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What Type of Home is Right for You? A condo, townhome, or single family home?

Home buying is a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You must weigh the pros and cons and test which one is the best fit for you. The price, amount of control, and what is owned are the biggest differences to the three as outlined below.

Price and Fees

Price is influenced by many factors, but generally speaking condos and townhomes are less expensive than single family homes in the same area. (I have seen exceptions in the Northeast where newer constructed townhomes cost more than similarly sized single family homes.)

Townhomes and condos always have home owner association (HOA) fees/dues. These are typically paid on a monthly or annual basis and are used by the HOA to maintain, and in some case improve, the common areas of the property. Roofs, parking areas, and landscape maintenance, are common expenses handled by the HOAs of condo and townhomes.

Amount of Control

Townhomes and condos always have HOAs which create guidelines and rules for what can and cannot be done to the property. These covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCR) lists can be extensive and greatly limit what an owner can do, such as exterior paint colors, what items can be in hallways and balconies, etc. Generally, the CCRs will not place restrictions on what can be done inside the home, although many stipulate window treatments must have white backings so that is the color seen from the outside.

Single-family homes located in a planned community (subdivisions) are likely to have HOAs and CCRs. Home owners are almost always responsible for their own property maintenance and the collected fees are used for shared areas like the community pool and clubhouse.

What’s Owned

Single-family home owners own the rights to the ground, surfaces (including the house and improvements), and air above.

Townhome owners own the rights to the ground, surfaces, and air above in the confines of their townhome but not the common areas which are owned collectively by all owner’s in the development. 

Condo owners own the air space between the walls of their unit. The walls bordering their neighbors, called party walls, are common areas. For example, the grounds and public areas are also owned collectively by all owners in the development.

A variation to condos in large cities is cooperatives or co-ops which share many characteristics with condos except the method of ownership. In co-ops the building is owned by a corporation and owners by shares in the company which grants the right to live there. Co-ops often have stringent application and approval processes.

Other Types of Homes

While these are the most popular types of homes, they certainly are no the only. Manufactured homes have been around for decades and offer buyers an affordable, well-built option. Tiny homes have also made an impact for those in high-cost areas or for those wanting to downsize or follow a minimalist lifestyle. The list doesn’t end there, some areas (particularly tropical locales) are seeing yurts pop-up which is basically a round, tent-like structure sitting on a solid base. With so many options and styles, there is certainly a home to suit anyone’s taste and preferences.

Bottom Line

The type of home to choose comes down to your individual style and preferences. Single-family homes can offer the highest level of control and ownership but usually at a higher price. Townhomes and condos usually include less maintenance, but the owners concede some rights to the HOA.


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