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Many homebuyers have some idea of what they’re looking for in their dream home. You may have a specific location or design in mind. But what about the type of home? Are you looking for something single-family or multi-family? And what’s the difference between a condo and townhouse, anyway?
With so many different types of homes out there, it can be hard to keep track of what’s what, and even harder to figure out which type is best for you and your family. Let’s dive into some of the most common types of houses available on the market, as well as some of the typical features of each.
You may be wondering what we mean when we refer to “types” of houses. Sometimes, people will use this term to describe the architectural or interior design of a home. But since new construction homes often incorporate all sorts of architecture styles and floor plans, a more helpful way of looking at home types is to consider the building structure of different homes.
There are pros and cons associated with all types of houses, so it can be beneficial to research different home types as you begin searching for a new home.
Detached, single-family homes are the most common type of house in the United States, and they are probably what you think of when you imagine a “typical” American household. This type of home stands on its own, separate from any other houses. The homeowner owns the lot, so they have ownership over the front yard, backyard and garage. As the name implies, single-family homes are intended for one family or group of people.
According to a 2021 study by the National Association of Home Builders, 67% of homebuyers said they would prefer to live in a single-family detached home. There are several advantages to detached homes, including increased privacy from neighbors and oftentimes, larger living and outdoor spaces. Single-family homes are typically located in lower-density areas such as suburbs and can be a great choice for families with children. Approximately one-quarter of single-family homeowners have school-age children, compared with just 15% of households living in apartments, the National Multifamily Housing Council reports.
Single-family homes may be part of a residential community or they may be independent.
A multi-family home is a building that houses more than one residence under the same roof.
Technically, any type of attached home is multi-family since there is more than one household sharing the same building. However, the term is often used to refer to situations where a single landlord owns the whole building. The landlord may live within one of the units, or they might live offsite and rent out each unit.
Multi-family homes can be good investment opportunities for homebuyers hoping to earn an income by renting out the units they aren’t living in. They can also be a good option for multi-generational families who want to give parents or grandparents their own separate living spaces while still residing under one roof.
A “condo” is one unit within a larger building. The building may just have two or three attached homes—referred to as duplexes and triplexes, respectively—or it may be a multi-level building with dozens of units. When you buy a condo, you are only buying a single unit, not the whole building. Condos are very similar to apartments, but they are owned instead of rented.
Condos are typically found in communities with shared common spaces and amenities. If you don’t want to have to worry about maintaining the exterior of your unit, a condo could be a great fit for you. Condos can also be a good choice for first-time homebuyers, as Bankrate reports that condo home prices aren’t rising as fast as single-family home prices.
Townhouses are homes that share one or two walls with attached units. They are usually multi-floor and are built in a row, with each unit having its own entrance. Newer townhouses tend to be built within residential communities that have multiple townhouse buildings. Like condos, they are especially popular among first-time homebuyers. Recent data from the National Association of Realtors shows that buyers ages 22-29 purchased townhouses at a higher rate than any other age group.
There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between condos and townhouses, and the terms are often used interchangeably. The most notable distinction is that condo owners only own the interior of their unit, whereas townhouse owners own the exterior as well. Many townhomes will also have patios or backyards that belong to the owner—but this outdoor space is limited compared to traditional single-family homes, since the units are built so close together.
A ranch-style home is a type of single-family home characterized by a spacious, open floor plan. These kinds of homes are single-story and are usually wider than they are deep. The kitchen, living room, and dining room tend to be combined into an open area, with easy access to the backyard. Since the layout of the ranch homes requires them to be built on large lots, they often have more outdoor space than other types of single-family homes.
Ranch homes are arguably more of an architectural style than a distinct type of house, but since they are so common, it’s likely that you will come across them during your home search. This style of home can be a great choice for homeowners who have limited mobility or anyone who wants the convenience of being able to access everything on one floor. They are very popular in the United States, with Trulia naming them as the most-common style of home in 34 states.
There’s a lot to consider when picking out the perfect home for you and your family. To help guide your homebuying process, we recommend creating a new home wish list that includes all of your must-have features and amenities. Here are some questions to ask yourself when weighing the pros and cons of different types of homes:
● How much do you value having privacy from neighbors?
● Do you want a large backyard? What about a front patio?
● How much square footage do you need?
● How much time are you willing to spend on maintenance?
● What types of floor plans are you looking for?
● Is it important that your community offers common spaces and other amenities?
● Are you interested in using your new home as investment property at some point?
Your answers to these questions can help you narrow down which types of houses interest you the most. That said, sometimes you won’t know what type of home suits you best until you have the chance to tour a few different styles in-person.