Rimbun Sanctuary Townhouse @ Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam. Picture courtesy of森那美物业
For most Malaysians, the word Townhouse might seem like a made-up term fished out of an American or British movie. This is partially true as the word originates from western countries.
That said, townhouses have been around for a long time and they are very much an actual thing. In fact, Malaysia does have its fair share of townhouses too, though on a smaller scale compared to the rest of the property types that we know. Plus, the lack of lands in Malaysia can be an attributing factor to the matter, which can deter developers from taking on “unusual” development projects.
Not to be confused withtownships, townhouses are a type of property that has been seeing a resurgence globally in recent years. It is only a matter of time before it starts trending in the local property market too.
What is a townhouse?
A townhouse is essentially a cross between a condominium and a terrace house. It is a landed residential building that is advertised as a 2-in-1 unit. Here’s a real-life example of a townhouse in Malaysia.
The most defining aspect of a townhouse is its co-living element. Townhouses are single-story homes that are built atop one another. Put simply, you and your neighbor live in the same building and the one thing that separates you two is the ceiling.
Another standout of a townhouse is its vertical expansion. Since townhouses are shared between two parties and thus, creates an issue of spaciousness, developers leverage this setback by vertically expanding the structure instead.
Sometimes, a developer may attempt to make a townhouse more appealing to homebuyers by building a two-story unit as opposed to a single-story one. This doubles the level in a townhouse from two to four. The first owner would be granted access to the ground floor and third floor. Meanwhile, the other owner would have ownership of the first and second floor.
Another interesting thing to note about townhouses is both parties usually have a driveway of their own, despite having to share the same unit. This is accomplished by building a wall to separate the front porch into two smaller ones.
On a final note, townhouses should not be confused with semi-ds either. While both share a somewhat similar concept, semi-ds are standalones, spacious homes that are linked by a wall, and they are horizontally connected, not vertically. Furthermore, semi-ds come with an empty space that traces all the way to the back, allowing its owners to turn that space into a mini-garden or anything else that may fit their purpose.
The main appeal in townhouses
Different types of property appeal to different groups of buyers. At the end of the day, it all boils down to personal preference. That being said, most Malaysians generally opt for condominiums, flats or landed properties such as semi ds or terrace houses. What about townhouses then?
The main appeal in townhouses is the fine line that it treads between a condo and a landed property, as mentioned before. Some of us simply desire a little more spacious home compared to a standard apartment, yet we don’t want to commit to a large home that might be overkill.
Now that we’ve cemented townhouses as the go-to middle ground for those who want the best of both worlds, let’s talk in-depth about the pros.
Affordability/Middle income earner-friendly
Considering townhouses serve as a benchmark between condominiums and a full scale terrace house, it should come as no surprise that the price of a townhouse also falls between the two. Our research shows theprice for a townhouse typically falls between the range of RM300,000 – RM14,500,000. Its vast price range guarantees that there’s something for everyone, including middle-income earners who are typically left out of affordable housing schemes that are offered by the government.
Shared maintenance and repair cost
One of the biggest headaches coming from owning a landed property is the need for owners to fork out a consistently large sum to help upkeep it. Meanwhile, those renting a condo may usually find themselves complaining about the amount of maintenance fee charged monthly, even more so if the condo management is doing a horrible job at keeping the condo functional and working.
For townhouses however, any maintenance and repair-related costs are shared between all parties involved in the building. Of course maintaining a townhouse is going to be more expensive than condo, and the maintenance quality may not be as great as upkeeping your own home. But living in a townhouse allows individuals to have a say in what needs to be fixed, and it ensures that the quality of maintenance is at least decent.
On top of that, the shared costs mean all parties involved share a degree of responsibility in keeping the home in tiptop condition. It helps people feel involved.
Access to facilities
A lesser-known fact about townhouses is they are situated in a gated community, much like a condominium or a high-end landed residential area. Likewise, townhouses are granted access to amenities such as a clubhouse, a community pool and a gym.
Boasts a unique/fresh concept
Apart from being decently spacious, townhouses’ unique design brings a modicum of extravagance to the owners. Many townhouse developments in Klang Valley today opt for a modern and contemporary design to ensure that buyers do not feel left out when it comes to aesthetics.
If having a home that is affordable and unique is a primary deciding factor for you, townhouses can be a very attractive option despite its rather unconventional take on housing.
Put simply, it brings homebuyers the status and a modest luxury that is on par with a high-end home.
Although townhouses bring a unique concept and moderate luxury to homebuyers, they do come with their own set of challenges too.
