Anyone who has ever worked with me has gone through this training session over and over again. I guarantee that they are chuckling if they are reading this post.
Why do we go over this subject so often? Because there's some sort of built-in automatic misconception that's really hard to cure. People make assumptions about the form of ownership based on their past experience with townhouses. That kind of an assumption may cause you to go down the wrong path when setting up a title file.
A townshouse is nothing more than an attached dwelling. It's an architectural style and the style does not denote any form of ownership.
When I ask the question, what's a townshouse, I am really leading into a discussion about condominiums and planned unit developments (PUDs).
So, picture a row of five beautiful townshouses. What different forms of ownership can we consider? It may simply be a single family dwelling with no connection in ownership other than party wall rights or there may be a more complex connection requiring further documentation.
First, determine if the land underneath the home is being sold as a lot. If you are buying a specific lot, even if the lot only sits under the walls of the home, you are NOT buying a condominium. The townshouse is a single family attached dwelling that may or may not sit in a PUD.
How do we determine if the plan is a PUD? Is there a MANDATORY membership in a homeowner association (HOA)? If yes, it's a PUD. If no, it's not a PUD.
A townshouse may be a condominium. If so, the deed will identify the home as a unit in a plan that has been declared a condominium. The declaration will be on record. The land is owned jointly by the condominium association and the unit owner has a percentage ownship in the land and other common elements.
So, a townshouse is simply an architectural style and though knowing that is a red flag prompting us to dig deeper, the fact that it's a townhouse alone does not determine the form of ownership.
[As an aside, beware the hybrid. Some attorneys failing to understand the difference between a condominium and PUD prepare deeds that lead you to believe you are working with a condo when in fact it's a PUD and visa versa.]