The pros and cons of different types of houses

aerial photography of rural

From condos to mobile homes, we’ll help you choose which type of home is best for you.

Browsing for a new home is exciting. But a new home is a big financial investment, and you want to make sure you settle on the right kind of property from the start. Having clear objectives from the get-go will save you time when viewing properties and dealing with real estate agents.

One of the best ways to define your objectives is to choose a specific type of house before you get too deep into browsing listings. Why waste your time looking at condos when a backyard for your dog is a must-have? Homes come in all different shapes and sizes, and there’s one out there to suit your specific needs.

In this guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of different home types. By the end, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running with your home search.

Single-family

brown and white concrete house near green trees under blue sky during daytime
A single-family home is a detached, separate dwelling where the buyer owns both the structure and the land

A single-family home is built to accommodate one family, as you might expect. That’s in contrast to multi-family homes, which are often designed as duplexes and triplexes that hold space for multiple families. Detached single-family residences are by far the most popular home type—there are over 200 million single-family units in the U.S. today, compared to just under 40 million multifamily units.

Pros

  • There’s increased storage space for your belongings
  • You’ll enjoy more privacy and independence, with possible outdoor spaces for kids, pets, and gardening
  • You own the land in addition to the home itself
  • Single-family homes maintain their resale value, making them better long-term investments than condos

Cons

  • You’re responsible for all repairs and renovations
  • It may be harder to find single-family homes in highly urban areas
  • You may be subject to the rules of your neighborhood homeowners’ association (HOA), although this isn’t applicable in all circumstances
  • There are usually no shared amenities
  • You’ll pay more for the higher square footage and space of a single-family home

Condo

low angle photo of buildings
Condos are generally more affordable than single-family homes, but are usually smaller with shared amenities

Condominiums are units within larger buildings. In a condo, you’ll share walls with adjacent units in a situation that feels a bit like apartment living. Unlike apartment rentals, you’ll be able to renovate your unit and get involved in building changes. You may be restricted by the building’s HOA when it comes to which remodeling endeavors you’re allowed to undertake, however. To understand whether or not buying a condo is a good investment for you, take a look at our pros and cons list:

Pros

  • You’ll have access to shared amenities, like gyms and pools
  • There’s a built-in community with condo living
  • The common areas will be well cared for and safe
  • Condos typically cost less than detached, single-family homes 
  • They may be a more feasible investment for a vacation property, or if you live in a downtown area or in a location where land is at a premium

Cons

  • Strict HOAs and high maintenance costs can be turn-offs for some potential buyers
  • Condos have less privacy than stand-alone homes 
  • Outdoor space is shared and parking could be a nuisance for you or your guests
  • For growing families, condos may be an impractical housing solution
  • Condos can sometimes be more difficult to finance and be more difficult to re-sell down the line

Townhouse

brown concrete houses near trees
Townhomes often blend the feeling of a single-family home with the convenience of condo living with separate entrances and shared outdoor spaces

A townhouse is part of a series of houses connected in one long row. When you live in a townhouse, you’ll share some walls with your neighbors, but you’ll also likely have access to a private home entrance and non-communal outdoor space. That also means you’ll own the land you live on, unlike with a condo or apartment. Townhouses are multi-floor homes that fit more modest budgets in areas where the cost of living is high.

Pros

  • Townhomes offer the private entrance and yard you expect from a detached home and the shared resources and more reasonable price tag of a condo
  • They’re great investment properties for renting out
  • HOA fees will be lower than they are in single-family communities

Cons

  • Shared walls and close proximity to neighbors means a townhome isn’t the most private option
  • You’re responsible for all repairs and maintenance, just as you would be in a single-family home
  • HOA rules and fees, along with limited parking, are potential downsides to investing in a townhouse

Manufactured/Mobile Homes

white and black wooden house
Manufactured homes are built offsite with prefabricated materials and often offer the most affordable option for people looking for their own, detached space

Manufactured homes, commonly known as mobile homes, are one of the quickest, most affordable ways to become a homeowner. Manufactured homes stand alone and are made of prefabricated materials assembled offsite. For those who can’t afford a detached single-family home or are looking to downsize, it’s worth considering a mobile home. These properties are anchored to the site and are considered mortgageable real estate, unlike trailers and some other mobile options.

Pros

  • Mobile homes are usually the cheapest home type 
  • Maintenance costs are relatively low compared to that of stand-alone homes
  • Today’s mobile home parks foster a sense of community and togetherness
  • Manufactured homes can be larger and more comfortable than you’d expect
  • You won’t have to share walls with your neighbors

Cons

  • There’s still a certain stigma associated with mobile home living
  • Financing your mobile home could prove a challenge, as many lenders view them differently than traditional home types
  • Manufactured homes aren’t like other property types in that their value depreciates over time, making them a poor investment option
  • Manufactured homes tend to be further from city centers and employment hubs than their counterparts
  • Manufactured homes are smaller than most other options and aren’t usually right for growing families

Multi-family houses

Buying a multi-family home allows the buyer to control who their neighbors are and provide great opportunities for multiple generations of a family to live in the same place

This refers specifically to homes like duplexes, triplexes, and quad-plexes. Any property with more than four units is considered commercial and generally is seen as an apartment or condo. But multi-family houses are one home, split into multiple living units—usually with separate entrances and shared outdoor space. 

Pros

  • They are great for multi-generational living where parents, grandparents, and children can live in the same building but not in the same space
  • They are good investments as rental properties, especially for buyers who plan to live on the property to make management easy
  • They are more affordable than single-family options while still giving buyers a sense of living in a house

Cons 

  • Owners bare the maintenance cost
  • They are less private and less spacious than single-family options
  • Buyers would need to put in time and effort to find renters for other units

Co-op

white concrete building near green trees during daytime
Co-ops are similar to condos except that, instead of owning a unit inside the building, all owners share stakes in the whole building itself

Co-ops, or cooperatives, are similar to condos because they consist of many individual living units within one building. But, in a co-op, buyers have a stake in the building itself and own the whole property together. 

Pros

  • Co-ops usually have lower HOA fees since maintenance costs are shared
  • They are often less expensive than other multi-family living options

Cons

  • There is more risk if an owner defaults on their mortgage because the bank could foreclose on the whole building
  • It is harder to buy because there is often an interview process with a co-op board
  • Banks are less likely to provide a loan for a co-op and have more stringent requirements to take out a mortgage

Choosing amongst different types of homes

While the pros and cons of different types of homes could easily fill an entire book, we’ve laid out most of the key points in this article. Choosing a home type can seem overwhelming at first, but chances are your life circumstances will help you narrow the list down. Your budget, privacy concerns, and lifestyle all play a role in helping you choose your ideal home type. Then, the real fun begins: beginning the hunt for the home of your dreams.

FAQ 

What are the different types of houses?

The different types of houses include single-family residences, condos, manufactured homes, multi-family homes, co-ops, and townhomes. Homes come in various styles as well, from ranch to Victorian.

What style of house is most popular?

The most popular house style is single-family detached. Over 60% of Americans live in this kind of home.

Which type of house is best?

Which type of house is best will depend on your unique needs and your resale plans. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to choosing a home for your family.

About the author: By day, Celita Summa is a Florida-based freelance writer specializing in real estate, technology, sustainability, and a plethora of other topics. By night, Celita can be found developing her talents, which include her black belt in karate, her fluent Italian, and her knack for vegan cooking.

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