House-hunters have a lot of decisions to make when looking to buy their first home — what’s their budget, where do they want to live, and what type of home they should buy? Answering these questions will help your real estate agent find listings that are best suited for your needs and make the home search process easier for everyone involved.
But what’s considered a mansion vs. a single family home? And what’s the difference between a condo and a townhouse? Before you begin your home search, understand the unique difference between these home types to find what is right for you.
Mansions are usually single-family homes that are large in size — much larger than the average home — and have luxury features such as entertainment facilities, libraries, or home gyms. They are typically outfitted with lavish landscaping, as well as high-quality appliances and design features throughout the home.
Price is not an indication of whether or not a property is considered a mansion, although mansions are usually expensive. A two bedroom apartment in Manhattan very well may cost more than a sprawling mansion in Indianapolis. Mansions are usually classified by their square footage — while there’s no strict rule, any single-family home above 5,000 square feet can be considered a mansion.
Sometimes, historic homes are dubbed “mansion” without being classified as one. These homes got their titles from their original owners, and it has no bearing on their home type.
Owning a mansion doesn’t just mean living in the lap of luxury. It has some drawbacks along with all of its advantages:
Now that you have a better understanding of what these different home types are like, here’s a quick review of their most important differences. If you already know what type of home you want to buy, you can tell your realtor which types to exclude from your search. Popular online home searching websites also let you refine your search to exclude certain types of properties. While mansions aren’t usually one of these options, you can typically filter by single-family home, condo, and townhouse.
A single-family home is what is typically depicted as a traditional house in American media. While many people may just use the term “house” to describe a single-family home, it is a specific type of residential property that stands alone, detached from other properties.
As their name suggests, single-family homes are designed for just one owner or family unit to reside in and have ownership over. Owners are responsible for maintaining every aspect of a single-family home on their own, unless there is a neighborhood HOA to help maintain landscaping.
Buying a single-family home is a lot of responsibility, but is a good fit for those who have a large family or pets and need some extra storage space and privacy. Here are a few other factors to consider:
Related: What is a duplex and should I buy one?
Single-family homes can be a great choice for those who are ready to take on the the cons as well as the pros of this type of home:
A condo (short for condominium) requires the least amount of work on an ongoing basis, which is a major draw for those who work or travel a lot.
Condo owners don’t own the land the house resides on. The land and the exterior parts of the home are considered to be a common area, all of which are collectively owned by all of the condo owners in the community. These areas are not the owners’ individual responsibility, but condo-owners do need to pay for their maintenance.
Condo complexes tend to have hefty HOA fees that cover the costs of exterior maintenance for your unit, as well as insurance, landscaping, and services like trash removal. HOA fees also cover costs associated with any community amenities like pools or gyms.
Condos are a great fit for those who want to focus on their career or need to scale back their responsibilities so they can enjoy a leisurely retirement.
While condos offer a lot of advantages to those who want to scale-down, they do come with some drawbacks, too.
Townhouses (also known as townhomes) share a wall with another residence, making it easy to confuse this type of property with a condo. While townhouses are usually attached side to side and many condos are stacked, you will on occasion come across a condo complex that attaches the properties vertically.
Townhouses are never stacked on top of each other because when you buy a townhouse, you also buy the land that it sits on. This level of ownership is the main differentiator between a condo and townhouse. With a townhouse, you’ll likely also need to pay HOA fees to cover maintenance costs and insurance for the common area of your community, but you’ll be responsible for maintaining the exterior of your home.
Townhouses tend to cost less than single-family homes, but are more low-maintenance due to their smaller lot size (similar to a condo). You may find that a townhouse helps you save money, and you get the perks of being a landowner.
The main difference between condos and townhouses is the land ownership. Townhome owners own the land and their home, whereas condo owners only own the condo and not the land the condo was built on. Because of this, condos are often more affordable than townhouses. Sometimes townhouse is used to describe an architectural style of home in a large urban city that is narrow and thin and these homes won’t necessarily belong to an HOA.
If you already know what type of home you want to buy, you can tell your realtor which types to exclude from your search. Popular online home searching websites also let you refine your search to exclude certain types of properties. While mansions aren’t usually one of these options, you can typically filter by single-family home, condo, and townhouse.
Which type of home is the best fit for you will depend on your unique needs and lifestyle. Do you want to own land or do you want a bit less responsibility? Are you on the hunt for a home that can provide a lot of privacy or is your goal to save on property taxes? Don’t let the name attached to the property you want sway you, instead focus on how buying that property will affect your finances and lifestyle. If you're looking to buy a new home and sell your old one, consider working with Orchard. We'll give you a guaranteed offer on your old home so you can become a non-contingent buyer on the new one.
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