Buying a townhome, whether it's your first house purchase or your home after a decision to downsizing following decades of living in detached homes, can be advantageous for a number of reasons. These can include affordability, the smaller yards that require less maintenance, and a number of other perks. Upon your moving in, it's important to identify any issues that could potentially lead to confusion so that you can work them out with your new neighbor. If you're buying an end unit, you'll have just one neighbor to talk to, but buying a unit between two other townhome units will mean that you'll need to discuss these matters with two homeowners. Here are some things to talk about.
Often, you and your neighbor will share a small strip of lawn in the front yard. It's important to have a clear understanding right away of who will maintain this patch of grass. Ideally, you can create an arrangement in which you alternate cutting the lawn once per week. It's important to avoid assuming this arrangement, though—if you cut the lawn upon moving in, and the neighbor doesn't cut it a week later, you'll get worked up. By deciding how you'll take care of this responsibility, you can avoid conflicts arising.
Given that there's likely a fence that divides your backyards, it's useful to have a plan for taking care of this fence. The fence might be in sound condition when you move in, but there will eventually come a time at which the fence will need to be repaired or replaced. Talk with your neighbor about how you'll share this expense; ideally, you should split the expense 50/50. However, there may be a situation in which you pay into a townhome association and have it cover such projects. Either way, it's good to get to the bottom of this issue.
Occasionally, there will be a tree that is growing in your yard or your neighbor's yard that has branches that extend to the other person's yard. This might not be an issue, but it's good to talk about. If your tree encroaches on the neighbor's yard, is it his or her responsibility to trim it, or your responsibility? Some people will feel that the tree is the responsibility of the homeowner on whose property is it growing. Make sure to discuss this, and you'll avoid consternation over the tree's eventual growth.