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Daily needs of your family members dictate the size, number of stories, and layout of your ideal house. If you buy a house assuming that you can renovate to meet the future needs be sure to check local zoning ordinances and building codes carefully.
Single-family homes tend to hold their value and are the most-preferred form of homeownership, with about 80% of Americans owning single-family homes. Within your own four walls, you can customize to your heart's content. Homeowners' association rules might limit your creativity on the exterior, but you can largely do what you want as long as it does not cause a safety or aesthetic issue for your neighbors.
Townhouses and duplexes, which share walls with their neighbors, usually cost less and are popular for first-time buyers. You will have to adjust your daily living habits to be respectful of your neighbors. Outdoor spaces are usually compact, which limits their usability but also maintenance chores. Renovations and other noisy projects must be scheduled to cause minimal disruption. Fee simple townhouses are owned in the same manner as single family homes. Townhouses can also fall under a condominium ownership structure.
Condos offer lifestyle amenities like pools, but for a monthly fee from the homeowners' association. In a condo, you own the property within your unit's walls. Traditionally, condos are in high-density clusters such as high-rise buildings, but some single-family developments have a condo structure, with fees covering landscaping and roof maintenance. Condo associations can be as small as two-unit buildings ("twindominiums") or as large as complexes with 1,000 or more units. Think through your feelings about having your real estate ownership complicated by the influence of a condo association board. Boards are responsible for the financial and structural integrity of the entire association. If the board decides that it needs to impose a special fee for a new roof, you must pay. On the other hand, monthly condo fees sometimes include cable, water and additional utilities.
Co-op - Cooperatives sell shares in the building, not property per se. Largely limited to older central cities - such as New York, Boston and Chicago - co-op life is pricey and exclusive. Often, monthly co-op fees include the association's property taxes, boosting fees into the thousands of dollars and complicating the availability of the mortgage interest deduction for members. Co-op boards set their own rules for who they admit and whether or not new members must pay all cash, or if financing is allowed. A loan to purchase a co-op unit must be custom to your situation.