How to Select the Best Type of Home to Buy

View of new homes in rowPlease welcome Diana Fishlock of Zillow who was kind enough to post for me during my maternity leave!

Choosing a home is a big decision with far-reaching implications. Homebuyers should think beyond price and community, and consider their lifestyles and which types of houses will fit their needs long-term.

Potential buyers should consider how they feel about lawn mowing, home maintenance and privacy. Buyers who determine their preferences ahead of time avoid being drawn in by pretty facades and experiencing buyer’s remorse.

Here’s an overview of property types for buyers to consider:

Single-Family Detached

For buyers who want privacy and the freedom to remodel, single-family houses are great. They range from quaint little bungalows and modest ranch houses to austere Victorians and sprawling McMansions. Each single-family home has its own plot of land, typically with a front and back yard. Open spaces allow homeowners options for patios, landscaping and outdoor furniture.

Single-family detached houses aren’t attached to other homes, such as a double-family or a row house. Residents are more likely able to play their music loudly or read quietly without feeling like the neighbors are right on top of them. Alternatively, these homeowners don’t benefit from close neighbors who crank up their heat in the winter, warming their homes in the process.

Homeowners of single-family properties are responsible for all the repairs and maintenance. They must maintain their lawns, clean their gutters, clear away snow and keep up with standard home repairs. The true cost of owning a home includes insurance, mortgage payments and maintenance.

Planned or gated communities offer amenities such as heighted security and shared pool houses but are often more expensive. Many communities have homeowners associations (HOA) that limit homeowners’ choices on upgrades such as paint color, length of time guests can stay and how many cars can park at a property. HOAs charge homeowners monthly dues and require additional fees when they deem the community needs updating.


Townhouses typically cost less than single-family detached homes, but still provide small yards for buyers who enjoy outdoor play and gardening. These homes are almost always multi-level with ground floor entrances. Townhome owners share at least one wall with their neighbors, providing heating benefits. Sharing walls with neighbors can create close relationships for borrowing a cup of sugar or letting family pets play together. However, neighbors may feel too close when they overhear howling pets, loud music and family arguments.

Houses with two units side-by-side in one building that share a common wall are called duplexes, semi-detached or double houses. These properties sometimes have shared porches and yards. Some inner cities or new developments offer row houses, which have several homes attached in a row. Many row houses do not have yards and instead offer community parks or green spaces for families and pets. Townhouses often have HOAs that limit remodeling and property upgrades, but generally take care of community landscaping and park maintenance.


Condos are perfect for buyers who want to spend less time mowing lawns and repairing things, and more time indoors. Condos are apartment-like units within a single building and are typically one-story or lofted units. Residents may be able to hear their neighbors’ conversations, music or gatherings but condos are typically more private than townhouses where neighbors get to know each other outdoors. Condo dwellers own the inside of their units and a small percentage of their property’s roof, exterior walls and any shared facilities such as pools, exercise rooms or parks.

Condominium associations collect monthly fees from all owners to maintain the properties. Also these fees typically cover the hazard insurance on the buildings themselves, while the individual owners pay renter’s insurance to cover their personal property. Condos give owners freedom from time-consuming maintenance tasks and often cost less than single-family homes since all owners share the expenses.

Cooperative Housing

Residents of cooperatives don’t own their apartments but own shares of the corporation that owns the apartments. Like condominiums, inner-city cooperative apartments charge residents fees to manage their properties and require residents to follow rules to live there.

Residents don’t need to worry about repairs, maintenance or even paying the mortgage or property taxes. Shareholders vote on decisions affecting the corporation, including who can live there. Some co-ops divide funds among the shareholders. When they move out, they sell their shares.

Buyers have several options for owning homes or shares of buildings. Spending some time considering priorities can help buyers decide what’s best for them. Prospective buyers should seek out the level of privacy and home maintenance that best suits their personalities and budgets to create happy homes where they can live for many years.

What type of home do you live in?

For Everyone Who Wants to Buy a House in 2014

granite countertopI still can’t believe it’s almost 2014, y’all. Seriously, where did the time go?

I’m on vacation right now but when I get back, I’m going to write a post all about 2013, what worked, what didn’t, etc. but for now I’m thinking of all the people with really big goals for 2014.

I’ve been seeing a few New Year’s Resolutions from people who want to buy a house this year or people who really want to whip their finances into shape. I think that’s awesome, mostly because I can live vicariously through them (because you know I’m not going to be buying a house anytime soon, which I explained in this post.)

Still, for everyone who wants to buy in 2014, here are some things to think about:

Your Credit Rating

Keeping your credit rating high is incredibly important, as it greatly affects your ability to get a good interest rate for your mortgage. Even .5% or 1% of difference in your interest rate over 30 years can mean saving thousands and thousands of dollars. So, make sure to get a free credit report and solve any adverse credit issues before talking to a lender.

Most lenders will offer you an APR after an assessment of your credit rating. Those with anything less than a squeaky clean credit rating won’t be applicable for the typical rates and will be offered higher interest rates. There are companies that will give mortgage loans to those with bad credit (my readers abroad can check out Just Bad Credit Mortgages for example) but the best thing to do to get the best interest rate is to make sure your credit rating is as awesome as possible.

Live Within Your Means

Remember when I had a bit of a rant about all the crazies on HGTV? Yeah, please don’t be one of them. Just because you get approved for a certain # when buying a house doesn’t mean you have to spend that amount. Sit down and create a budget or at least look at how much money you’ve spent over the past few months. That will help you determine what you can afford. Don’t forget to factor in life’s little surprises that all homeowners have to face like plumbing emergencies, etc.

Ultimately, if you plan on buying a house this year, all the best of luck! We’re cheering you on and hoping that you get the best interst rate and make wise decisions about budgets and what you can afford.

How many of you will be moving or buying/selling a house this coming year?