First-time home buyers have the thrill of a lifetime ahead. You also have a lot of confusing territory to navigate, not the least of which is choosing which type of home to buy. Your starter home can be anything you want it to be; you just have to decide what matters to you, and where you can find it.
Your first home can be a condo, duplex or attached home, a co-op, or a single-family home. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, and one will suit your lifestyle better than the rest.
Here’s what you need to know about your choices:
A Single-Family House is the Starter Home Classic
Single-family homes are just what the name implies. They are independent houses, not attached to any other. You don’t necessarily need a 4-bedroom, 2-bath house to choose this track. Small cottages abound, and some are move-in ready.
Privacy is likely the number-one benefit of a single-family home. There are no neighbors with adjoining walls, and your backyard is yours alone. It might be as small as a postage stamp, but you don’t have to share your space.
The downside of a single-family home is the upkeep and responsibility. (Read: Home Inspections: When and Why) No other type of home requires as much of your finances and time, as a single family home that sits independently on its own lot. The whole exterior is your responsibility, including the lawn, and insurance costs might be greater too. Heating and cooling are another issue, as you have “four walls” where the elements will try to creep in, and you'll lose more conditioned air through gaps in your home's envelope.
A single-family home might also be more expensive, although existing homes are cheaper than new construction. Price depends on where the home is located, as even condos in urban areas can cost more than a small house in a low-key suburban area.
Condos Come with Great Benefits for First-Time Home Buyers
If you’ve lived in an apartment for a while, buying a condo might seem like a great first step into home ownership. In some locations, that’s probably true. But there are drawbacks to consider.
The pros of buying a condo include a great combination of freedom and low maintenance. You can renovate (within reason) inside, and decorate to your heart’s content. But building maintenance is handled by someone else. That’s a win/win.
Condos may also cost less than other housing options, at least in some areas. (Read: First Time Home Buyer Tips) But they appreciate slower, according to Money Crashers, and they're not as easy to sell when it's time to move.
Co-Op Living Can be an Affordable Starter Home Option
If you live in an urban area, you’re probably familiar with cooperative housing. If not, there’s a bit of a learning curve. A co-op may be a single house, an apartment building, or any other dwelling where several people live. Student housing near a university can give you a good idea of what cooperative housing is like. You might live in an apartment or a house with several other people, but you have your own space inside.
The benefits of a co-op include low cost to buy in, and maintenance that’s either shared or handled by a company that the co-op hires. In a house, you’ll have the benefits of a larger home and the shared space that comes with it. But you’ll also be living in a quasi-family atmosphere with minimal privacy. In a building, you might have your own unique unit, separate from others, similar to an apartment or condo situation.
The negatives of this type of starter home are monthly fees, and limited freedom to make improvement, explains Realtor.com. You can’t paint the living room on a whim, because you own a share of the whole property — you don’t own your unit.
Attached Homes Merge Single-Family Living with Low Maintenance
An option for some first-time home buyers is an attached home. Attached homes are sometimes called duplexes, and can be found in nearly every city and state in the country. Attached homes aren’t always small, and some are as large as their single family counterparts. A benefit is the exterior maintenance is handled by an association, and with fewer exterior walls, should maintenance and repairs should be lower. That means you’d never have to paint the siding or mow the lawn.
In other areas, the duplex is shared property. You may share the job of maintaining the structure with the adjoining family, or you may each take care of your own side. Privacy is the main concern with attached homes, just like condos. Depending on the community, an attached home might also be more challenging to sell. But in other areas, they might be a hot commodity. It pays to know your market.
Buying a starter home is exciting, scary, and sometimes overwhelming. There’s much to learn about your housing options. The important thing is to take it slow and learn everything you can. Don’t be in a rush to buy, just because you can. What’s perfect for you might not be perfect for everyone else, and that’s ok. It’s your home, and you get to decide what’s best.
Have you recently purchased a starter home? What helped you decide which type of home to buy? We invite you to share your story with others here on Home Tips for Women.
I did not know that there was a name for living with several people before I read this article. My wife and I are looking at either moving into a duplex, condo or single family home. We just want to make sure that we have privacy with whatever choice we have.
I like how you said that small cottages function as family homes pretty well. Our daughter and her husband are going to buy their first house pretty soon. Hopefully, they don’t go too over the top trying to buy something bigger than they need.
Todd, Fortunately younger people aren’t as enamoured with owning a lot of stuff. Instead they’re prioritizing experiences over material things … so hopefully this will influence them when picking a house.
I think it is great that when you buy a single-family home that you don’t have any adjoining walls, and you have our own backyard. My husband and I have been living in an apartment for a long time, and we were thinking about getting a single-family home. I’m glad we will be able to get the privacy that we want with a single-family home. Thank you for all the information!
Deb, Good luck finding your new home with a great & private back yard.
I didn’t know privacy is one of the greatest advantages of having a single-family home. My sister and her husband are planning to buy a home for their family. My dad suggested buying a single-family home and shared this article with her.
Kayla, If you can afford a single-family home, I always think that’s a better choice. I’ve simply found it much more difficult to sell condos, and hope I never buy another one.
I like that you emphasized privacy as the number one benefit from a single family home. My younger brother is looking to buy a single family home so he and his wife don’t have to live with her parents. I’ll be sure to talk to him about finding a home with good privacy.
Thanks a lot for mentioning how privacy is the number 1 benefit of a single-family house. It is important to remember that doing some research can help you find the best type of house for your family. I can see how anyone looking into this would also want to consult with a good real estate agent in order to find the best single family house for your needs.
I liked that you had mentioned that a single family home is great because you have your own yard and don’t have to share any walls. My wife and I have been wanting to move out of our apartment and into something more serious. We’ll have to start doing some research but knowing we won’t have to share any walls will make the transition to a single-family home a lot easier, once we can find one for sale.
I just wanted to thank you for this advice on picking a starter home. It’s interesting to think that some homes in certain areas could be more expensive. It could be beneficial to research different areas just to see how the prices differ.
Taylor, You’ve got the right idea … and when I read what you wrote, it made me think it might be very meaningful to check out 3 similar homes in 3 communities you like, to make the trade-offs much more real.
My sister’s family has a condo and she’s now planning to buy a single family home. My mom shared this article with her. It says that a single-family house is the starter home classic and privacy is one of the benefits of this type of home.
Kayla, Had to go back to the article (LOL) to see how I described privacy. The specific reference is to shared walls which even with double walls, loud noises may be heard through. In reality, everyone has a different definition of privacy … often associated with where you live (or grew up). When visiting model homes yesterday, I recognized that small side patios with a wall behind, offer more privacy than side-by-side homes where you see your neighbors from your backyard. Might write an article about this so please let me know what specific questions and/or concerns you have.
Tina, thanks for your comment about how single-family homes are nice because you won’t have close neighbors and you will have a lot of private. I didn’t know that the price could change depending on the location of a home like this. My husband and I are considering looking into affordable and private single-family homes to move our little family into.
I liked that you pointed out that condos will cost less than other housing options. That is good for me to know because I would want to move out of my apartment soon. I am really tired of having to have roommates. So, it would be nice to have my own place.
My brother is planning to buy a single family home. My mom sent him this article to him to emphasize the advantages of having a single family home. He’s now looking up some real estate agents to help him.
My husband and I recently decided that it would be a good choice for us to move out of his parents home and get a place that fits better for our lives. You talked about how a co-op may be a better option if we are going to school since student housing is near universities. That is a great point for us to keep in mind while we look around for homes.
Good luck & maybe you can share your home buying story here …