People who research homes for sale online may find house types descriptions very confusing.
The Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS ) does not have definitions for home types, and there are no legal definitions for different types of houses in Arizona. The Maricopa County Assessor, for example, includes several home types into the same category.
For instance, it is not uncommon for the same home to be marketed as a townhouse by one person and as a patio home by another. The definitions of home types may also be completely different in other parts of the country!
The most important thing to know about the different types of homes that are available in the greater Phoenix area is that it is not important how sellers refer to a home, or how a listing defines any particular home. What matters is that you, as the buyer, know what critical questions to ask about the home style you’re looking for (yard or no yard, common walls or not, neighbors above or below or not, HOA or not, etc)
But if you’re interested, here is the most typical description of each type:
Single family residences, or single family homes, are the easiest to define in Arizona. They are detached homes, usually with a front and back yard, driveway, sometimes with a garage or attached carport.
Condominiums, or condos, are essentially apartments that are individually owned. There can be units below or above them. Owner doesn’t own ground or air space, and doesn’t have a private yard. Parking is rarely attached to the unit. There is a home owner association (HOA) fee which often times covers roof repair and replacement, exterior maintenance, common area maintenance, and other expenses.
Lofts are a type of condominium that originated when warehouses back East were converted into apartments and condominiums. Usually located near downtown, they have a great room floor plan directly under the roof of the building, with very high ceilings (sometimes 20-foot tall), exposed pipes and ducts in the ceiling , floor to ceiling windows, exposed interior brick, stained cement floors even in luxury homes, metal stairs and handrails, stainless steel kitchen appliances, and modern/contemporary furnishings.
Typical Townhouses (or townhomes) in Arizona are in a row, sharing one or two side walls with no neighbors above or below. Often with a small fenced yard, each unit can look totally different from one another, depending on the HOA regulations. HOA fee covers roof repair and replacement, exterior maintenance, common area maintenance, and other expenses
Patio homes (or cluster home) in Arizona were traditionally 1-story homes that shared at least one wall and had a prominent patio but not necessarily a backyard. Essentially, patio homes are built on what is called a "zero lot line”, so one side of the housing is actually on the property line.
Duplex (Gemini or Twin Home) for the Arizona real estate industry and the Maricopa County Assessor, is a building with 2 units in it. If you own a duplex, you own an entire building that has 2 units in it, with only one shared wall. The real estate industry in Arizona calls a single unit within a duplex a “gemini” or “twin” home. Nevertheless, most people who are not real estate professionals call both the single unit and the entire building a duplex. If the home is not part of a larger HOA that covers exterior expenses, owners of twin homes need to coordinate exterior and roof maintenance.
Manufactured homes (or mobile homes) are built in a factory and installed on the home site. They must meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) construction requirements. If built before the 1976 HUD Code, they are commonly called mobile homes. Some communities do not allow manufactured or mobile homes.
Modular homes are also factory-built and installed on-site but not only they meet Federal requirements, they also meet local building codes, while manufactured homes meet federal HUD design and construction requirements only. Extremely few homes are marketed as modular homes in the Phoenix area, and many of those are in fact manufactured homes.