Lack of privacy
Although people living in townhouses possess their own living space and have their own privacy, the notion of someone other than your family members living above or below you can be unsettling for some. This is one of the bigger reasons many Malaysians prefer condos and a full-fledged landed property to townhouses. While there is a ceiling separating both units, how well the wall drains out sound is another question of its own.
Unfortunately, this is part and parcel of co-living and many of us can’t help but feel uncomfortable even if our next-door neighbors happen to be decent folks.
The lack of complete privacy means all inhabitants in a building may need to adhere or agree to a set of rules to coexist in harmony. Considering the fact that there is more than one party living under the same roof, there’s a need for all involved parties to monitor their activities. This may not sit well for certain individuals, as it creates some conflict of interests.
That said, Malaysian townhouses are relatively lenient on rules, as we do not have aHomeowners Association (HOA) like the Americans to govern townhouses. Still, that doesn’t give individuals a reason to dismiss the wellbeing of others, especially in a co-living space.
Townhouses already look and feel pretty on their own, but some of us may have dreams of turning our homes into the ultimate living space. If you’re one such person who dreams of doing so, you may be put off from living in a townhouse.
As it stands, townhouses are subjected to a stricter renovation or alteration guideline, as per the agreement between developers and homebuyers. Sadly, while homeowners may have a say in the maintenance and fixing costs, they have a lesser degree of power in the creative department. This makes sense as even the tiniest renovations can affect the integrity of the home.
Despite the attractive perks that townhouses offer, it is generally less attainable compared to traditional stratified or landed properties, owing to its rather foreign presence in the Malaysian property market. Nevertheless, it is expected to change as developers are constantly looking to capture homebuyers’ attention through innovative houses and designs, including townhouses.
Things to consider before getting one
Much like buying any other houses, getting a townhouse requires a great deal of thought and we encourage our readers to consider the following factors before deciding to get one.
As with other major purchases, one should consider their financial power before settling for one. Yes, townhouses can be pretty affordable and they are great starter homes for first-timers. Still, it goes without saying that we should all consider our financial capacity before hastily forking out a down payment for one.
We talked about walls and how well they cancel out noises under pro vs. cons. Naturally, with a lack of privacy comes a concern for noise pollution. If the walls and ceiling separating you and your neighbor is thin or hardly soundproof enough, people can unintentionally eavesdrop on your conversations. Would you be okay with that? Likewise, if your neighbor is a loud family that doesn’t take its neighbor’s welfare to mind, could you live with that? This could go both ways. If privacy and serenity mean a great deal to you, you may have to mentally prepare yourself to compromise on that front.
Referring to our earlier example of a four-story townhouse, families who receive the short end of the stick i.e.: those living on the ground floor and third floor may find it an inconvenience to constantly travel up and down to get around. Essentially, it creates a sense of disconnection that may not sit well with people who desire a traditional home.
Knowing your neighbors
If you are looking to settle down in a townhouse and one of the units in it is already occupied, you should look to establish a rapport with your would-be neighbors. It’s always helpful to know how your future neighbors are like and the kind of expectations or lifestyles they may lead. In turn, this would allow you to gauge if you are able to mingle with them and coexist harmoniously.
Determine your townhouse needs
As townhouses typically carry a handful of restrictions when it comes to renovations, you’ll have to mentally prepare yourself to live in a prefixed living space. Therefore, it is always an excellent idea for you to have a solid idea of how your unit should look, i.e.,: the size, the layout, the addition of air conditioners or a patio/balcony.
It would also be great to visit the amenities to determine if they are up to your standards.
Unlike most conventional homes that Malaysians are used to, townhouses come with a significant co-living caveat. It’s easy to say that we are perfectly capable of sharing our home with another stranger now, but the older we get, the more likely we may find ourselves wanting our privacy and space. Ask yourself if you’re looking to start a family and if the size of your unit can cater to your family planning needs.
Then, there’s also the age-old concern about being able to get around from the bottom to the top floor in old age, where mobility is a problem.
Another concern to the list is, think carefully if you’re willing to adhere to a set of rules for as long as you live there. Remember, a townhouse is a co-living place, and it is crucial to maintain a good relationship with your neighbor at all times. After all, they will be the ones to lend your family home if you ever get yourself into trouble.
Townhouses are a great alternative to your standard, conventional homes. They are essentially the answer for people who have been wishing for an in-between option that affords them a moderately lavish living space but with the affordability of a condo. Coupled with its unique designs and concept, townhouses are sure to leave an impression on people. However, it does come with its own share of challenges. Thus, it would be wise for people to do their due diligence before settling for one