Carriage Home vs Townhouse
Carriage Home vs Townhouse: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Choice

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When it comes to the pursuit of finding the perfect home, the journey is as personal and unique as the individual.


Some may be captivated by the nostalgic charm of history-laden walls, while others may seek the contemporary comforts of urban dwelling. Nestled in this vast spectrum of possibilities, two housing types have captured the hearts of homebuyers everywhere: the quaint, unique carriage houses and the practical, sociable townhouses.


Each of these home types speaks to different needs, aesthetics, and lifestyles. The carriage house whispers tales of a bygone era, inviting those who seek a creative, distinctive space, while the townhouse stands tall, appealing to those in quest of a modern, convenient lifestyle within a community. But how does one choose between the two?


In this article, we delve into the world of carriage homes and townhouses, comparing their attributes, analyzing their pros and cons, and helping you navigate the factors to consider when choosing your dream home. 

Carriage Home vs Townhouse: Key Differences

Carriage HomesTownhouses
Original PurposeStored carriages and housed drivers.Residential units in city environments.
Current UseResidences, studios, apartments.Residential units
Architectural DesignOpen spaces, garage on ground floor.Multi-story, attached units.
Lot SizeLimited, full-width lots.Limited, shared with other units.
Number of StoriesMostly two (garage and living space).Typically two or three.
BasementTypically lacks a basement.Depends on the design.
PrivacyMore, as they're often standalone.Less, due to shared walls.
CostVaries, similar to regular houses.Generally less expensive.
HOA GovernanceLess likely.More likely.
Property TaxesDepends on location and regulations.Usually lower than single-family homes.
MaintenanceIndividual responsibility.Often shared, managed by HOA.
Potential for CustomizationHigh, due to open spaces.Limited by HOA rules.
SoundproofingLess concern, often standalone.Requires addressing shared walls.
Common LocationsMore common in Northeast U.S.Common nationwide.

A Brief History and Evolution: Carriage Houses and Townhouses

Once upon a time, in the bustling streets of 18th-century America, carriage houses were an emblem of prestige, serving as cozy abodes for horse-drawn carriages and their caretakers. Interestingly, these structures also marked the line between aristocracy and commoners. 


Carriage houses, also known as coach houses, have a rich history dating back to the colonial era. They were originally designed as outbuildings to store horse-drawn carriages and related equipment. The design of these structures typically included a ground floor used for vehicle storage, with the upper level dedicated to housing the stable staff.


As time moved on and the use of horse-drawn carriages faded with the advent of the automobile in the late 19th and early 20th century, many carriage houses were repurposed. 


Some were converted into garages, storage spaces, or workshops, while others were transformed into separate living spaces, often referred to as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites.” These transformations reflected the changing needs of society as the dependence on horses declined and the popularity of cars grew.

Francis Silas Rodgers Mansion, Carriage House
Francis Silas Rodgers Mansion, Carriage House, 147-149 Wentworth Street, Charleston, Charleston County, SC

Fast forward to today, and these unique homes, rich with historical resonance, have morphed into diverse living spaces, their charm enhanced by an array of modern amenities.


They have seen a resurgence in popularity due to the growing trend of multi-generational living, the need for affordable housing options, and the appeal of rental income opportunities for homeowners. 


Take Lori Ball and Lisa Hicks for example; they built a luxurious carriage house for roughly $100,000 on their property and have found that prospective renters aren’t deterred by the $1,650 monthly rent. Their carriage house offers high-end amenities, reflecting those available in premium downtown apartments, and its popularity is growing, mainly through word of mouth.


Today’s carriage houses, whether renovated historical structures or new builds in the style of the old, often serve as fully functional separate living spaces, complete with kitchens, bathrooms, living areas, and bedrooms. These modern adaptations maintain the charm of their historic origins while catering to contemporary housing needs.

Townhouses, on the other hand, are an architectural testament to urban development. Having their roots in the terraced houses of Europe, these multi-story abodes were specifically designed to fit the constraints of city lots. 


Over time, they’ve remained a popular choice, particularly in urban settings where land is at a premium. In fact, a study of U.S. Census Bureau information performed by the National Association of Home Builders showed that townhouse construction has escalated by a quarter over the last four consecutive quarters compared to the total of the four quarters prior. 

Carriage House VS Carriage Home

Terms like “carriage home” and “carriage house” are often deemed similar in conversation. They harken back to a time when these structures were primarily built to provide shelter for horse-drawn carriages, and frequently, they also accommodated the various equipment related to carriages and housing for the employees tending the horses and carriages.


Nowadays, these phrases typically denote a secondary or smaller abode on a property, generally repurposed from these original establishments. These dwellings are also colloquially known as “coach houses.”


