Are you thinking of buying or building a new home? Whether you’re after an investment property or a place to live, there are several options to explore as you approach what may be the single biggest purchase of your life. Read on to find out more about the various types of residential housing - detached homes, semi-detached homes, townhomes, condominiums, and mobile homes.
The embodiment of the American Dream, a detached house has it all - privacy, yard space, and the freedom to customize as you see fit. The walls are not shared with neighbors, neither is the land, nor the heating, cooling, plumbing, or electrical systems. Most jurisdictions consider detached homes “single-family”, yet allow a degree of freedom to rent out converted garages, bedrooms, attics, and backyard units.
If you’re ready to revel in the privacy and freedom of a detached single-family home, you’ve got some homework to do, as there are several ways for you to own one.
If you’re drawn to a fresh start and want to have your home done your way, building may be the best route to take. You have two options: build a custom home on your own lot, or choose from the available plan and lot packages offered by production builders.
Building a custom home gives you the most flexibility to choose your features and tailor the building to your vision. The freedom comes with challenges - finding suitable land, designing from scratch, arranging utility connections and planning around easements. Thanks to the added design fees, and a lack of economies of scale, custom homes tend to cost more than their cookie-cutter counterparts.
Choosing a production home limits your liberty to customize, although variations in flooring, paint, kitchen cabinetry and other finishes usually exist, and cater to an array of budgets. Another downside is the rapid production scale and limited professional oversight during construction, both of which can compromise the quality of the house you purchase. A major advantage is having less hassle with site work and services, as the developer takes care of these issues for the entire community of homes they’re building. As well, the land will come as a package with the house and is one less thing for you to worry about.
Would you rather buy than build? As long as you’re happy with the neighborhood and the general configuration of the house, there’s plenty you can do to make the home your own. Keep in mind, however, that while renovating may be less cumbersome than building ground-up, you may still spend a good chunk of money on the project. Older homes often hide conditions that can induce significant repair costs. If you opt for buying, protect yourself from nasty surprises and hire a professional to assess the home’s condition before you sign the contract.
Once you own your home, be prepared to tackle all repairs and maintenance on your own. If you’re building a new house, there are ways you can protect yourself against flaws caused by shoddy workmanship; make sure to research your home warranty options.
A semi-detached home is part of a pair of dwellings joined by a wall. Aside from the common wall, semi-detached homes share many features with their detached counterparts. There’s yard space for you to customize, as well as many of the exterior and most interior design features. Despite being smaller and less exclusive than a detached house, this type of dwelling still offers more space and privacy than you’d get in a townhouse or a condominium. Its lower price point makes for another appealing feature.
If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of space and privacy in return for lower purchase or construction costs, then a semi-detached home may be right for you. The options for building or buying are similar to those of detached houses, although building a custom semi-detached home isn’t feasible unless you build both dwellings. This scenario would afford you with an excellent investment opportunity, as you could live in one dwelling, while renting the other one out, or using it to accommodate family members.
Before committing to a purchase, consider the implications of having neighbors. These extend beyond privacy. There are certain repairs, for example, that you will have to share with these people, such as the roof or parts of the structure. As well, unless your neighbor matches their exterior to yours, and takes equally good care of their lawn, your home’s curb appeal may be compromised. That said, sometimes these kinks can be ironed out with a maintenance agreement. If budget is a priority and you’re willing to be patient and compromise with your neighbor, then a semi-detached home may be right for you.
A townhome is an individual dwelling unit attached to a multi-unit complex. Typical townhomes have a smaller footprint than detached or semi-detached houses, yet afford more living space than condominiums thanks to their multiple floors.
Historically, townhomes were urban dwellings, and many older ones are found in the inner bounds of large North American cities. Today, you’re just as likely to come across townhomes in the suburbs or beyond, and they still offer a reasonable compromise between space, privacy, and cost.
Your options for building a new townhome are rather limited. You can purchase a pre-construction unit that’s part of a larger development, just keep in mind that you may only be able to customize the interior.
If the townhome is a freehold, as many older, inner-city ones are, then you’ll be able to alter your home’s appearance and function as long as you stay within the bounds of local zoning bylaws and homeowner association rules. As with detached and semi-detached homes, you’ll have to shoulder all repair and maintenance costs.
With a condominium title, any alterations you envision will be subject to the rules of your condo board. You’ll also have to pay condo maintenance fees, in return for which the board will keep the property in good repair. That said, fixing broken items inside your unit may still be your responsibility. Unlike multi-family condominium units, townhouse condos typically do allow a greater degree of ownership, and you have more flexibility for altering interior and exterior features of your home.
The multi-family residential classification includes highrise, mid-rise, and low-rise buildings fitted with individual housing units. This category extends to apartment buildings, condominiums, and coops, and is common in urban areas. Of these, only condominiums are considered “real estate“, or property which you can own. If you want to invest in budget-friendly accommodations with few repairs to worry about, buying a condo may be right for you.
As with townhomes, buying a pre-construction condominium in a multi-story building offers you a chance to be the unit’s first owner. Besides having fewer repairs and renovations to worry about, this option is often the most budget-friendly, as new condo units typically come with lower maintenance fees. These fees increase gradually as the building ages and must be factored in if you opt to purchase an older, cheaper condo unit.
Other, more obvious things to keep in mind are the lack of privacy, reduced space, and little freedom to alter major components of the home. Remember that a condominium title only gives you ownership of the airspace between the walls of your unit, and no land is conveyed during the purchase. If these constraints are not an issue, a condo can be an excellent choice for first-time buyers or folks who prefer denser, urban locations and shorter commutes downtown.
Mobile homes are typically produced in factories, then delivered to the site, which may be a mobile home park, leased land, or land you own.
There are many benefits to owning a mobile home. Nowadays, such homes can be manufactured to match floor plans of traditional stick-built houses, while commanding a fraction of the cost. Flexibility is another advantage - thanks to the mobile nature of these homes, and the lack of a traditional foundation, they can be moved off the site. If you already own land but have to phase the construction of a custom home due to cash flow, you can use a mobile home as a temporary residence while you wait.
On the downside, mobile homes depreciate over time, and as such should not be considered an investment. They’ve also fared poorly in earthquakes, due to the common absence of adequate foundation connections. Before you buy a mobile home in California, find out whether it comes equipped with appropriate seismic bracing mechanisms.
Do you feel that building a new home is the right path to take? Or, did you fall in love with a gorgeous old home that needs repairs?
We can help. Our engineers offer a full suite of design services for ground-up and remodeling projects. We can also inspect a building you want to purchase to identify adverse structural conditions and other defects. To find out more, call us at (877) 704-6765 or email us at email@example.com.