Townhouse Ownership Structure & Engineer Inspection

Real Estate Attorney NYC

Townhouse Ownership Structure

Before describing the Townhouse purchase process in New York, it is essential to understand the ownership structure of Townhouses. The specific definition of a Townhouse varies among brokers and many others in the real estate industry. The following definitions have all been offered for Townhouses:

  • a. Single family home
  • b. 1-5 family residence
  • c.  Multi residential and mixed use residence


We are focused here are the single family Townhouse home in New York City or the 1-5 family residence but each of these definitions may be correct depending on locality and structure of the Townhouse in question. There are Townhouses in New York City, for example, that are used as single family home and other that have mixed uses, such as a restaurant/commercial space on the bottom. Each of these different types of Townhouses has pros and cons. While single-family Townhouses grant owners with much privacy and freedom to renovate, these properties are generally far more expensive. Single-family Townhouses are a worthy investment for those who favor total freedom and privacy, but are also willing and able to financially cover any repairs or renovations that will need to be done. Townhouses are sometimes difficult to maintain in New York City. After all, most of the city’s Townhouses were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Townhouse expenses in the city have the following yearly range:

  • a. Taxes: $ 5,000.00 – $ 50,000.00
  • b. Water/Sewer: $ 300.00- $ 4,000.00
  • c. Insurance: $ 1,500.00 – $10,000.00
    • (insurance amounts will of course get larger depending on whether tenants are occupants with owners)
  • d. Utilities & Heat: $ 2,500.00 – $ 15,000.00
  • e.  Trash Removal: 0 – $2,500.00 (Primarily Commercial Buildings)
  • f.  Security Systems: 0 – $1000.00
  • g. Extermination: 0 – $1000.00
  • h. Repairs: 0 – $15,000.00


Multi-family or mixed-use Townhouses can be an excellent way to make homeownership more affordable. While the initial purchase price of a two or three family can be a bit more than the cost of a single-family home, more money can be borrowed and rent can be collected from other tenants. Moreover, citywide rent controls may apply if there are six or more units in the building

Nonetheless, whether a Townhouse is used as a single family home or has a mixed-use structure, owning a Townhouse is a fee simple ownership where the Purchaser is given a deed in a formal title transfer. A Townhouse can be a detached house or an attached dwelling that is immediately adjacent to another. Either way, a Purchaser of a Townhouse acquires real property and is responsible for his or her own real estate taxes, mortgage payments, and maintenance costs. In contrast, typically Purchasers of a Cooperative or Condominium unit must consider the overall “community”of unit owners. Owners of free stand Townhouses do not need to give such consideration nor be concerned with gaining approval from strict Boards of Directors or a Board of Managers. Condominiums are also at times described as Townhouses. However, as suggested, a Townhouse normally does not share ownership of common areas in the same respect as condominium owners do.

Engineer’s Inspection

It is always encouraged that Purchasers conduct a property inspection prior to the signing of a Contract of Sale. An inspection is important because in New York City Townhouses are bought in “as is”condition as of the date of the Contract. While there may be exceptions to this rule that are made in the Contract, it should be assumed that what you see is what you are getting. Therefore, an inspection can minimize future issues by bringing to attention matters such as windows that need to be replaced for thousands of dollars, electric circuitry that needs to be updated, rotted floorboards, or even a dysfunctional fireplace that can result in a repair cost of many thousands of dollars. Remember that fireplaces in a Townhouse may require its own separate inspection as they are unique and may require a specialist.