Written by Doowon Yang on 07/18/2019

Picking the perfect home style for you

Feeling overwhelmed?

For the first time buyers, terms such as multi-family homes, colonials, and co-ops can be new and overwhelming. This post is meant to give you a crash course on a few different terms you may encounter in your home search.

Single Family Homes.

Raised Ranch: A favorite in the 1970s, raised ranches are a one-story ranch propped atop a high foundation, allowing the owner more space downstairs without raising the construction cost appreciably. The fad died quickly however because most buyers did not like the separation of family activities between the kitchen upstairs and the living room downstairs.

Colonial: When baby boomers began to approach middle age in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they looked to move into a more luxurious and spacious home. Developers addressed this demand by building two-story houses, usually with a center entrance hall, called “Colonials." Colonials were built to have four bedrooms and two full baths on the second level, and an eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, family room and formal living room on the first level. They usually have an attached two-car garage as well.

McMansion: As the United States entered the prolonged economic expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, wealthy and status-conscious professionals in their mid-career began to look for high-end luxury homes. Developers began building mass produced luxury houses termed “McMansions” to address the demand. McMansions can come with a variety of facades: Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, Mediterranean, Contemporary, etc. They usually have more than four bedrooms, three or more bathrooms, and a three car garage. McMansions come with a higher price tag compared to most developments.

Antique: Many houses built before World War II are still in the marketplace, often offered at a lower price point. Some are Sears catalogue kit houses of the 1920s, others are remnants of a time when people designed and built their own houses. Generally these old houses are in need of renovation and may be a lot of work for first-time home buyers.

Mansion: These are traditional upscale custom homes found in one of the area’s most affluent residential neighborhoods, which are typically gated and are on the waterfront or a golf course. Most of these communities are usually well-established and houses themselves feature architectural preferences in general accordance with the neighborhood. These houses command hefty price tags.

Multi-Family Homes

These are multiple housing units that are contained within one complex. Units can be next to each other or stacked on top of each other. In the United States, multi-family houses are usually found in the cities and sometimes near central business districts of suburban towns. The most common types of multifamily houses are condominiums and co-ops.

Condominiums: These are type of living space similar to an apartments but are independently sell-able. The building structure is divided into several units, each of which are separately owned, and surrounded by common areas that are jointly owned. They are frequently constructed as apartment buildings but recently there has been an increasing number of detached condominiums (that look like single family houses) with jointly owned community centers and infrastructure. Each unit pays a monthly fee called HOA fee to maintain common areas of the property such as hallways, roads, swimming pools, etc.

Co-ops: Unlike condominiums where you own a separate unit, co-op residents do not own real estate, but instead own stock in the corporation that owns the building. With the purchase of stock shares that are assigned to a particular apartment, you get a lease. Co-ops can be financed but the loans are secured by stock certificates, not by mortgages. Similar to condominiums, shareholders pay a monthly maintenance fee to maintain the property of the corporation.

Mixed Use

Mixed-use properties contains both residential and commercial space. The commercial space is typically on the first floor at the street level and the residential space is usually on the upper levels.

Land

Some home buyers dream of building their homes from scratch and buy vacant land. If you plan to do this, keep in mind that financing is often difficult, and most transactions involving vacant land happen in cash. However, if you plan to build a house on the land, you can still get a mortgage.

Summary

These are a few of the main terms that you will find when looking at homes. It is not exhaustive but hopefully you’ll have a better idea of what to buy after reading this article.