If you’re like most people, the American dream has always meant owning your own home. In the past, that dream was probably limited to something like this: A two-story house with a front porch, a big yard and a white picket fence. Sounds nice, to those of you who enjoy puttering around the yard. To others, it sounds like weekends mowing the grass, unclogging gutters and painting fences, instead of playing golf or unwinding with a good book.
If you are thinking of buying a new home, you must pay close attention to a great many details to ensure that you find a residence that will suit your needs and preferences. Before you start shopping, you should sit down with the members of your household to discuss what is important for your new home to have and features you may like to have. You should also determine how much you can afford to pay for a new home. See Mortgage Calculators
To help organize your thoughts, write each separate feature that you want on a 3X5 card, and arrange the cards in order of their importance to you. For instance, if you like to cook, you may want a home with a large, well-equipped kitchen. Or you may settle for a small kitchen, so that you can have extra space for a library, office, or computer room. Some home buyers seek large, open interior spaces, while others prefer traditional rooms that afford more privacy. Some choose homes with large yards. Others opt for townhomes or condominiums where they can avoid yard maintenance entirely.
While looking for a home, consider whether your needs are likely to change over time. If you will run out of space, or plan to add rooms, find out if your site is large enough to accommodate expansion, and whether additions are permitted by your local jurisdiction.
Fortunately, buyers now have more choices in home styles than ever before, from the traditional single-family home to a condominium in a downtown high-rise, or a townhome nestled next to a neighborhood pool and park.
Which one is right for you will depend on your lifestyle. If you’d rather spend your Saturdays holding a tennis racket instead of a weed-eater, a condo or townhome might suit you best. On the other hand, if the idea of having neighbors close enough to bump into when you step outside your front door doesn’t appeal, a single-family home might be the way to go.
So, before you begin home shopping, you need to understand the difference between single-family homes, townhomes and condos.
Generally, a single-family home is a house that is not attached to another residence. It stands by itself, and the homeowner owns the house, the land under it and anything on the land that falls within the property boundaries.
With a single-family home it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain both the interior and exterior of the house, as well as the yard and anything else on the property, such as a fence or tool shed. A few single-family neighborhoods, usually those where the homes are on very small lots, will offer front-yard maintenance through the homeowners’ association.
Townhomes are considered multi-family housing, because several homes are attached to one another. When you purchase a townhome, you own the inside walls and the ground underneath your home. The homeowners’ association owns and maintains the exterior of the building, as well as all the common property surrounding your townhome. Condominiums have a similar ownership structure, except that you own just what’s inside the walls. You don’t own the ground underneath your condo, since many condo buildings are several stories tall and what is underneath may be another home. The homeowners’ association maintains the exterior of a condominium building, including any common areas, such as hallways, parking areas or tennis courts.
For many homeowners, not having to spend their weekends clipping hedges or cleaning out the pool makes buying a townhome or condominium an ideal choice. Others, particularly seniors, or those who live alone, feel more secure in a multi-family home knowing that neighbors are as close as the other side of the wall.
Townhomes and condos also are often more affordable than single-family homes, although prices can range from $100,000 to more than $1 million plus in some upscale, urban developments.
Still, for some homeowners, especially those with children, there’s nothing like a single-family home with a yard and some room to spread out.
Before deciding on the type of home you want, it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about your lifestyle and whether you’d be happiest in a townhome or condo, or in a single-family home. Today, both are available with so many options and features you won’t be limited by either choice.
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