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If you’re looking for a new home you are probably searching for a specific category. While residential properties come in many different types, sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate them. Once you learn more about the terminology, you might find that you can broaden or narrow your home search. This can yield better results and more options in price, location and more. Here we will break down the 5 categories of residential properties to help your home search.
A single-family home is the most common category of residential property. Single-family homes are defined by having their own individual lot and no shared walls with other residences. Houses of all shapes and sizes qualify as single-family homes as long as they follow these same criteria, even if extremely close together on lots with no yard space.
A multi-family home is a single-family home split into two or more separate units. The most common examples of multi-family homes are called duplexes or triplexes with two and three units, respectively. Most multi-family homes have separate entrances for each side and at least one shared wall. They are relatively uncommon compared to other types of residential property but very popular choices for income properties and for multi-generational families.
Condominiums (condos for short) are individual units in one large building or group of buildings. Condos share at least one wall with other units and usually have a community management body or homeowners’ association (HOA). The homeowners’ association requires an additional fee to help pay for upkeep and access to any public areas or amenities. While you can own an individual condo, you don’t own the building itself.
Townhomes can be very similar to both condos and single-family homes. In fact, you can think of them as a combination of the two. The major defining factors for townhomes are that they have at least one shared wall, separate entrances and multiple floors. Most townhomes have individual garages or parking and outdoor spaces like decks patios. Typically townhomes are fewer units per building and more square footage than condos. You can buy and own an individual townhome though you will be very close to your neighbor.
A co-op, short for cooperative, is a multi-unit building that all the residents own together. This means that while everybody has their own unit of living space, everybody shares responsibility for the upkeep of the entire building. Co-ops often have shared spaces for residents to enjoy and usually promote a strong sense of social community among the residents. It’s very common for there to be an interview or other additional steps to apply before you can buy in to the co-op.
What About Rentals?
Except for co-ops, you may find all the above categories of residential property available for rent. Apartments are the most common type of residential rental and compare closely to condominiums. However, apartments are smaller and rarely have an HOA. Otherwise, you can expect to encounter the same terminology in your rental search.
These are all terms that multiple listing services use and therefore most consider them standard. There is always a chance for different vocabulary based on your location, so it’s a good idea to consult a real estate agent if you need help. Once you become familiar with the definitions for residential properties, you will be able to make much more informed choices as well as broaden or narrow your home search to fit your preference.