Condo, Villa, Coach Home - Which is Right for You?

Amelia Island Florida Aerial View

Personality types in this world are as diverse as flavors of coffee, so it is no surprise we have a lot of home choices when selecting our dream home. Builders and real estate developers have listened to buyer’s requests and have come up with products to fit all lifestyle choices. This information will help you understand the different types of home styles being marketed today by builders. We will point out a few of the pros and cons to consider with communal living verses a single family home.

Carriage Home – Interestingly enough, carriage homes date back into the late 1800’s as outbuildings on manor estates, where folks kept their carriages. Victorian Carriage Low Country homes are found in the historical areas of Savannah Georgia and Charleston South Carolina. Today, Carriage Homes are typically detached homes with primary living space above the garage. Carriage Homes are great for folks looking for expansive views from the second floor and for residents who must have a one or two car garage, no matter where they choose to live.

Coach Home - Coach Homes are a group of four or eight homes in a two story building each with a separate entrance and garage. Builders typically design these buildings in groups of four Coach Homes. Two one level units on the first floor and two second floor units with interior foyers and stairs leading up to the residence. In Coach Home buildings of eight, theoretically both quad buildings are ‘pushed’ together. We have seen Coach Homes in Bluffton South Carolina at Hampton Lake designed with creative angles and floor plans maximizing every nook and cranny. Coach Homes physically place you closest to your neighbours. This is great for social butterflies. It can be a problem if builders have not built a quality Carriage Home with thick insulated walls and floors, preventing sound permeation from barking dogs and high heel shoes tapping on the marble floors above. It is easy to find out if this problem exists; send your wife upstairs in her red Stiletto’s while you are on the first floor. Odds are, if you bang on the door loudly, if a barking dog culprit exists, he/she with reveal himself so you can investigate this issue further. 

Condominium - Condominium buildings generally range from three stories and above. High rise buildings are taller buildings, from sixty feet on up. This type of residence defines communal living. You can find any size unit, from one bedroom one bath floor plans, to an eight bedroom condominium. For decades, retirees have chosen this type of residence. High rise condominiums dot the coast lines of the Southeast, especially in one of the best states to retire. While oceanfront condominiums in Naples Florida may have elegant lobbies and lush amenities, you may sacrifice living space and a private garage, when choosing to live in a condominium. Bringing groceries up to the 25th floor becomes a hassle day after day, when the newness wears off of living in an oceanfront condominium. ‘Condo Commando’s’ can become a policing force on your floor and very annoying, depending the management level in the building.

When you own a condominium, there is also a financial risk. For safety reasons, buildings must be structurally maintained for the benefit and safety of all residents. Depending on the expertise of the Board of Directors, condominiums can be neglected over time to save money in the budget, by penny pinching members of a board. Many condominium buildings do not include money in reserves as part of the monthly maintenance fees. Reserves are a separate category or ‘savings account’ where money is collected from each unit owner and set aside to pay for planned structural maintenance and the unexpected. If reserves are not adequate, when the condominium building has a major problem, a special assessment payment is now expected from each unit owner and is mandatory.

During Hurricane Wilma in 2005, The Silver Thatch condominium in South Florida was extremely damaged. 80 percent of the windows were blown out of the building. Rumor has it, the condominium owners were assessed over $100K each for repairs to this building. If this were true, unexpected assessments can cause severe financial hardship during retirement fixed income years. When you are considering purchasing in a condominium, ask to see the operating budget and review the reserves account. Ask when the last concrete structural restoration repair took place and when was the roof replaced. Armed with this information, you can anticipate what and when repairs are coming. Decide for yourself if the condominium is fiscally sound and reserving adequate funds each month while collecting maintenance fees. Condominiums do provide affordability for folks who want to live on the expensive areas; beaches or urban downtowns.

Condominiums are great places to meet new friends and enjoy luxury amenities for a fraction of the price. Condominiums offer a higher level of security. If big condominium buildings are not for you, consider low rise condominium buildings five stories or less. These types of buildings are less crowded, especially when using elevators, fitness centers and swimming pools. Smaller buildings may also have less parking issues.

Villa - Villa’s were defined as upper-class country homes in Roman modern architecture spreading through Italy and France. Country-villa architecture spread to the US in the early 1900’s, designs by Frank Lloyd Wright. Villas became famous like Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles California. Today, you will often find villa’s with interior courtyards, private swimming pools and garden areas. Hence, the new design name - Courtyard Homes. Villa’s or Courtyard Homes are attractive because the living space is more private and secluded. With the living space more contained, these types of homes can be built on smaller lots without sacrificing a spacious feel. Courtyard Homes and Villas in South Florida are common in master planned communities. 

Townhouse – Townhomes are typically two or three story homes in a row linked by terraces. Townhomes are found in the cities where land and space is at a premium. Townhomes are different from condominiums because the living space is usually on more than one floor. Many times, the bedrooms are on the upper floors and living room/ kitchen on the lower floor. This split living space at times can be confining, especially if not designed well. Great rooms with one living room and an open kitchen are far more appealing than floor plans with chopped up floor plans. Sometimes, you will find townhomes with garages. Lofts could fall into this category although most time lofts are above commercial space.

Single Family Home – The American Dream, a classic three bedroom two bath dream home accented by a white picket fence. Single family homes come in all sizes, shapes and architecture. The palette to create and design your ideal home is endless. Carefully consider a one level floor plan commonly called a ranch style home. All rooms on one level and no stairs to contend with. With single family home ownership, you will find more maintenance and more costs at retirement than you might prefer. If you have enough money to pay a handy man, property manager or concierge service, this may not be an issue. As we age, keep in mind, upkeep will become more difficult and we need to plan for it while we are well.

If you are creative and would consider building, now is a great time to build your dream home. The cost for materials and contractor services are extremely low. Whichever you choose, this is your chance for a ‘do over’ with your next home selection. Let me know if you would like to visit a master planned community in the Southeast with all of these types of homes available to see, in one place. Walking through the homes will help you better decide which home style is right for you. 

There are plenty of home choices!

Margie Casey, 

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