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Should I Buy a Single-Family Home? Is it right for me? 

 December 9, 2020

By Scott Teesdale  

minutes read time

Whether or not a single-family home (SFH, also known as a detached home, house, or dwelling) is the right choice for a family depends on various financial and lifestyle criteria. Buying a home is one of the most important decisions that a family can make. There are many different types of homes available on the market today, from semi-detached homes and stand-alone houses to row homes and condominiums.

Every homebuyer needs to factor in all the essential features necessary for their habits. Some buyers prefer having both a front yard and a back garden, while others enjoy their home’s indoor space.

By breaking down the essential features, together with the pros and cons of an SFH, we’ll help you prepare to buy your first single-family home and if that’s even right for your needs.

Let’s dive in!

What is a single-family home?

A single-family home is a house that doesn’t share walls or utilities with any other building or home. It has an entirely independent structure, and it’s usually placed on a separate piece of land.

By its internal design, it’s a place that can comfortably accommodate one family. In that light, such homes usually have only one kitchen, while the number of bedrooms and bathrooms may vary from home to home.

Due to their size and organization, SFHs are generally not recommended for people living alone. They’re too big for singles and even couples without children. If only one or two people live in such a home, they’ll have to pay overhead expenses for utilities and comfort they don’t use.

Because of that, this type of home is perfect for families consisting of at least three members.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a single-family home?

Like any other type of home, a single-family home brings a certain number of benefits, as well as some potential drawbacks for some families. Let’s have a look at the key pros and cons of such homes.

Family gatherings, comfortable living, enhanced privacy

An average family in which parents do 9-5 jobs will appreciate the comfort and the social potential of a single-family home. When the weather is good, they can throw garden parties or organize family gatherings inside such a house.

Since most standalone dwellings are placed in areas rich with greenery, opting for an SFH will cover the need for a calm and relaxing environment after a tiring day at work.

Furthermore, family members working remotely will be able to organize their daily schedules more efficiently in a big detached residence. In line with that, it’s easier to transform one or two rooms into offices in such a home.

Another advantage is that every family member will have enough privacy in a free-standing house. And if this place comes with two bathrooms or if it’s possible to squeeze in another bathroom into the home-improvement budget upon purchase, the comfort and privacy for each family member are even more apparent.

Overhead expenses, limited affordability

Living in a single-family home means having higher overhead expenses. From the electricity bill and heating/cooling costs to public utility expenses, a large home costs more money.

In addition to that, SFH-owners need to factor in maintenance costs, as well. Standalone homes require adequate curb appeal maintenance, as well as insulation works and regular wall painting.

Gardening works might be time-consuming for hard-working family members, as well.

When it comes to prices, according to Business Insider, the average cost of a standalone home in the US is about $250,000. It would take about $1,500 per month to pay a mortgage for such a home within a 15-year time, which is an acceptable period to pay off a home mortgage. This means that only some families can afford to buy an SFH dwelling. Therefore, family members need to estimate their income in the forthcoming period and see whether they can make enough money to buy such a place in the first place.

Other Pros and Cons of Single-Family Homes

There are a handful of other advantages and disadvantages of purchasing an SFH. Here we list just a few for you.

Advantages

  • Your space is, well, your space! Unlike condos and townhomes with bylaws, you can do whatever you wish when you own your own home.
  • Financially prudent. When compared to other types of dwellings, SFH is usually a more prudent decision—their resale value is higher and typically appreciate faster in bull markets
  • Adding more room is easier. Need more space? Add a new floor! Want another bedroom? Build on top of the garage. With an SFH, the options for adding a new area are endless
  • No HOA fees. As previously discussed, SFH has no HOA fees. That could save you thousands a year.

Disadvantages

  • Maintenance is your responsibility. You are responsible for each and every change and upgrade to your property’s exterior. This also includes landscaping, lawn upkeep, gardening, painting, the list goes on. If this task sounds daunting, consider buying a condominium (condo), where the maintenance of the common areas are taken care of by someone else (paid for by your HOA).
  • Lack of amenities. Unless you buy a home with them or install them yourself, you likely won’t have too many amenities—it’s hard to find space for a pool, jacuzzi, barbeques, playgrounds, etc.
  • Expensive. In most areas, SFH cost more than condos or townhomes. They are bigger and have more land. You get what you pay for. Thus, an SFH is sometimes not in everyone’s budget.

Another thing to consider is purchasing a foreclosed home at auction with no cash. This could give you the benefit of owning a SFH while at a much lower price. Nonetheless, be aware of what you are getting into as auction homes have a lot of gotchas and potholes for making mistakes.

Resell potential of a single-family home

When a family is choosing a home, they need to take into account its potential resale value. This is an essential factor even though it might not seem that way during the buying process. For instance, one of the parents may get a job in another part of the country, or the family may extend, which will require changing a home.

That’s why potential homeowners should think about features that are important when selling a home.

In line with that, compare several neighborhoods in terms of availability of schools and kindergartens, as well as cultural and social facilities. If an area is populated with people from higher social classes, prices are more likely to rise in that neighborhood.

Moreover, future homeowners should check the type of population in the community; if that area is populated with older people, it might not be an exciting living space for families.

The year when a home was erected needs to be taken into consideration, as well. Older homes generally sell for less, all else being equal.

So, families should aim at buying a newer single-family home situated in a developing area, where other similar families already live, or to which such families are moving.

What are the alternatives?

In case a family can’t afford to buy an independent home or don’t want to bother with maintenance costs, there certainly many different alternative housing types on the market.

For starters, an average condominium (condo) is usually less expensive than an average single-family home. Condos are trendy for young working professionals who like to live in the city and still want to own property. Although, what condos do not have (but SFHs mostly do have) is a lawn, backyard, and extra space. Furthermore, condos have HOA fees, whereas SFHs do not.

Buying a townhome is another option for cozy family living. The main advantages of such homes are the affordability and the fact that they share two walls, i.e., two sides with other houses. As a result, heating and cooling expenses can be lower due to better insulation. Safety is also usually a plus since neighbors live closer together.

The common disadvantage of both condos and townhomes is the lack of privacy and a limited space outdoors, if any.

How to know if an SFH is right for me?

When we draw the line, it all comes to what families want and how much money they can invest in their homes.

If all family members like living in suburbia and appreciate a close-knit local community’s lifestyle, going for a single-family home is a reasonable option. In that case, it’s possible to rely on some hacks to reduce monthly expenses and make savings that will help new homeowners pay off such a home.

But if a family is not too keen on outdoor activities but still likes the comfort of a house, buying a condominium, a townhome, or a row house is a better option.When getting ready to buy a home, every family should write down all their needs and wants, weigh the pros and cons, and set their budget before they even start the home-searching process. For some families, a single-family home will be a perfect choice, while others will keep searching for something different. Either way, the tips shared in this article will help both types of families conclude whether or not standalone homes are the right option for their needs.

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I use data and technology to help Millennials navigate the ins-and-outs of buying or selling a home in today's market. From appraisals to mortgages to zoning, I cover it all with the goal to teach others. Connect with me on social via the icons above.

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