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Deciding on Your Dream Home: The Pros and Cons of Buying a Single-Family Home

Many different types of homes are available to homebuyers, from condos to modular homes, and from townhomes to tiny homes. While buying any of these options will make you a homeowner, only some are considered “single-family homes.”


The National Association of Realtors found that 79% of buyers purchased detached single-family homes in 2023, making this the most popular type of residence for homeowners in America. But what exactly is a single-family home, and how does it differ from other types of living spaces? Here’s what you need to know about single-family homes to decide if they’re the right choice for you.

Single-family home definition

The definition of a single-family home seems relatively straightforward: a place built for just one family to live in. Generally, detached single-family homes fit this definition and are relatively easy to identify.

However, some essential characteristics of single-family residences differentiate these types of homes from others. The U.S. Census Bureau states that homes must meet the following characteristics to be classified as single-family:

  • Detached or separated by a ground-to-roof wall: While detached single-family homes are the most common home purchase, semi-detached homes (like some townhouses) may also be classified as single-family structures if a ground-to-roof wall separates each living space. That means living quarters with common building facilities (such as a shared basement or attic) cannot be considered a single-family home.

  • Separate heating/air conditioning systems: To be classified as a single-family residence, the dwelling must have its own heating and air conditioning systems, rather than share them with an adjacent home. For example, a condominium may have a single centralized heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system for the entire building. Though each unit is only for a single family, a condo in such a building would not be considered a single-family home.

  • Individual meters for public utilities: Single-family residences must separate utility meters and payments. Detached dwellings will naturally have individual meters and separate household accounts for utilities, but semi-detached homes may share a master meter that measures the usage of the entire building and sub-meters that measure each unit’s usage. If your residence has a shared master meter like that, it is not a single-family home.

  • No units above or below: Even if your place meets the above criteria, if another home is above your ceiling or below your floor, your residence is not single-family.

single-family home

Any building with units that do not meet all of the above criteria is considered a multifamily home rather than a single-family home.

Owning a single-family home can be a dream come true, but it's a big decision. Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons to help you weigh your options:


  • Privacy and Space: You get your own yard, walls, and no shared living areas. Great for families who want room to spread out and enjoy some peace and quiet.

  • Potential for Appreciation: Single-family homes tend to appreciate in value over time, especially in desirable locations. This can be a great long-term investment.

  • Customization and Freedom: You can renovate, paint, and make changes to fit your style without restrictions (aside from permits).

  • Building Equity: Every month you pay down your mortgage, you build equity in your home. This is essentially money you're gaining as you pay off the loan.


  • Higher Costs: Single-family homes are generally more expensive than condos or apartments. This includes the down payment, mortgage, property taxes, and homeowners insurance.

  • Maintenance: You're responsible for everything from fixing a leaky faucet to mowing the lawn and roof repairs. This can be time-consuming and costly.

  • Less Liquidity: It can take longer to sell a single-family home compared to a condo or apartment.

  • HOA Fees: Depending on the neighborhood, you might have to pay homeowners association (HOA) fees, which can add to your monthly costs.

In conclusion, single-family homes offer privacy, space, and potential for growth, but come with higher costs and maintenance responsibilities. Consider your lifestyle, budget, and long-term goals to decide if a single-family home is the right choice for you.


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