When looking for a new place, there's a lot more to think about than just cost or location. Homes comes in many forms, and the terms of ownership differ with the type of place. Understand your options and how they can affect your cost of ownership and the degree of freedom that you have with making your house your home.
Types of Homes
These homes do not share any common walls or roof with other homes. This is the classic American house from the days of the frontier and prairie, and the most sought-after style (and the most expensive) in most markets.
Most single family homes are not governed by any homeowners association, so you can feel free to paint the shutters in polka-dots and suffer nothing more than the scorn of your neighbors.
A duplex is basically two separate houses that share one common wall and roof. Owners will each maintain their property up to the point of the common line. As you might imagine, owning a duplex requires a more cozy relationship with your neighbor than is required in a single-family home.
Townhouses and rowhouses
The terms townhouse (or townhome) and rowhouse are often used interchangeably. There are however, a few commonly accepted differences. Both are a series of homes which share a common wall but are on individually owned lots. Cities like Washington, D.C. (home to HotPads) and Baltimore are home to classic rowhouses, which have no common areas and no requirement of a homeowners association membership.
New end-on-end home developments are typically called townhouses, and often include common areas like driveways, pools, landscaping and other features that require owners to pay fees to maintain.
Condominiums (AKA Condos)
Condos are essentially apartments that you own instead of rent. You have title to a specific unit, and access to many shared common areas that may include hallways, elevators, recreation facilities, storage rooms and more.
Condo residents will pay a monthly or quarterly fee to an association to cover the insurance and maintenance of the common areas. It is critical that a prospective home buyer know what the monthly or quarterly condo fee is, as they are often exorbitant and can make an otherwise affordable place a budget-buster.
Co-ops (short for cooperatives) are similar to condos in that they are typically units in a building, but the ownership structure is quite different. In a co-op, you don't own a unit outright. You are a shareholder in a corporation that owns the building and you carry a leasehold interest in your unit.
Mobile homes are a type of manufactured home, built in a factory and transported to the home site. Mobile homes are often called trailers for their ability to be moved. Most mobile homes are fixed semi-permanently to one site, either on a privately owned lot or a site where space for the trailer is leased.
Co-ops are often much more exclusive (or exclusionary) than condos since the co-op board can dictate strict terms on who is allowed to buy into the corporation and live in the building. In a condo set-up, any owner can sell their unit to any buyer.
The two common types are known as single-wides and double-wides. Single wide homes are sixteen feet or less in width while double-wides are twenty feet or more wide and have to be towed to each location in two separate units which are then joined together.
Now you're just being silly. Pick something else from this list.
Other Buyers Guide Topics
Jump back for the index of articles on the basics of buying a home.
Other Web Info
For a huge list of house types, check out the following Wikipedia page.