When it’s time to choose a home, there are many factors to consider. Things like finances, utility services, location, and other considerations must be weighed in the condo vs house, townhouse vs house, and house vs house decision. Luckily, there are many types of homes, each suited to different lifestyles, needs, and priorities.
A home is generally one of the most valuable assets a person will ever own. One option for aspiring home owners is a “starter home.” Starter homes are usually the first home bought and are smaller one or two bedroom houses purchased for the shorter term. As houses have historically increased in value over time, a starter home can later be sold for more than it was bought, and the profits used to help purchase the next larger or more desirable home.
Single-family homes are usually purchased using a mortgage that is paid off over the course of 15 or 30 years. There are specific requirements to qualify for a mortgage, such as proof of income, good credit history, and a cash down payment. Some states even require the oversight of a lawyer, but a lawyer does not need to be involved when selling a house in Virginia.
When considering different types of homes, it’s important to know that some single-family homes, and all townhomes and condos, have homeowners associations (HOAs) that require monthly dues. There are clear benefits to buying a home in an HOA community, but make sure to learn about HOA rules and responsibilities before doing so. Compared to these other types of homes, owning a single-family home has pros and cons:
- Single family homeowners also own the land the home sits on, which may not be the case for a condo or townhouse.
- Single family homeowners have no restrictions on altering, decorating, and using their home and land (as long as it is legal and don’t violate HOA restrictions).
- These homes usually have a yard and are ideal for those with pets and for people who like to garden.
- Most single-family homeowners are required to do all maintenance and repair tasks which can become expensive.
- Single family homeowners may not have access to shared amenities like pools or gyms that are common in apartments.
- Single family homes are usually more expensive than condos, townhouses, or manufactured homes.
- Altogether, single family homes are best suited for families that take pride in maintaining and repairing their own home. They are also appealing for pet owners, or people who wish to garden in their own yard. Because of their relatively high cost, however, these homes may be more suitable for someone with a higher income, significant savings, or a couple with two incomes.
Apartments are rented units in larger residential buildings. The main difference between an apartment vs house, townhouse vs apartment, or apartment vs condo is that apartments are rented and townhouses and condos are owned. They’ve often been thought of as a short-term option, but that’s not always the case. In Washington D.C., apartments are a very popular housing option, and the city is even starting to innovate with shared co-living spaces. Here are some pros and cons of living in an apartment:
- Apartment renters don’t pay taxes, HOA dues or other costs associated with home ownership.
- Apartments are low maintenance because the landlord is usually responsible for all repairs.
- Unlike a mortgage, a lease is not a decades-long commitment, so apartments may be ideal for someone who doesn’t plan to stay in one place long-term.
- Often located in downtown areas, apartments may offer a shorter commute to someone who works in the city.
- Apartment leases may be more restrictive than HOA rules; they may not allow pets, for example.
- Unlike homeowners, Renters won’t accumulate any equity in an apartment over time.
Apartment owners don’t get any of the tax benefits of home ownership.
Many people ask, what is the difference between a condo and a townhouse? A townhouse has shared walls like an apartment or condo, but is usually larger. Also, unlike a condo, a townhouse includes the land the house sits on. Townhouses are popular in places where the cost of living is unusually high, like several areas of Maryland. Here are some townhouse pros and cons:
- Townhouses are generally less expensive than single-family houses, but may still have a yard and private entrance.
- Townhouses may be bigger in size than apartments or condos.
- They may offer the benefits of communal resources and a shared environment, but offer more privacy than a condo.
- Townhouses still have an HOA, but the dues are usually lower than for a single-family home in a managed neighborhood.
- Like homeowners, townhouse owners can gain equity with each monthly payment on their mortgage.
- Townhomes can be good investment properties when rented out.
- Townhouses may be more expensive than condos.
- Like with condos and single-family homes, the owner is responsible for repairs.
- Townhouses offer less privacy than a single-family home because they have shared walls.
- Townhouses may offer fewer amenities like pools, gyms, common spaces, and security than condos.
A townhouse may be ideal for a family that wants to live in a housing community but wants more privacy than a condo or apartment. However, a townhouse vs house could be a challenging decision for those who want less maintenance, more freedom, or a lower cost.
A condo – short for condominium – is unit in a shared building that is usually smaller than a townhome but with access to shared common areas. Many people struggle with buying a condo vs house options, but there are many potential benefits of condo ownership (and a few pitfalls as well!)
- Condos vs houses are low maintenance because outdoor spaces, roofs, shared electrical and plumbing, and other features are covered by the HOA.
- Condos can be relatively inexpensive, but they still usually offer amenities like gyms, pools, and common spaces.
- Condo owners can gain equity in their investments.
- Condos may even turn their purchase into an apartment rental if the market conditions are right.
- A condo can be a good vacation rental or secondary residences in expensive cities and resort areas.
- Condos usually have strict HOAs that limit owner freedom.
- Condos are smaller in size and offer less privacy than townhouses or single family homes.
- They may not be a good long-term option for a growing family, which may quickly outgrow the small space.
So, what is the difference between a condo and a townhouse? Not too much! Like townhouses, condos are a popular option for first-time property owners. They also work well as a primary residence an investment.
Mobile Home/Manufactured Home
A mobile home or manufactured home is a stand-alone unit made of prefabricated materials. The major components are assembled elsewhere and put together at the final location, or the home is transported as a whole. Despite any stigma people may associate with living in a mobile or manufactured home, these homes have real benefits. They are becoming a particularly good option for seniors who are looking to downsize. Here are some pros and cons of living in a mobile home:
- Mobile and manufactured homes are very inexpensive compared to other types of homes and generally more efficient.
- Major components of mobile homes are less expensive to repair and replace than single-family homes.
- Mobile homes can be relocated if needed.
- They and are easily customizable.
- If located in a mobile home park, the homeowner will not own the land the home sits on.
- Mobile homes do not gain the same amount of equity and value appreciation over time as other types of homes.
- It may be harder to finance a mobile or manufactured home, as many lenders will not offer the same mortgage options available for other types of homes.
- Because of size limitations, mobile and manufactured homes may be challenging for larger families to live in.
The pros and cons of manufactured home living leave a lot to think about. Many people considering these types of homes may be interested in tiny houses as well.
Tiny houses are manufactured or mobile homes that are carefully designed to take advantage of a very small space. These types of homes are gaining in popularity among people seeking to minimize and simplify their lives or live in a more ecologically sustainable manner. Here are some pros and cons of tiny house living:
- Tiny houses are cute, unique, and often come with a smaller carbon footprint.
- They’re very inexpensive compared to single-family houses.
- Tiny houses all often customizable and mobile like manufactured homes.
- Their current novelty and popularity also makes them a potentially valuable short-term rental.
- Similar to other mobile and manufactured homes, lenders will not loan money for tiny houses with the same flexibility as a condo, townhouse, or single-family house.
- Many communities also have restrictions on building and renting them.
There are so many different types of homes, the difference between buying a condo vs house, townhouse vs house, tiny home vs mobile home, or just renting an apartment can be a challenging decision. But suffice it to say – there’s something for everyone!