What is a single-family home?

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In the real estate world, there are a dizzying number of terms everyone should know and understand. This is especially true if you’re shopping for a new home, since you’ll need to know the terms used to describe different types of real property and become familiar with the financial details involved with taking out a mortgage.

The term “single-family home” is one you’ve probably heard a lot. But what exactly is a single-family home, and how does it differ from other types of houses?

In most cases, a single-family home is exactly what you’d expect it to be: a freestanding home on its own plot of land.

A single-family home is an independent residential structure that sits on its own land and is designed to be used as a single dwelling unit, with its own kitchen, walls, and utilities.

Alternatively, you might want to think about a broader definition: A single-family house, according to the US Census Bureau, can be fully detached, semi-detached, a row house, or a townhome. They do note, however, that a dwelling attached to other homes must be separated from the adjacent unit by a ground-to-roof wall in order to be considered a single-family home. Additionally, units that are connected in some way must not share heating, air-conditioning, or utility systems, nor must they have units above or below.

What’s the difference between a single-family home and a multi-family home?

You may be wondering if a single property that hosts multiple units can be considered a single-family home. An example might be a brick structure on a single lot that has a regular residence and two small apartments upstairs.

A single-family home cannot have multiple units because it doesn’t meet the characteristics of housing set by U.S. government agencies. A single-family home could never include multiple units because they would share interior walls and potentially have their own kitchens and utilities.

Pros and cons of living in a single-family home

If you’re thinking about buying a single-family home, there are some important benefits and drawbacks to consider. However, the benefits and drawbacks will differ depending on where you live and the type of single-family home you’re considering. As a result, think about how this list fits into your specific situation.

Pros of  a single-family home:

  • More privacy: Since single-family homes usually sit on a piece of private property and don’t share walls means you have a lot more privacy. Also, noise level does not usually matter in a single-family home because neighbors cannot hear you.
  • More storage space: Single-family homes typically have more storage space compared to condos and other types of property with shared walls, Ross adds. Many have room for exterior storage space, such as a shed, garage or barn.
  • More options for exterior decor: A single-family homes make it easier to personalize your landscaping. You can also build onto or modify the structure more easily if you have a single-family home.

Cons of a single-family home:

  • Fewer ways to use your property to earn income: When comparing single-family homes to multi-family homes, it’s hard to deny that multi-family homes have more income potential. You could live in one unit and rent out the other units in a multi-family property, for example.
  • Potential for more responsibility: If you own a single-family home instead of a condo or townhome that is part of an HOA that provides some basic services, you’ll have to hire help to deal with maintenance and repairs or do it all yourself.
  • Single-family homes can cost more: This is especially true if you’re buying a home on a large lot with a big backyard and a garage. However, you should check housing costs in your area to make sure this is true where you live. The good news is there’s no monthly HOA fee when you own a single-family home outside an association.

Who are single-family homes best for?

There is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” way to buy a house, just as there is no such thing as a “perfect” home to suit everyone’s tastes. Some families prefer a single-family home with a large yard and plenty of space to spread out, while others prefer a multi-family property that can be used to generate additional income. Others prefer a low-maintenance condo or townhome with landscaping, snow removal, and exterior maintenance included.

Single-family homes are best for families who can afford the extra space and privacy that single-family homes provide. These homes are ideal for a family with the time and resources to devote to general maintenance and yard upkeep.

Of course, the best place for someone to live can change over time, he says. As we get older and our children get older, we tend to gravitate toward more communal living.

That’s why so many pre-retirees and retirees are opting for condos, where some of the responsibilities of homeownership are handled for them.

Find other housing types:

  • Condominium –  Condos appeal to those looking for a lower-maintenance living, home with a sense of security, opportunities to be social with neighbors, among other factors
  • Townhouse – Townhouses are a particularly good option for first-time homebuyers or other budget-minded home buyers who want more space than typically afforded in a condo
  • Single Family Home – Single-family homes are best for families who prefer a huge yard and plenty of room to spread out. Others still prefer a low-maintenance condo or townhome that includes benefits like landscaping, snow removal and exterior maintenance.
  • Multi Family Home – Multi-family homes are best for those who are interested in getting into real estate investing and are comfortable with the added responsibility and time commitment that comes with being a landlord.
  • Patio Home –  Typically capped at one-and-a-half stories and part of a larger association, patio homes are best for homeowners who don’t want to deal with stairs or maintenance.
  • Waterfront Home – Waterfront means the area of water which is immediately capable of use from the land, together with the area of land adjacent to the water, which is necessary to allow use of the above area of water

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