However, it’s worth noting that their use may differ based on regional or even local terminologies. For instance, in certain regions, a “carriage home” may symbolize a modern detached house, designed reminiscent of a historic carriage house, while a “carriage house” might strictly imply an authentic, historic edifice. But these aren’t universally accepted interpretations, and the terms often overlap in their usage.


If you encounter these terms in property listings and find them perplexing, it’s advisable to seek additional details.

Understanding the Architectural Differences

In terms of architecture, both carriage houses and townhouses are strikingly distinctive.

Carriage houses, in their original form, were designed with an arched entrance large enough to accommodate horse-drawn carriages, which were stored on the ground floor. 


The caretaker, on the other hand, resided on the upper floor, resulting in a unique design featuring high ceilings on the ground level and lower ceilings on the upper floors. 


Modern carriage houses have transformed over the years, often featuring a garage on the ground floor with living quarters above. They offer a distinctive aesthetic, with their architectural design allowing homeowners to creatively adapt the interiors to their lifestyle needs.


On the other side of the spectrum, townhouses are usually multi-story structures attached to one another, forming a row of homes with similar designs. They share common walls and have a characteristic vertical layout, often spanning two to three floors. 


This design has allowed townhouses to maximize living space within a limited footprint, making them ideal for urban living where land is often scarce. Notably, townhouses often come with a small patch of yard and a basement, a feature typically absent in carriage houses.


In essence, both these housing styles reflect their unique historical contexts while also adapting to the demands of modern urban living. From the stables and carriages of the 18th century to the shared walls of townhouses, these homes stand as living testaments to architectural creativity and evolution.

Cost Differences: Carriage Homes vs. Townhouses

In evaluating the cost differences between carriage homes and townhouses, it’s important to remember that prices can vary greatly based on the location, size, and condition of the property.


Carriage homes, being somewhat of a rarity, may command a price similar to regular rowhouses in city areas like New York City. 


The price of carriage houses typically falls within a range of $20,000 and $216,000, with some even reaching valuations of 9.5 million dollars and 31 million dollars on Zillow


Check out the tour of the 9.5 million dollar carriage house below:

However, if you’re looking to build one from scratch, the cost could range from $100,000 to $200,000. These prices depend heavily on factors like design, materials, and labor costs.


On the other hand, townhouses generally provide a more cost-effective option, particularly for first-time home buyers or those with a tighter budget. Townhouses are usually less expensive than single-family homes, including carriage houses, due to their shared walls and limited land ownership. 


But, additional costs can arise in the form of homeowners association (HOA) fees, which are typically used for the maintenance of shared spaces and amenities.


When you’re thinking about buying a townhouse, don’t forget about property taxes. The good news is that they’re usually not as high as what you’d pay for a single-family home (including carriage houses).

Space and Layout: Carriage Homes vs. Townhouses

When considering a home, the amount of space and the layout are crucial factors to contemplate. Each type of home offers unique characteristics that may be more or less suitable depending on individual needs and preferences.


Carriage homes, with their origins in horse-and-buggy times, are often found in older, more historic neighborhoods. Due to their past as a place for storing carriages, they often feature a compact, unique, and charming layout. 


Typically, a carriage house will have a ground floor that can be used for parking or storage, and a living area above it. These homes generally offer 1,000 to 2,500 square feet of living space. The floor plan often provides an open concept, creating a sense of spaciousness despite the smaller square footage.


In contrast, townhouses are usually more spacious than carriage homes, with multiple levels and sometimes a basement, offering more room for storage or additional living space. The average townhouse size in the United States ranges from 1,500 to 2,300 square feet. 


These residences often feature separate rooms and spaces for various functions, providing the occupants with more privacy. Some townhouses come with small yards or patios, providing additional outdoor space.


Plus, the layout of townhouses tends to be vertical, with living spaces on the ground floor and bedrooms on the upper floors. This layout provides a separation of space that can be ideal for families or those requiring multiple rooms.

Pros and Cons of Carriage Houses



Pros and Cons of Townhouses



Factors to Consider

Consider the Building's History

Diving into the rich history of a property can add an extra layer of appreciation for your future home, especially if you’re a history enthusiast.


For carriage houses, they are often historical structures, echoing an era when horse-drawn carriages were a primary mode of transport. This means that carriage houses often come with a unique, rustic charm that is steeped in history and nostalgia.


They may have original features such as wooden beams, cobblestone floors, or intricate brickwork, which may add to their aesthetic appeal. Owning a piece of history can certainly be a thrill if you have a love for the past.


