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How to Select the Best Type of Home to Buy

  April 15

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View of new homes in rowPlease welcome Diana Fishlock of Zillow who was kind enough to post for me during my maternity leave!

Choosing a home is a big decision with far-reaching implications. Homebuyers should think beyond price and community, and consider their lifestyles and which types of houses will fit their needs long-term.

Potential buyers should consider how they feel about lawn mowing, home maintenance and privacy. Buyers who determine their preferences ahead of time avoid being drawn in by pretty facades and experiencing buyer’s remorse.

Here’s an overview of property types for buyers to consider:

Single-Family Detached

For buyers who want privacy and the freedom to remodel, single-family houses are great. They range from quaint little bungalows and modest ranch houses to austere Victorians and sprawling McMansions. Each single-family home has its own plot of land, typically with a front and back yard. Open spaces allow homeowners options for patios, landscaping and outdoor furniture.

Single-family detached houses aren’t attached to other homes, such as a double-family or a row house. Residents are more likely able to play their music loudly or read quietly without feeling like the neighbors are right on top of them. Alternatively, these homeowners don’t benefit from close neighbors who crank up their heat in the winter, warming their homes in the process.

Homeowners of single-family properties are responsible for all the repairs and maintenance. They must maintain their lawns, clean their gutters, clear away snow and keep up with standard home repairs. The true cost of owning a home includes insurance, mortgage payments and maintenance.

Planned or gated communities offer amenities such as heighted security and shared pool houses but are often more expensive. Many communities have homeowners associations (HOA) that limit homeowners’ choices on upgrades such as paint color, length of time guests can stay and how many cars can park at a property. HOAs charge homeowners monthly dues and require additional fees when they deem the community needs updating.


Townhouses typically cost less than single-family detached homes, but still provide small yards for buyers who enjoy outdoor play and gardening. These homes are almost always multi-level with ground floor entrances. Townhome owners share at least one wall with their neighbors, providing heating benefits. Sharing walls with neighbors can create close relationships for borrowing a cup of sugar or letting family pets play together. However, neighbors may feel too close when they overhear howling pets, loud music and family arguments.

Houses with two units side-by-side in one building that share a common wall are called duplexes, semi-detached or double houses. These properties sometimes have shared porches and yards. Some inner cities or new developments offer row houses, which have several homes attached in a row. Many row houses do not have yards and instead offer community parks or green spaces for families and pets. Townhouses often have HOAs that limit remodeling and property upgrades, but generally take care of community landscaping and park maintenance.


Condos are perfect for buyers who want to spend less time mowing lawns and repairing things, and more time indoors. Condos are apartment-like units within a single building and are typically one-story or lofted units. Residents may be able to hear their neighbors’ conversations, music or gatherings but condos are typically more private than townhouses where neighbors get to know each other outdoors. Condo dwellers own the inside of their units and a small percentage of their property’s roof, exterior walls and any shared facilities such as pools, exercise rooms or parks.

Condominium associations collect monthly fees from all owners to maintain the properties. Also these fees typically cover the hazard insurance on the buildings themselves, while the individual owners pay renter’s insurance to cover their personal property. Condos give owners freedom from time-consuming maintenance tasks and often cost less than single-family homes since all owners share the expenses.

Cooperative Housing

Residents of cooperatives don’t own their apartments but own shares of the corporation that owns the apartments. Like condominiums, inner-city cooperative apartments charge residents fees to manage their properties and require residents to follow rules to live there.

Residents don’t need to worry about repairs, maintenance or even paying the mortgage or property taxes. Shareholders vote on decisions affecting the corporation, including who can live there. Some co-ops divide funds among the shareholders. When they move out, they sell their shares.

Buyers have several options for owning homes or shares of buildings. Spending some time considering priorities can help buyers decide what’s best for them. Prospective buyers should seek out the level of privacy and home maintenance that best suits their personalities and budgets to create happy homes where they can live for many years.

What type of home do you live in?

Choosing a home is a big decision with far-reaching implications. Homebuyers should think beyond price and community, and consider their lifestyles and which types of houses will fit their needs long-term.

6 responses to “How to Select the Best Type of Home to Buy

  1. The coop housing structure has always been very interesting to me, given that you don’t own your individual space. Obviously, in practice it seems like it’s pretty similar to a condo, but I’d love to know more about the details…

  2. I think the concept of coop housing is cool, but they don’t have that in my area. I live in a single family home and am moving to another. I like being able to have space and a dedicated yard that is mine.

  3. I think the best type of home is the single-family detached. The more, the merrier. If we live together with our family, it’s a lot of fun.

  4. We live in a single family detached home. I determined long ago after living in apartments for years that I no longer wanted to hear or be so affected by what the neighbors were doing. The other thing that is most important to me is house location. Our current house is in a good school district for our son, and is centrally located between our work and the state university where my wife and I both got our Master’s degrees. It is out of any airport’s glide path, the ground is high enough to never flood, and we get some cooling breeze off the SF Bay in the summer. We have lived here for 16 years and still like the house and neighborhood.

  5. I lived in a single family home during my childhood, a townhouse during my parent’s divorce and now I live in a apartment. I liked the single family home, but it’s a lot of work. A townhouse is sort of hybrid living and it’s nice if you want a small backyard but running up and down the three flights of stairs can be exhausting. I like living in an apartment as long as it’s big enough for two and the walls are soundproof. It safe and secure and very convenient. Apartment/condo living is for me.

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