Places to Live

Choosing a place to live seems like a straightforward task until you start exploring all the choices available. In most areas, there are options that fit all household sizes and budgets. Choosing a home can sometimes be a matter of need vs. want as few people have open-ended resources to dedicate to housing. However, if you do not budget enough of your income toward housing expenses, you may find yourself struggling to live in a home that is too small or too simple for your needs.

It is important to consider the size of home you need, what you can afford and how close it is to your job, college or family members’ schools. Neighborhood safety scores, the proximity to shopping and availability of public transportation are important factors to consider.

Continue reading to learn more about different types of housing and get tips to help you choose the best place to live.  

Condos vs. Apartments

Condos and apartments are individual living units located within larger buildings and blocks of buildings. Although the two seem similar at first glance—and do share a lot of similarities—there are also differences that you should be aware of.

Depending on the location, condominiums and apartments may be filled with mostly renters, mostly owners or a combination of the two. Condos often have monthly maintenance or homeowner fees that are paid separately from a mortgage or are rolled into the rent amount.

Both generally compete to woo clients with special amenities, such as swimming pools, gyms, playgrounds and game rooms. Many condo and apartment communities provide a variety of on-site activities.

Condos and apartments often appeal to city-dwellers, but they can be also found in suburban areas and small towns. Some complexes cater to families while others are clearly better suited for single adults or retirees. It is possible to find units as big as a stand-alone home, or as small as a studio.

Studio Apartments

Also referred to as efficiency apartments and studio flats, studio apartments offer the amenities of a full home condensed into a very small space. Usually, the kitchen, living and sleeping areas are combined into one space while the bathroom is the only separate room with a door that closes.

Ideal for single adults and couples without children, studio apartments are usually the most affordable units in any complex. They are usually located along with larger units in apartment complexes and buildings.

Manufactured and Mobile Homes

Like condos and apartments, manufactured and mobile homes share many similarities and differences. Both terms describe homes that are fully assembled at a factory before being transferred to a lot. Both must have a permanent chassis that allows for safe transportation to a new location.

Due to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rules, homes manufactured before June 15, 1976 are called mobile homes while the proper term for homes made after that date is “manufactured home.”

These kinds of homes have the advantage of being less expensive than site-built homes. Although HUD has made sure that manufactured home construction standards have improved through the years, they are generally not as sturdy during storms as traditional construction.

While many people still picture the rectangular, single-wide trailer when they think of a mobile home, newer manufactured houses are made to look like standard homes. In addition, many manufactured homes are more energy efficient than other houses.

Manufactured homes are often featured in retirement communities. One benefit is that manufactured home loans are more like car loans, and easier to secure than a mortgage. This can make them an ideal choice for people with serious credit history issues.

In most cases, while you own the home itself, you rent the land it sits on. However, rural landowners sometimes purchase an inexpensive mobile home to live in on their own land while they are paying it off and building a traditional brick-and-mortar home.

If you do not own your own rural land or rent from a mobile home community, it can be hard to find a place to park one due to zoning restrictions on manufactured homes.

Buying vs. Renting

If you want to purchase your own home instead of renting, it is important to make sure that you are ready to take this big step. A mortgage is usually the biggest debt a person acquires, and the process of securing one can be complicated.

For the best purchasing power, you should begin saving for a home down payment a year or more ahead of your move. Having at least 20 percent of a home’s purchase price as a down payment can provide access to better loan terms, eliminate the need for mortgage insurance and increase the size of home you can purchase.

Most areas have a good selection of homes for sale at any given time, and it is usually not hard to find a home that has the size and the amenities you need. The trouble is finding what you need at your price point. Homebuyers should anticipate having to remove a few items from their “want” list because it is rare to find an already built home that fits your budget and has everything on your list of desires.

When shopping for a home, it is important to consider if you have the time and savings to make any necessary repairs. Some people underestimate the responsibility required to take care of a home’s continual maintenance needs.

Many people also buy a home before saving up enough of an emergency fund to cover unexpected repairs, such as replacing a central air conditioning unit or a built-in stove. Note that homeowners may be responsible for an expensive sewer or drainage repairs, and homes on septic tanks require regular tank cleaning and maintenance.

Because of these expenses, many people decide that renting is a better choice. Renting provides the flexibility to move when needed and shifts the responsibility of fixing things to the landlord. Although renting has its limitations, such as not being able to paint or otherwise alter the property to suit you, it can be ideal in certain situations.

The choice to rent or buy depends on many factors, financial and otherwise, that should be carefully considered before making a decision.