What type of home is right for you?

By Shelley Sines

August 2023

Purchasing a home that’s a great fit – whether you’re scoping out starter homes, trying to downsize, or searching for your forever home – is a lot like buying the perfect pair of jeans. When it comes to finding the right match, everyone has different needs, one size doesn’t fit all, and you should really know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit. 

Okay, okay … so the stakes might be a bit higher if you’re purchasing a home versus a classic wardrobe staple. But I stand by my comparison! Different people are suited to different types of homes. Have you considered what kind of home would be ideal for you? And do you know the difference between the various options for purchase on the market? Read on to learn about the features of common housing types so you can weigh the pros and cons of each for yourself.

Single-family home vs. duplex

A single-family home is a detached structure built to house one family or household. It’s generally located on its own plot of land and doesn’t share walls or amenities with neighboring properties. Single-family homes typically provide additional privacy and space compared to other types of housing units (like apartments or condos), and owners have full control over the property. (Note that if you buy a home in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, or HOA, the home may be subject to covenants that restrict your landscaping or exterior paint choices, whether you can lease out the home, or other restrictions.) Owning a single-family home is an investment, as real estate usually appreciates over time and builds equity. 

A duplex is a residential building with 2 separate units situated side-by-side or one above the other. Each unit has its own entrance, and the 2 units may be mirror images of each other or have different interior layouts. Duplexes are commonly owned by one individual or family who may live in one unit and rent out the other. They can be ideal for multi-generational families who want the privacy of living in separate units while still being close to one another. 

More resources: 

Condo (condominium) vs. townhome (townhouse)

A condo, or condominium, is a housing unit that’s part of a larger building made up of multiple other housing units. Condos are individually owned and offer the opportunity to build equity, but common areas (like hallways, elevators and amenities) are shared and maintained by a homeowners association (HOA). Condo owners typically pay monthly fees for maintenance and other expenses.

A townhome, also referred to as a townhouse, is a multi-level housing unit that shares one or more walls with adjacent units. Townhomes are usually part of a larger dwelling and residents may share amenities and facilities, like fitness centers or community rooms. Each townhome unit typically has its own entrance, and owners own both the interior and exterior of their units. Townhomes can be owned or rented, and may offer more space than an apartment without the heftier price tag of a detached home.

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Manufactured home (mobile home)

A manufactured home, commonly known as a mobile home, is a factory-built house that’s constructed off-site, then transported to a specific site and placed on a foundation. Manufactured homes come in different sizes and styles, and can be either single- or double-wide. They’re typically more affordable than traditional detached homes, and can be constructed quickly and efficiently in a streamlined factory setting. 

More resources: 

There you have it: a rundown of the different types of homes for every kind of person and family. Of course, some of these housing terms vary depending on where the property is located – not every dwelling falls into pre-determined, cookie-cutter categories. 

If you’re just getting started on your homebuying journey, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about what to look for in a home, when a starter home becomes a forever home, and setting priorities when you’re buying a house

Kendra Burch

Very informative

Greg Thomas

As a single man, my interest is to multiply my resources, so thank you for your valued information.

Joyce OBrien

We just want a single family home thank you for the information

mondarrius burton

so much great information! this was very helpful

Victor Rivera

Informative. Thank you so much for the information.

Joshua patterson

I’m in the process of buying a 3 bedroom 1 bath ranch house with a beautiful fenced in backyard.


Family sweet

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Shelley Sines has been writing for MGIC since she graduated from college in 2007. Currently raising a sweet little family with her husband in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Happiest when cooking or gardening. Competitive Scrabble player. Enthusiastic about road trips, wine, good TV.
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