First off, there are benefits to buying a semi. Far and away the main advantage to buying one over a detached home is the upfront cost savings. That $200,000-difference between the two price averages works out to about $1,000 a month saved in mortgage payments.
Even within the non-detached market, there are variables that can bring the price down. A semi-detached house will usually sell for more than a row house (three or more homes with shared walls – aka “party walls”) or freehold Ottawa townhouse, and the houses on the end of a row tend to go for more than the ones in the middle.
There are also some potential ongoing savings if you and your semi-detached neighbour are able to negotiate discounted rates for replacing roofing or siding at the same time, or splitting the cost of mutual drive snow removal or lawn care.
However, the biggest drawback to owning a semi is the potential for noise transfer through the mutual wall, unless of course you and your neighbour are attached but a garage. Depending on the age and construction materials used, the party wall can seem paper thin, particularly if one owner is prone to partying.
Many semis owners also complain about cooking odours wafting through the walls. If noise is an issue, you could potentially add insulation and soundproof drywall on your side of the shared wall, but that will eat into your living space.
There’s also the risk of fire and smoke damage if the neighbours have a fire.
Reduced Curb Appeal
Curb appeal is often negatively impacted in semis. Drive around any neighbourhood and you’ll easily spot numerous semis with mismatched roofing shingles, homes that are one-half brick and one half siding, or where exterior features such as enclosed porches and awnings appear on the façade of one and not the other. And it’s hard enough trying to sell a detached home if one of your neighbours’ homes is a dilapidated junkyard. If that property is attached to yours, would-be buyers will have legitimate concerns about rot and mould crossing the proverbial threshold.
Less Space to go Around
A key reason that semis and rowhouses sell for lower prices is that they also tend to have smaller lots compared to detached homes in the same area, and the value of the land is the biggest factor in any home’s sale price.
A related drawback with rowhouses is limited access to the backyard. Often, you have to travel through the house to get from front to back. This can be a major hassle when doing yard work and dealing with garbage disposal.