What type of home fits you best? There are pros and cons for each one: single-family detached, townhouses, condos and co-ops. It will come down to what works for your life – and your finances.
This is a free-standing, unattached dwelling that usually rests on a lot larger than the home itself, which we’ll call a yard. Single-family is distinguished from a multi-family residential dwelling where several units are contained in one structure.
Pros: You own both the structure and the land. You can modify both to suit your own tastes (unless you buy into a planned community with its own restrictions). If you want to knock out a wall and expand, no one can say “no,” so long as you obey zoning regulations. You’re the king or queen of your own castle.
Cons: Everything’s on you – mowing the grass, fixing the foundation, spraying for termites. Unless you live in a development with an active homeowners association (HOA), there’s no governing body or board to help you make decisions or share the tab.
Also called townhomes, these homes are connected by shared walls and often have common driveways. Townhomes once were considered small, cookie-cutter dwellings. These days, they can be lavish, large and individual, with open floor plans and elevators.
Pros: You’re part of a community with neighbors who are, literally, spitting distance away so it works if you like gossiping over the fence. Also, many communities offer amenities like gyms, pools, golf courses and spas as part of common charges or available for an annual fee.
Cons: Townhomes are attached or clustered together so that you sometimes can hear your neighbors and they can hear yours. Landscaping and yard maintenance – if you have a yard – is often the individual’s responsibility, although common areas are usually cared for by the community. Also, because your townhome is part of a greater whole, you may be assessed to fund repairs of parking areas, exterior painting and other maintenance tasks for common areas.
Condos are usually similar to apartments but you own it outright. Like a single-family dwelling, and unlike a co-op, you own a deed to your condo. But unlike a single-family home, you are attached to neighbors typically by common walls, floors, and ceilings. You also share common areas like a lobby, party room, and other amenities.
Pros: You own your place and do what you’d like, within the confines of your condo association rules. There’s no yard to mow or exteriors to paint. Condos are usually more affordable than single-family detached homes and have offer amenities.
Cons: You pay monthly homeowner’s association (HOA) fees to fund maintenance, common-area repairs, insurance and a contingency fund. You have association rules to follow, which can control everything from how you pitch your trash to what furniture you’re allowed to place on your balcony. And like any unit that shares walls, privacy may be an issue.
A co-op (short for cooperative) resemble condominiums but are a legal entity consisting of individuals who together own the entire property. When you buy into a co-op, you don’t own your own unit; rather you own shares in a corporation that entitle you to live in one of the units under a proprietary lease or occupancy agreement.
Pros: Because you are buying “shares” not a “deed,” purchasing property in a co-op is often less expensive than in a condo. The co-ops board votes on all major decisions, including who can buy into the building.
Cons: The co-op board is all knowing and all powerful. It approves potential residents, and it can evict a resident, just like a landlord. Co-op boards can reject buyers for no stated reason (though by law it can’t discriminate), making it harder to sell your shares. It can also reject a subletting tenant. When it comes to renovations, the board can reject plans or the project entirely if it conflicts with its goals or scheduling priorities. Also, monthly co-op association dues are usually higher than condo-dues because they include real estate taxes and some utility charges.