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Rowhouses are similar and consist of several adjacent, uniform units originally found in older, pre-automobile urban areas such as Baltimore, Charleston (South Carolina), Savannah, and New Orleans but now found in lower-cost housing developments in suburbs as well.
A townhouse is where there is a continuous roof and foundation and a single wall divides adjacent townhouses, but some have a double wall with inches-wide air space in between on a common foundation. A rowhouse will generally be smaller and less luxurious than a dwelling called a townhouse.
The name townhouse or townhome was later used to describe non-uniform units in suburban areas that are designed to mimic detached or semi-detached homes. Today, the term, townhouse, is used to describe units mimicking a detached home that are attached in a multi-unit complex.
The distinction between living units called apartments and those called townhouses is that townhouses usually consist of multiple floors and have their own outside door as opposed to having only one level and/or having access via an interior hallway or via an exterior balcony-style walkway (more common in the warmer climates).
Another distinction is that in most areas of the US outside of the very largest cities, apartment refers to rental housing, and townhouse typically refers to an individually owned dwelling, although the term townhouse-style (rental) apartment is also heard.
In the United States and Canada, a townhouse has two connotations. The older predates the automobile and denotes a house on a small footprint in a city, but because of its multiple floors (sometimes six or more), it has a large living space, often with servants’ quarters. The small footprint of the townhouse allows it to be within walking or mass-transit distance of business and industrial areas of the city yet luxurious enough for wealthy residents of the city.