn the lights off inside the townhouse to see how much ambient light enters the home.)
Ok, this is my last idea, I promise. You should buy a townhouse that has something special about it for its price category. Townhouses are a common sight in Seattle. You don’t want yours to blend in and be forgettable when you put it on the market. Whether your townhouse has a private little yard, a huge roof deck, or impressive ceiling height and windows, make sure there is something unique to yours.
We tell our buyers all the time: We will not be living with you, so you buy whatever you love, but we will talk you out of anything that will not be a good investment for you and your future sale.
Also, there are many nuances to each scenario. I’ve seen magnificent townhouses that have some of the characteristics to avoid described in this blog. Every home is different. You should use this as a guide, but tie this with your gut as you search for your home. Your real estate agent’s job is to make sure the house performs well for your needs and finances. In a hot market, any house will sell, but in an equal market, only the good homes do well.