By Allison Mifsud
Need To Downsize
There are a range of reasons why you might be downsizing – maybe the kids have left home and you have too much space, or you could be tired of suburban life and want to relocate closer to the city. Either way, change is in the wind and, once you have sold your house, there is a whole new life awaiting you! Your next big decision will be what kind of home to live in next.
For some, the transition from a large family home to a small apartment can be difficult – especially if you still have children and grandchildren visiting often. For others, the thought of having a simple, clutter free space is a dream come true. Assuming you are downsizing in the traditional sense – finding something smaller and less expensive that requires less maintenance – then your best options probably waver between an apartment and a townhouse. Each has their own pros and cons, so get clear on what your future lifestyle needs and desires are going to be and then you’ll be better able to choose which will suit you best.
Townhouse vs Apartment – What’s the Difference?
A townhouse generally sits on a smaller area of land than a house, but its footprint spreads across multiple floors. Townhouses are rarely single storey and they are often in a set of 3 or more townhouses together. They usually have either a small front or back yard (or both) and often the upper floors will have balconies of some kind. Commonly a townhouse will have the kitchen and living spaces on the ground floor and possibly a bedroom and powder room, then the master bedroom, bathrooms and other bedrooms on subsequent floors.
The term ‘apartment’ is applied loosely to a wide variety of property types, however certain criteria can make the distinction between an apartment, a flat, a unit and a studio for example. Apartments in most cases are in multi-storey buildings, with other apartments on surrounding floors. Apartments are made up of various rooms and occupy one floor, though some may be split level with bedrooms, bathrooms and study areas upstairs. An apartment tends to be larger in size than a flat, and modern apartments tend towards an open plan layout. Apartments may have balconies off the living room or bedroom and ground floor apartments may have a small outdoor area. An apartment complex may also have a shared outdoor living space – known as Common Property - for all its residents, such as a bbq area at the base of the building, or a rooftop common space. Apartment buildings may or may not have resident parking so this is something important to look into.
The Downsides and Benefits of Apartment Living
The apartment lifestyle is ideal if you are tired of maintaining a large house and want to scale things back to mainly just changing light bulbs and repairing appliances. Apartment life means you will spend less time cleaning and more time exploring the many and varied attractions of your local neighbourhood – high density living means parks, cafes, pubs and shops! There are also some pretty fantastic amenities these days, such as rooftop terraces with outdoor kitchens and pools, gyms, concierge services and even libraries and wine cellaring. It’s important to check if these are regularly maintained though and if there are additional costs for usage.
Downsizing to an apartment can also be a more sustainable choice both environmentally and financially - assuming you don’t opt for the penthouse! Some buildings are being built with a more eco-friendly approach and having less space means you are less inclined to accumulate ‘stuff’. An apartment purchase may set you back much less than a house purchase would, leaving you extra cash for additional investments (or overseas holidays). Generally, utilities bills will drop too – energy consumption is lower in apartments than houses, when compared to the same usage by the same amount of people.
There are however, a bunch of benefits of apartment living that come with mixed blessings. There can be a great sense of community in apartment buildings and getting to know your neighbours can be handy for things like holding a set of spare keys for you, watering plants while you’re away and checking up on you if they haven’t seen you in weeks and there’s a strange smell coming from your apartment. The downside of course is if you have unfriendly or noisy neighbours. Sharing a common wall with strangers can really test the best of us, after a weekend binge of action movies or tense interactions in the hallways.
The Downsides and Benefits of a Townhouse
Maybe downsizing from a big family home to an apartment is not for you just yet and, if so, a townhouse can be an ideal solution. A townhouse will be a cheaper purchase than a house, yet still offer the space and flexibility you are looking for. Townhouses offer the same low maintenance lifestyle of an apartment, but with more space and more flexible options – such as car parking and private outdoor entertaining areas.
Townhouse living can be a more practical solution too, if you are looking for the space of a house, but at an inner-city address and for an affordable price. A 3-bedroom townhouse in a leafy inner-city suburb may well be a better investment option than the 2-bedroom tiny single fronted terrace a few streets over. It also has the potential to offer a similar sense of community as an apartment building, but with less neighbours to deal with and depending on where you buy, the possibility they are in the same demographic as you. Apartment buildings can be a microcosm of the city, whereas 3 or 4 townhouses in a row means you only have a few neighbours that you can bond with or ignore as you choose.
The floorplan can also be one of the benefits of a townhouse, with split levels offering more options for each of you to have your own space when needed and great views if you go up high enough. However, running between the upper and lower floors every time you forget something can get tiresome; if you have young children in the house or are ageing, the stairs can become a problem over time.
So, as you can see, the choice of downsizing to an apartment or a townhouse really comes down to personal preference and the needs of your current life stage. If you know the area you’d like to live in, why not spend some time checking out the local apartments and townhouses and let your instincts have a say in the decision too.