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California Home Buying Choices

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

There are several different options you can choose when looking for a home to purchase in California. Weigh your budget and personal tastes and needs in deciding what home to buy. Unless you plan to stay in your home for life, consider the resale and/or rental market. For instance, multifamily homes with separately fenced yards are easier to rent than those with one shared backyard. Some other options to consider, along with details of ownership to help you decide the type of home that is best for you.

Single-Family Residence

This is a residential home on one lot that shares no common ground with neighboring properties. This type of dwelling is designed for one family, but may include a separate detached unit to house extra family members or guests or to use as a home office. A single-family residence owner in a subdivision may be limited in exterior remodeling options. Otherwise, owners can decide what they want the exterior to look like in terms of items such as paint color, roof type or vegetation, as long as the remodel conforms to local codes. All types of financing may be used to purchase this home type.


A residential unit in a multihousing complex where each unit is individually owned is known as a townhome or condominium. Each unit owner also owns a certain percentage of the "common elements" ? shared items such as staircases, sidewalks, and roofs that are used by all owners. A condominium is similar to an apartment, whereas a townhome resembles a single-family home and may share one or two walls with other units. Monthly charges (homeowner association, or HOA fees) vary per complex, but cover each owner's share of taxes and insurance on these common elements, along with maintenance and repairs. There is a homeowner's association that regulates the common elements and any exterior unit work. All types of financing may be used to buy a townhome or condominium.

Multifamily Residence

A multifamily residence is a residential property with at least two individual housing units (duplex, triplex or four-plex). Multifamily residences let the owner live in one unit and collect rent for the other units to help defray mortgage and other costs. Owners decide what they want the property to look like on the exterior and can remodel the inside of each unit to their liking. However, renting out the other units means the owner has to be versed in property management (leasing, rent collection, maintenance, and knowledge of the landlord-tenant laws in your area). As long as the owner lives in one unit, all types of financing can be used to purchase the property, even FHA and VA if the specific qualifications for these loans are met.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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