Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
When it comes to buying a house, many people immediately picture the standard single-family home. These homes have largely become synonymous with the concept of homeownership. But these aren’t the only types of houses on the market, and your dream home could actually be something very different. From condos to co-ops, other types of houses offer benefits that many people overlook. To help you find the right fit for you and your family, here’s a look at the most common types of houses and the potential each type offers home buyers.
1. Single-Family Home
A single-family home is a detached building built on a lot. They are the most common type of house; around 70 percent of Americans live in a single-family home.
The benefits of owning a single-family home is it includes the freedom to remodel the home as you choose. There are no landlords to provide you with rules and guidelines for living in your home. You also get the privacy that comes from living in a detached building, meaning no shared walls with your neighbors. Single-family homes are typically bigger than other types of houses and will often have a front and back yard.
When it comes time to sell your house, a single-family home will maintain its resale value better than a condo or townhome. A single-family home also tends to sell easier than a condo or townhome. Most of the time, this is because there is not necessarily a homeowners association (HOA) costs or regulations tied to the property, although some single-family homes are built in neighborhoods that do have a HOA.
There are some cons to consider when buying a single-family home. One major drawback of owning a single-family home is you are solely responsible for any maintenance, repair or renovation issues. A single-family home also tends to be more expensive when compared to the other different types of houses, because of the larger square footage on average. However, home buyers who choose a single-family home are willing to pay a little extra to receive the positives noted above. As they say, you get what you pay for.
Condominiums, or condos, are units within larger buildings that share at least one wall with a neighboring unit. You can think of a condo as an apartment, but instead of paying rent each month, you pay a mortgage. Condos are especially popular in larger cities where options for detached homes are either limited or too expensive.
Although condos may look and feel like apartments, they offer many benefits that rental apartments do not. For example, condo owners have more freedom to remodel and they have more say in what happens to the building overall. Condo owners also enjoy all the benefits that come with homeownership in general, such as growing home equity and creating an investment for the future.
One of the downsides of owning a condo is that you’ll likely have to pay dues to your homeowners association (HOA). These fees can sometimes be hundreds of dollars a month, and that’s on top of your monthly mortgage payment. The HOA fees usually go into a fund that the Association uses and allocates to things like entire building repairs, like an elevator that needs maintenance, or for things like garbage service. Most HOAs have a governing body or board of directors, and operate at open meetings so that everyone living in the building can attend and voice their concerns.
HOAs can also put restrictions on the kind of remodeling you can do, so there’s less freedom to remodel than you would have with a single-family home. Though some of these restrictions are done in order to protect other owners in the area as well as yourself from them. However, if you are looking for a good vacation home, condos could be a great option.
A townhouse is an attached single-family home that shares a wall with one or two other townhouses. Sometimes called row houses, townhouses often have multiple floors and some outdoor space.
There are a lot of benefits of owning a townhouse. You’ll typically get more space and privacy than you would with a condo, and they often cost less than a single-family home. If a townhouse is part of a homeowners association, there is probably less maintenance or landscaping you will need to do.
But, there are some drawbacks to a townhouse as well. You likely won’t get as much space as a single-family home. There is a good chance you will need to pay HOA fees, but you typically will not receive the same types of amenities you might with a condo. If your townhome design has units back to back, you can also miss out on having a back yard. Townhouses can be a good compromise when looking at the different types of homes, but they’re not right for everyone.
4. Multi-Family Home
A multi-family home is a detached building made up of multiple units. Multi-family homes go by many names – duplexes, triplexes, two-flat, twin home, double bungalow, etc. – but they all describe the same kind of building. Multi-family homes differ from an apartment or condo in that a multi-family home, by definition, can only have four or fewer units. Any more than that, and it’s considered a commercial building.
A major benefit of owning a multi-family home is that you can live in one unit and rent out the others. You can then use the tenant’s rent to help pay for your mortgage. They’re also ideal for multi-generational households because everyone can live under one roof while maintaining separate living spaces.
The downside of this type of home is the lack of privacy that comes from sharing a wall with other units. A multi-family home is often smaller than a single-family home. Although renting your other units can be a good source of income, being a landlord can be a hassle, and you’ll be responsible for maintenance issues in all of the units.
Of all the different types of houses, a co-op is perhaps the most unique. Co-ops, or cooperatives, are similar to condos in that your living space is a single unit within a larger building. But unlike a condo, where you would own your unit outright, with a co-op, you own the building collectively with the other tenants.
Co-ops can be an attractive choice because they can be less expensive than condos and typically have lower HOA fees. Because there’s often an interview process to join the co-op, you’ll also have more control over who you allow to be a neighbor.
But, this kind of arrangement can also be a negative. If one person falls behind on their mortgage payments, the rest of the tenants share that burden. Co-op units are also harder to resell because of the ownership structure. Banks typically view co-ops negatively, making it harder to get a loan. Some banks will require more money up front, while others won’t write loans for co-ops at all. Co-ops work for some, but it is not one of the more popular types of houses.
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