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A Guide to the Various Types of Homes in Residential Real Estate

Jun 03, 2020 by Liz Brumer

Purchasing a home or investment property can be an exciting but intimidating experience. There are so many different types of homes to choose from, and when combined with the dozens of other factors that go into buying a house, the process of choosing the right house style can be overwhelming.

If you're in the market for a new property, take a look at the different types of homes available to purchase in residential real estate to help you determine the right home style for you.

Single-family home

A single-family house is a stand-alone, detached house that provides a single dwelling under one roof and can include homes of various sizes and designs, such as a mansion, log cabin, or cottage home. The homeowner owns the building and the parcel of land the building is on and is responsible for maintaining the house and land in addition to paying property taxes and obtaining property insurance.

Depending on whether the single-family home is located in a planned community, the homeowner may have to pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual homeowners association (HOA) fee as a part of owning the house.

Row house

A row house is a residential building often two or three stories tall that shares walls and a roofline with adjoining homes. Row homes are a popular housing style in older cities like St. Louis, Missouri; Brooklyn, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but can be found throughout the United States. Most row homes were built originally to be single-dwelling houses, but some property owners convert the different floors into individual apartments, making it a duplex, triplex, or fourplex.

Row home owners are responsible for maintaining the property, including the roof of their building and front and exterior of the home, and paying for property taxes and property insurance.


A townhome is similar to a row home because it's a multifloor single-family dwelling that shares a roof and walls with the adjoining properties; however, most townhomes are located in a community. The townhouse community may provide communal areas such as a gym, pool, playground, or exercise area like a tennis court or basketball court.

Townhouse owners are responsible for maintaining the interior and exterior of their home, including the roof of their building, the front and exterior of the house, property taxes, property insurance, and HOA fees. The HOA helps maintain shared community areas and may offer additional services, like trash or water, included in its fees.


A condominium, often referred to as "condo" for short, is a building with multiple housing units under one roof sharing one or more walls with neighboring units, similar to an apartment building. Condo buildings often have several units on a single floor and can be several stories tall with 10 to 100+ units in a single community.

A condo owner only owns the interior of their home, not the land or parcel the condo sits on, which in most cases lowers the cost for ongoing maintenance and property insurance. The condominium association helps maintain all common areas of the building, including the roof, landscaping, stairs, elevator, parking area, pool, or exercise areas, among other shared spaces.

Condo owners are responsible for maintaining the interior of the condo as well as paying property taxes, property insurance, and HOA fees.

Modular home

A modular home is a prefabricated single-dwelling home made off-site from the final housing location. These homes are built to current housing safety standards and codes but are built off-site to reduce costs and improve building efficiency. Most modular homes are built in sections and then assembled on-site on a permanent foundation.

In most cases, modular homeowners also own the land the home is located on, but this can vary from home to home.

Manufactured home

A manufactured home is similar to a modular home in the fact that it's built off-site, but it does not require a permanent foundation. Manufactured homes typically come in three sizes -- single-wide, double-wide, or triple-wide -- and can sit on blocks or metal piers. Manufactured homes can also be referred to as mobile homes because they lack a permanent foundation, allowing the home to be moved in the future if desired.

A manufactured-home owner may own the home and the land it sits on or they can lease the land, paying a lot rent to the property owner in addition to maintaining the interior and exterior of the home and having insurance.

Tiny home

A tiny home is a residential dwelling that's small in size, typically around 400 square feet or less, and can be a mobile house or permanent building made from a variety of materials, including old shipping containers. Tiny houses have a unique architectural style, offering most modern conveniences, including a full bathroom, living room, kitchen, and sleeping area in a compact floor plan at an affordable price.

Certain municipalities have code restrictions limiting where a tiny home can be located, so many tiny-home owners have to rent the land they keep their home on, paying a lot rent or monthly rental fee for the land. If the owner owns the tiny home and the land, it needs to be on a permanent structure and would require the owner to pay property taxes, property insurance, and maintenance for the land and home.


A duplex is a single-story or multistory building that provides housing for two separate families, typically with a shared wall. A duplex can be a single-family home that was converted into two separate dwellings or could have been constructed for that purpose originally.

Duplex homes have separate entrances and are metered separately for electricity. This style of home may have shared common areas, such as a yard, patio, stairs, or parking area. Duplexes are often owned by investors or by homeowners looking to subsidize a part of their mortgage payment with rental income from the shared unit.


A triplex is similar to a duplex but has three separate housing units under one roof with shared walls. Each unit is separately metered and must have its own entrance for each dwelling to be considered a triplex.


A fourplex is the same as a triplex and duplex but with four housing units under one roof. The units can be of varying sizes and configurations, and many resemble an apartment-style housing structure. Any plex owners are responsible for property maintenance, property taxes, and property insurance. Utilities such as electricity, water, and sewer can be paid by the property owner or passed on to each tenant individually.

Understanding the different house types will help you be a more informed buyer and determine the best housing type for you based on your needs and interests.

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