However, you should be aware that historic properties can sometimes come with additional maintenance responsibilities or stricter regulations due to preservation rules.


Historic properties like carriage houses often demand more attention in terms of maintenance. Also, there can be stricter regulations tied to these properties due to preservation rules.


The National Trust for Historic Preservation offers a plethora of information on preserving and rehabilitating historic buildings, which can be a great help if you want to own a property like this. The site provides details on preservation easements, access to grants and funding for qualifying properties, workshops, training, and a network of preservation professionals, amongst other resources.


On the other hand, townhouses, while they can also have a history, are generally more modern structures. They are typically located in urban or suburban environments and can offer a more contemporary living experience. While you might not find the same depth of historical allure as you would in a carriage house, townhouses can provide a stylish, modern design and convenient access to city amenities.

Ask yourself

Personal Preferences and Needs

When choosing between a carriage house and a townhouse, the most significant consideration should be your personal preferences and needs. If you’re fond of history and desire a unique, freestanding home with a lot of character and creative potential, then a carriage house might be the best choice for you.

But, if you’re looking for a more modern, less expensive housing option that offers shared amenities and is usually located closer to city centers, a townhouse might be more to your liking. The amount of space you need, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the amount of privacy you desire are all important aspects to consider.

Ask yourself

Budget Considerations

The financial side of home buying can’t be overlooked. Carriage houses, with their charm and uniqueness, can sometimes come at a higher cost. This, coupled with potential renovation or insulation costs, means that they might not be the most budget-friendly option. 


On the other hand, townhouses are generally less expensive upfront and offer shared maintenance costs, which can be attractive for those with tighter budgets or for first-time homebuyers.

Ask yourself

Long-Term Financial and Lifestyle Implications

Lastly, consider the long-term implications of your choice. This includes potential resale value, ongoing costs such as HOA fees for townhouses, and potential renovation or insulation costs for carriage houses. It’s essential to consider how your choice aligns with your long-term financial goals.


Furthermore, consider your lifestyle choices and how they fit with each type of home. Do you prefer a more close-knit community, or do you prefer a bit more independence? Do you enjoy the idea of renovating a unique, historic property, or would you prefer a home that’s move-in ready? 


Your lifestyle and long-term plans should play a significant role in deciding between a carriage house and a townhouse.

Ask yourself

Final Thoughts: Carriage Home VS Townhouse

The decision between a carriage house and a townhouse is a significant one, and it involves weighing many different factors. Each option comes with its unique charm, quirks, advantages, and disadvantages.


A carriage house, steeped in history and character, presents a delightful opportunity to create a unique living space. Its challenges in terms of renovation and insulation are but part of its charm, perfect for those who thrive on individuality and creativity. 


On the other hand, a townhouse offers modern comforts, a sense of community, shared costs, and easy access to city centers. Its limitations in privacy and potential HOA restrictions are trade-offs for its practicality and affordability.


The choice comes down to your personal preferences, needs, financial capabilities, and long-term plans. Each type of property caters to different lifestyle choices and life stages. Consider all these factors, and remember that the decision is about more than just the property – it’s about choosing a home that will best serve you and your future.


In the end, whether it’s the unique charm of a carriage house or the communal vibe of a townhouse, it’s all about finding the right place that feels like home. After all, home is not just a place, it’s a feeling.


Most traditional home loans, including FHA, VA, and conventional loans, are available for both carriage homes and townhouses. However, lenders’ terms and conditions may vary based on the property type and its condition.

Yes, both carriage homes and townhouses can be used for rental income, but local regulations, zoning laws, and HOA rules (if applicable) may affect their use as short-term rentals.

For both property types, a comprehensive inspection should be conducted, covering areas like the foundation, roofing, HVAC system, electrical system, plumbing, etc. Carriage homes may require specialized inspections due to their age and unique features.

While the overall selling process is similar, carriage homes might attract a different type of buyer given their unique charm and historical aspect. Townhouses may sell faster due to being more common and affordable.

You can construct a new townhouse, but local zoning laws must be followed. Constructing a new carriage home is also possible, often in the form of an ‘accessory dwelling unit’ (ADU), but again, you must adhere to local zoning laws and building codes.

Historic carriage homes may require specialized care and restoration techniques to preserve their original features. This might involve working with preservationists or contractors specializing in historic properties.

Townhouse HOA fees are usually predictable and recurring, but can be high depending on amenities. Carriage homes don’t usually have HOA fees, but unexpected maintenance or renovation costs can be high, particularly for older or historic properties.

Yes, it’s possible to convert a detached garage into a carriage home, but you’d need to comply with local zoning laws and obtain the necessary permits. This often includes ensuring the conversion meets specific living condition standards.

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