Townhomes are an increasing part of today’s housing mix.

A National Association of Home Builders 2018 report indicates that townhome starts were 7 percent higher in the four quarters ending in April 2018 than they were in the prior four quarters.

The organization anticipates “future gains in the share as townhouses are a useful bridge from rentership to homeownership for younger prospective home buyers.”

Two area builders say the increased interest in townhomes is also a trend here.

“We’re seeing an interest in townhomes for a number of reasons, including lifestyle and location,” says Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes and Neighborhoods.

With regard to lifestyle, Bowman says townhomes and detached homes typically come with lower maintenance, and that appeals to a wide range of age groups, from millennials to empty-nesters and boomers.

Randy Hess, president of Hess Home Builders, agrees there’s a shift away from maintenance.

“We see interest split between first-time homebuyers and empty-nesters,” he says, “Also in the past five years we’re seeing a shift toward rental townhomes. But whether they’re rentals or units to purchase, the demographic of buyers is about the same.”

He points out that for younger buyers, who he says are mostly singles rather than couples, affordability is what’s driving the market. It’s also a factor for builders.

“Considering the cost of land and cost to develop the land, it’s hard to build a $200,000 townhome in Lancaster County — it’s more like $300,000,” Hess says.

Both Hess and Bowman agree that suburban locations such as Manheim Township, East Hempfield, East and West Lampeter townships continue to be popular for townhome starts. However, Hess says, “You’re seeing more townhomes in areas of the county where you haven’t seen them before.”

“Anything close to work, shopping or dining is popular,” Bowman says. “Today there’s more of a focus on walkability and open space than there was about a decade ago.”

He adds that the townhomes at Belmont in Manheim Township are a great example — as part of the mixed-use development, they’re close to shopping and dining, and there’s a walking path that interconnects the commercial and residential uses.

Townhome designs also have evolved over the past decade. Features such as granite and hardwood floors have almost become a standard, Hess says. Bowman adds there’s also a focus on natural light, floor plans that promote flow from one space to another, and a clear line of sight from front to back.

Both Hess and Bowman agree that having a garage is “a must.”

“Garages have become as important an amenity in townhomes, whether they’re for rental or purchase, as they are for single-family homes,” Hess says.

“Today every townhome we build comes with a garage. They’re not only for cars, but garages also provide an opportunity to store items,” Bowman adds.