Buying a home is a uniquely personal experience. Choosing the ‘best’ property type is all a matter of perspective—what clicks with your situation. Understanding the differences between the most common property types—single-family homes, townhomes, and condos—helps ensure your next home is everything you need and imagined it to be well past closing day.
Let’s dive in.
For many, the traditional sense of ‘owning a home’ really means the purchase of a detached single-family home. Revered for their space and privacy, single-family homes are a popular option among buyers in most markets. And, due to their popularity and demand, your initial investment may appreciate over the years—that means you may turn a profit if you ever decide to sell your home.
While asking prices widely vary, single-family homes are generally more expensive than townhomes and condos—that being the case, they may call for a more significant down payment. It’s not uncommon for buyers to save upwards to 20% of the purchase price in order to avoid paying additional private mortgage insurance (also referred to as PMI). So-called “starter homes”, known for affordability and value, make a great option for first-time buyers.
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Similar to other property types, some single-family homes are subject to a homeowner’s association (commonly referred to as an ‘HOA’), a governing board that makes key decisions for the community. Compared to townhomes and condo communities—and depending on where you live—their associated fees are generally less expensive; less HOA fees can often mean more of house payment ultimately goes toward paying off the principle balance, giving you more equity in the property. And while your mileage may vary, the rules associated with a single-family home’s HOA may also be less restrictive overall.
While easy to romanticize, owning a single-family home requires considerable upkeep. A big backyard might initially seem enticing, but the routine time (and financial) investment to maintain it can sour your opinion over time. Even still, with a steady supply of single-family properties available in large markets and so much variety, it’s easy to find something considered “low-maintenance’ or adaptable to your needs. By some accounts, there is a steeper learning curve involved with maintaining a single-family home but that shouldn’t deter you—the rewards are significant.
At a Glance: Single-Family Homes
- Typically offer more space and privacy
- Versatile, high-inventory—plenty of move-in ready options
- HOA fees generally lower, less restrictive
- May appreciate due to high demand
While single-family homes offer buyers a lot of amenities, townhomes make a great option for anyone who wants a similar feel with less overall maintenance. Virtually every townhome is subject to a presiding HOA, an HOA that’s responsible for the lion’s share of community upkeep—homeowners may be relieved of lawn service, tree trimming, and exterior painting duties.
Naturally, depending on what services the HOA provides, the associated fee will be higher. Still—for those who prefer a hands-off approach to home maintenance and appreciate the look of a well kempt community—it makes a great option. Be aware of any special assessments—additional fees assigned to owners to cover the expense of major repairs like roof replacement—in recent history or potentially looming for future owners; the HOA should provide this information.
The asking price of a townhome is often well under that of a single-family home, potentially making them more accessible to first-time buyers operating on a strict budget. Additional savings can be found in some otherwise unlikely places—the shared walls of the community may provide better insulation from the heat, driving down energy bills. And, as townhomes may smaller than a traditional single-family home, there’s less space for you to worry about heating/cooling throughout the year. Some utilities may even be factored into your HOA. Some townhome communities might include amenities like street parking or cable internet as part of ownership.
Are you looking for a sense of community with your next home? This is an area where townhomes really shine. Neighbors are often on very familiar terms with one another throughout townhome communities, there to watch over each other and lend a hand at a moment’s notice. For many, this shared security can help foster a greater feeling of safety and solidarity.
At a Glance: Townhomes
- Provide a similar feel as single-family homes with less upkeep
- Potentially more accessible to first-time buyers
- Some amenities and services may be included as part of the HOA
- Can offer a greater sense of community
Considered a mix of townhomes and apartments, condos (short for ‘condominiums’) share a lot of the same features and benefits. To begin with, they’re very affordable when compared to other property types. Many first-time buyers ultimately choose to invest in a condo to get established in real estate.
Despite the lower asking prices, condos may also have location benefits. For many, they provide an affordable living option in central areas of the city, near popular shopping and dining venues. And while you may want to upgrade to the type of space a townhome or single-family home provides in the future, finding the right condos for sale will still provide a comfortable amount of room at their price point.
Less maintenance is also another key incentive associated with condos. Generally, the operating HOA will handle the community upkeep and roll those costs into their fees; while HOA fees may range hundreds of dollars, they typically include a lot. Like townhomes, condos occasionally assign special assessment fees to cover major repairs; make sure to touch base with the HOA for more context.
At a Glance: Condos
- Often compared to townhouses and apartments
- Can help first-time buyers get established in real estate
- May provide affordable living alternative in more expensive areas
- HOA fees generally run higher but typically include more benefits
Find your way home
No matter what property type you’re looking for, Offerpad can help you find your way home. With plenty of attractive homes for sale including single-family homes, townhomes, and condos, we take the stress out of your home buying experience by providing modern solutions.
See the difference for yourself—start with a virtual tour, schedule an in-person visit, and get more information about our process at Offerpad.com.