Learn about the types of homes on the market.
What kind of home do you want? Let's start with some definitions.
A single-family detached house is a dwelling that doesn't share walls with another dwelling. It may also include a yard or garden. The homeowner owns both the structure and the property.
Condominiums (condos) are usually apartments or other dwellings that typically share adjoining walls with other units and share other common spaces. If you buy a condominium, you typically own your unit, the space inside your walls, and a portion of the common areas.
Cooperatives (co-op)s may look like condominiums, but if you buy a cooperative you buy stock in the company that physically owns the property. Since cooperatives usually require board approval for you to buy, they can be harder to finance because they can be harder to resell.
Manufactured housing is a dwelling built in a factory, transported to a site, and attached to a foundation. Units typically called mobile homes are the most familiar type of manufactured housing.
For each of these options, you may also choose from existing, newly constructed, or to be built homes.
Let's look at each of these options in more detail.
Single-family detached homes come in a large range of sizes and prices from the 800 sq. ft. mini to the multi-million dollar mansion. They offer the most privacy but can represent the most work for the homeowner. Some typical maintenance tasks may include mowing grass, raking leaves, maintaining gardens and landscape, shoveling snow, painting, cleaning out roof gutters, and much more depending on the home's age, geographical location, and property/lot size and features.
The term condominium actually refers to the form of ownership not the type of structure. Condominiums can take almost any form: for example, a high-rise building or an old mansion divided into apartments. Or units in some cases may be free-standing (i.e., they don't have to have shared walls) or townhomes. When you buy a condominium, you aren't just buying your unit and a share of the common areas but you are “buying into” the community. Condo living may not be for you if you don't want to participate in the community. Before buying, it is very important that you review the master deed (or enabling declaration), bylaws, and house rules at a minimum.
With a co-op, you are buying a share in a corporation not a piece of property. Financing for a co-op is not obtained through a traditional mortgage. Financing is usually in the form of a “share loan.” Information about obtaining a share loan for a particular co-op should be available in the co-op's office.
Manufactured homes have come a long way from the simple, boxy single-wide mobile home. According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, construction costs per square foot for a new manufactured home average anywhere from 10 to 35 percent less than a comparable site-built home, excluding the cost of the land. Newer manufactured homes are typically built to more stringent construction and safety standards than in the old days, but many types may still be more prone to damage during severe weather. They are available in a variety of designs, floor plans, and amenities. A home may be placed on land you own or land you lease, but many communities and counties have precise, often broad restrictions on where and what type manufactured housing are permissible.
An existing home, particularly an older one, may be in an established neighborhood with varied architectural styles, broad range of colors, and building materials. Homeowners may have added special features (which may be good or bad). The right older home may offer a number of benefits. Among the potential drawbacks of some existing homes are the following. Certain styles and sizes of older homes may have smaller rooms including the baths and kitchen and may lack storage space. Existing homes may require some renovation or remodeling to fit your needs, may require more ongoing maintenance and may require more immediate major repairs, such as replacing the roof or furnace or hot water heater.
You will find the latest kitchen and bath designs and floor plans in newly constructed homes. All of the homes in a new subdivision may look very similar in architecture, color, and material. Room sizes may be larger than an existing home with more storage space, though this is not always the case. Many new homes are built to higher energy-efficient standards than older homes and potentially fitted with more energy efficient appliances. The housing development may also offer certain recreational facilities or other amenities. You should never assume, however, that new construction necessarily means a well-built home or a home without problems; smart buyers always have any home independently inspected.
Building a home can provide you with more choices but can provide more stress. Whether you work with an architect and independent contractor or with a developer, you may have many options and choices or only a few. For example, a developer may offer the choice of many upgrades of their standard features—such as flooring, cabinets, or paint—but very little choice in changing the floor plan. A custom builder may give you more flexibility in floor plan and every part of your home. Depending on the developer or contractor, you may also be able to keep a close eye on progress and quality of the work during construction (good) or the builder may actively discourage homeowner involvement (red flag).