Buying your first home is a huge step in one’s life. You’re building equity, gaining independence, and assuming a lot of responsibility. That means you also have to take a lot into consideration, from budget and location to the actual type of home. We’ll break down those three main types of homes and explore what you’ll need to know to prosper in your chosen space.
A single-family home is a standalone house on its own plot of land. When looking at comparable homes in the same region, single-family homes will likely be the most expensive. Single-family homes have a tendency to appreciate better than condos, which is something to keep in mind if you eventually plan to sell. They also offer the most independence and privacy of the three options, but do come with a lot of responsibility.
- Indoor Maintenance: Maintaining the home is up to the owner. After the inspection and closing, anything that goes wrong with the house is going to fall on the homeowner’s shoulders. Stay on top of minor repairs, keep a toolkit handy, and always know how to find the waterline shut-off valves.
- Outdoor Maintenance: Depending on neighborhood standards and homeowners association regulations, the homeowner is responsible for keeping the house exterior and property spic and span. This means maintenance and upkeep for all seasons, whether you’re shoveling the sidewalk outside your house in the winter, mowing the lawn in the spring, raking leaves in the fall, or keeping the collection of cars on blocks out of view.
- HOA: This varies based on location, but most established neighborhoods will have an HOA, or Homeowners Association. Depending on how much the HOA does in your neighborhood, your fees can be minimal and paid once a year, or more robust with monthly dues.
- Privacy: This is where the single-family home takes the cake. You’re in your own space, with your own yard, and no one through the walls except other members of your family.
- Amenities: Depending on the city, single-family homes come with no added amenities.
- Taxes: The more your home is valued at, the higher your property taxes. This is the same percentage across the board, no matter what type of home you buy.
A duplex is a stand-alone building with two separate living units, divided by a demising wall. Pricewise, a duplex will come in between a single-family home and a condo in a larger building. These are a great option for people who want more privacy and space than a condo offers, but aren’t ready to put the bucks down for a single-family home. Indoor Maintenance: As the owner of one of two units, you are responsible for maintenance in your unit, as well as individual bills. Any shared plumbing and pipeline maintenance is split.
- Outdoor Maintenance: You’ll be teamed up with the people in the other unit for things like fence repair and yard work in shared spaces. Duplex owners will save money with shared roof maintenance, as well as other major building maintenance split between the two owners.
- HOA: An HOA for a duplex will provide the same amount of support and regulations as a single-family home, based on the neighborhood.
- Privacy: If your duplex comes with a backyard, there is probably a privacy fence between the two spaces, but many of them have one yard and driveway in the front. You are also sharing a wall with the other unit.
- Amenities: Water is usually split between the units, but both homeowners are responsible for their own maintenance and upkeep.
- Taxes: Like single-family homes and condos, property taxes on a duplex are assessed based on the property value of the individual unit.
A condo is one unit in a multi-unit building, similar to an apartment building. A condo in a larger multi-unit building is the least expensive option, which makes them a good choice for first-time buyers. They also come with the benefit of support that comes with owning a condo. Most larger condo buildings have a maintenance and repair team, which makes repairs and upkeep far less intimidating. You’ll trade that off in space and fees, but it can be worth it.
- Indoor Maintenance: Minor repairs are the responsibility of the unit owner, but if something is really wrong with the plumbing, electric, or structure, most condo associations or developments have a maintenance team on call.
- Outdoor Maintenance: Most developments have a crew cleaning the gutters, clearing snow off the roof, plowing the parking lot, and taking care of the community outdoor spaces. How nice is that?
- Fees: Condo fees might seem like a downside to owning a condo, but they remove significant bill-pay responsibility from the owners. Condo fees can cover water, sewer, and electricity—all individual bills you’d be paying in a single-family home. Fees can also include insurance policies on the building as a whole. However, unlike being locked into a fixed-rate mortgage, your condo fees can increase over time, and condo owners are subject to paying both condo fees and an HOA fee.
- HOA: Condos also have HOAs, and the fees can be higher depending on how much the HOA or condo association is responsible for. The HOA fees cover maintenance on common areas and building upkeep.
- Privacy: You have your own unit, but some condos open to the interior, which means you share hallways and stairwells, and larger buildings might not have individual entrances for each unit. Smaller buildings can have their own entrances and private porches, but you’ll be sharing common areas such as yards, driveways, and parking lots.
- Amenities: Those condo fees cover yard work in all seasons, property maintenance, roof work, and major repair issues. Condo associations are usually on top of their game for resident needs, providing support in individual units as well.
- Taxes: As far as taxes go, condos are considered separate units, even though they share a building with other units. Taxes for a condo will be similar to a duplex or single-family home, assessed on the value of the unit.