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Which is Best: Single-Family vs. Multi-Family Home

family home

Single-family homes and multi-family homes are different types of property that people buy for very different reasons. If you’re looking for a home for your family-of-four (and maybe a Golden Retriever) and want more privacy, a single-family home might fulfill your needs. It’s typically a stand-alone property that sits on its own land and is designed to be a residence for just one family. Multi-family homes, on the other hand, are exactly that — a single building that accommodates more than one family. This can include duplexes, for instance, with each part of the unit housing different tenants. 

Here are the key differences between a single-family vs. multi-family home.

What is a Single-family Home?

Single-family homes might be owned by the family who lives there. Sometimes, people may also buy them as a second home. It’s common for people living up north to buy single-family homes in Florida — and stay in their second home during the winter to avoid the cold weather. Other times, people might buy a single-family home as an investment property and rent it out to tenants. 

The U.S. Census Bureau has a broader definition of single-family homes. It says that single-family homes can “include fully detached, semidetached (semiattached, side-by-side), row houses and townhouses.” However, it also states that attached units must be separated from the neighboring unit by a ground-to-roof wall to be considered a single-family home. 

Units built atop or beside each other that do not have a ground-to-roof wall separating them — or units that share common areas or utilities — are not considered single-family homes. 

In comparing single-family homes vs. multi-family homes, single-family homes are:

  • A single-dwelling unit
  • More private
  • Separated from the neighboring unit by a ground-to-roof wall 
  • Do not share common areas with other units
  • Do not share heating or air-conditioning systems or utilities

What is a Multi-family Home?

Multi-family are designed to accommodate more than one family living separately. For that reason, each unit typically has its own address, entrance, kitchen and bathroom. They’re often purchased as investment property, as multi-family homes can be rented out to multiple tenants. In some cases, the owner of the building may reside in one of the units or they may choose to rent out all of the units. Investors often use the income they make from renting the place out to pay the mortgage and other housing expenses.  

Another reason people might choose to buy a multi-family home vs. a single-family home is because they have a multi-generational household. For example, the homeowners may have both aging parents and young children living with them. This gives the homeowners the ability to care for and spend time with their aging parents and their children without having to drive to a separate location. Alternatively, it might also be an option for parents who need a little extra help taking care of their kids — and the grandparents are there to lend a hand. Either way, it gives children the opportunity to get to know their grandparents better than they might have if they lived separately, which is always a great thing. 

In comparing multi-family homes vs. single-family homes, multi-family homes are:

  • Residential buildings
  • Built with units on top of or beside one another — and do not have a ground-to-roof wall separating them
  • Have common facilities (attic, plumbing, etc.)

Which is right for you? To decide between a single-family vs. multi-family home, consider how you plan to use it (residence vs. investment property), who will be living there, how much home you can afford, how much responsibility you want, and how much privacy you need.  

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