A recent trend in Seattle and other cities is the advent of Townhouses. Now these townhouses are not townhouses as defined by the building codes—they are more like a bunch of tall duplexes on a small piece of property. Builders are able to get more units installed on a property that might have originally only had one home. The four unit Townhouse set-up is very common.
The City of Seattle has recently come under considerable pressure to review its policies regarding Townhouses due to some people’s belief that the structures are a form of urban blight. The Seattle PI did an article recently about the problem.
As an inspector, I would say that some are a blight, while others are far from it. As a way to achieve density while maintaining a sense of privacy and a sense of actually owning something, it seems like a stage somewhere between the single detached structure and the condo.
On a recent inspection of a new Townhouse, I noted that the access to the back units was not ideal. In fact, downright silly. It is the structures with these kinds of design flaws that are likely to eventually fit the idea of “blight.” These kinds of design flaws affect the value of all kinds of homes—not just town homes. To achieve greater coverage, often times, the driveway to the back units goes under the second floor of the front units. These driveways are often very narrow with low clearances. The front units are often damaged or subject to damage from automobiles.
There is absolutely no way to get large vehicles, like moving vans into the back units, and all large belongings and appliances would have to be moved by hand to the back units (anything that is, that would not fit in a small pick-up truck lying down). This picture was taken from under the front unit while walking up the driveway to the back units.
The headroom clearance at the end of the beam is 81-3/4″ (Translated for those of you in the trades—–6 feet, 9-3/4 inches). The ladder on my Jeep Cherokee cleared by 8 inches.
While these conditions most likely meet jurisdictional requirements, they may represent restrictions to desired use by the buyer—and affect the value of the home.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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