Good question! And an important one!
A townhome owns the land under it, and there is no unit above or below it.
A condo owns only its “air space.” There could be units above it or below it, since it does not own the land under it.
Occasionally, I come across a subdivision that structurally resembles townhomes, but is legally a condo complex, meaning that the land under those “townhomes” are owned by the HOA, not the individual unit owner.
The distinction may not mean much to the typical homeowner, but it’s useful to know the difference.
A duplex is another variation. Sometimes both sides of the duplex have the same legal description and cannot be sold separately. Other times, each side might have its own legal description and address and can be sold separately. It’s possible to subdivide a duplex with a single legal description so that each side can be sold separately.
Finding duplexes to purchase can be complicated by the fact that ones with a single legal description are listed in the “Residential” database of the MLS, but ones with two legal descriptions are listed in the “Income” database. A similar dilemma applies when it comes to listing farm or ranch land which has a home on it. It could be listed under “Land” or under “Residential,” but not both.
All these categories are listed together on realtor.com, which is one reason to use that website on occasion.
Published Feb. 9, 2017, in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers and in abbreviated form in the YourHub section of the Denver Post.