Residential Property Types Explained

by Carolyn Andrews 05/30/2021

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

If you’re looking for a new home you are probably searching for a specific category. While residential properties come in many different types, sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate them. Once you learn more about the terminology, you might find that you can broaden or narrow your home search. This can yield better results and more options in price, location and more. Here we will break down the 5 categories of residential properties to help your home search.

Single-Family Home

A single-family home is the most common category of residential property. Single-family homes are defined by having their own individual lot and no shared walls with other residences. Houses of all shapes and sizes qualify as single-family homes as long as they follow these same criteria, even if extremely close together on lots with no yard space.

Multi-Family Home

A multi-family home is a single-family home split into two or more separate units. The most common examples of multi-family homes are called duplexes or triplexes with two and three units, respectively. Most multi-family homes have separate entrances for each side and at least one shared wall. They are relatively uncommon compared to other types of residential property but very popular choices for income properties and for multi-generational families.


Condominiums (condos for short) are individual units in one large building or group of buildings. Condos share at least one wall with other units and usually have a community management body or homeowners’ association (HOA). The homeowners’ association requires an additional fee to help pay for upkeep and access to any public areas or amenities. While you can own an individual condo, you don’t own the building itself.


Townhomes can be very similar to both condos and single-family homes. In fact, you can think of them as a combination of the two. The major defining factors for townhomes are that they have at least one shared wall, separate entrances and multiple floors. Most townhomes have individual garages or parking and outdoor spaces like decks patios. Typically townhomes are fewer units per building and more square footage than condos. You can buy and own an individual townhome though you will be very close to your neighbor.


A co-op, short for cooperative, is a multi-unit building that all the residents own together. This means that while everybody has their own unit of living space, everybody shares responsibility for the upkeep of the entire building. Co-ops often have shared spaces for residents to enjoy and usually promote a strong sense of social community among the residents. It’s very common for there to be an interview or other additional steps to apply before you can buy in to the co-op.

What About Rentals?

Except for co-ops, you may find all the above categories of residential property available for rent. Apartments are the most common type of residential rental and compare closely to condominiums. However, apartments are smaller and rarely have an HOA. Otherwise, you can expect to encounter the same terminology in your rental search.

These are all terms that multiple listing services use and therefore most consider them standard. There is always a chance for different vocabulary based on your location, so it’s a good idea to consult a real estate agent if you need help. Once you become familiar with the definitions for residential properties, you will be able to make much more informed choices as well as broaden or narrow your home search to fit your preference.

About the Author

Carolyn Andrews

Carolyn Andrews has over 30 years licensed Brokerage experience in both California and Colorado. Born in England, Carolyn moved to California in 1980, then relocated to Denver, Colorado in 1991. Carolyn has also received recognition for Top Sales at RE/MAX Alliance Aurora in 2007-2008 and is a member of the RE/MAX Hall of Fame & Chairman’s Club, as well as a recipient of the ReMax Lifetime Achievement Award. Carolyn has sold over 2000 homes personally in her career. Carolyn has been actively involved in many aspects of the Real Estate business including investment property, luxury homes, mountain resort property, skiin/ski out, REO/default management, loss mitigation, valuations, and disposition. She has been a speaker and panelist at several conferences and has been consulted on many occasions by various organizations in the REO/financial industries for her expertise and served on many boards. She has attended numerous ongoing classes to stay abreast of changes in the ever-evolving Real Estate industry. She is the prior State Director for Colorado for VAREP(Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals). She is a member of 3 boards of Realtors including Metro Denver, Colorado Springs and Summit County mountain areas. She heads up The Andrews Group and is or has been an active member of NAR, CAR,REOMAC, CIPS, CRS, AREAA, NAPW, NAHREP, and is an original member of the ELITEReal Estate network. She was ranked #1 for most homes sold in Denver 2007 by Denver Board of Realtors, #2 for 2008, and #2 for 2009, #5 in 2010 and #4 in 2011 and has been consistently in the top 10 ever since. Carolyn Andrews has been a top rated Endorsed Local Provider for the Dave Ramsey Organization and also a Top Producing agent for 2018 for the Homelight Company.