Townhouse vs. Apartment: A Home Buyer's Guide

Townhouse vs Apartment: A Homebuyer’s Guide

When looking for a property to buy, you might consider a single-family detached home, a townhouse, a condo, a co-op apartment, or something else.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying a townhouse vs. a condo.

What Is a Townhouse?

At first glance, a townhouse might look like a detached multifloor home, but a closer look will show that it’s attached to at least one similar unit.

Townhouses are often found in urban areas where space is at a premium. They often come with a front or back yard. Owners own the inside and outside of their unit and the land it sits on.

The townhome community may have a homeowners association and maintenance fees.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Benefits of Buying a Townhouse

There are at least three upsides to purchasing a townhouse.

Owner Rights

Because people who buy a townhouse own the land it’s on, they have more freedom in how to use the yard. A yard or patio can open possibilities for a grilling spot or dog or child play area.

They also have at least some freedom of choice about the appearance of the inside and outside of the structure.


In communities with high home prices, townhouses may be an affordable alternative for first-time homebuyers.

House hunters from millennial homebuyers to empty-nesters may also find a townhouse a sweet spot between a condo and a traditional detached home with yard.

Plus, because lots tend to be smaller than ones with detached homes on them, property taxes are usually lower as well.

Low Maintenance

Smaller yards mean less yardwork, ideal for busy people and those who are downsizing their home and responsibilities.

The townhouse complex may be gated and have security, and some have pools, gyms, and other shared recreational spaces whose maintenance is covered by homeowner fees.

Disadvantages of Buying a Townhouse

When you think of townhouse living, keep in mind the close quarters with neighbors and possible HOA fees and rules.


Townhouse communities are less likely to have an HOA than condominiums are, but if they do, the resident-led board will collect ongoing fees to cover common areas and any community perks such as a pool. The HOA will also enforce community rules.

Lack of Privacy

Because of the shared walls, a townhouse provides less privacy than a detached home (although more than many condo buildings, where you may have a unit above and below yours. Townhouse living may therefore create some challenges for families with young children.

What Is an Apartment?

An apartment is a room or set of rooms within a building. In major cities, some people refer to buying a condo or co-op shares as buying an apartment.

Condo owners own everything within their unit and have an interest in the common elements. “Buying a co-op apartment” really means holding shares in the housing cooperative that owns the property.

Then there are people and companies that buy a multifamily property like an apartment building and rent out the units. An owner could decide to live in one of the units and serve as an on-site landlord.

Benefits of Living in an Apartment

Let’s look at some benefits of buying a condo.

Low Maintenance

You won’t typically need to make many repairs, mow the grass, or paint. That’s covered by the monthly or quarterly fees you’ll pay.

Low Utilities

First, condos tend to be smaller than single-family homes, which can reduce the cost of heating and cooling the space, and take less electricity to keep it well lit.


If the building has an HOA, the association will take care of property maintenance and enforcement of rules.

Disadvantages of Living in an Apartment

Apartment life can come with disadvantages, too. Here are a few.


You may or may not have a parking space set aside for you, and street parking isn’t always a given in busy locales. Even if you have a parking spot, if people come to visit, they may not easily find anywhere to park.

Noisy or Nosy Neighbors

If you appreciate quiet calmness, you may not find all you’d like in condo living. Neighbors are nearby and they may appreciate louder and more frequent interactions than you’d prefer. If you’re in a crowded city, surrounding events can contribute to the jostling and noise.

Limited Space

If you’re used to living in a house, you could find a more compact apartment to be challenging as you try to fit in your belongings. Plus, it isn’t unusual not to have yard space or a patio, which further limits the amount of space you have to use and enjoy.

Differences Between a Townhouse and an Apartment

When comparing apartment or condo vs. townhouse, keep in mind these differences.

Townhouse Apartment/Condo
Single-family unit that shares one or more walls with another home Room or rooms within a building
May have a small yard or patio If an HOA is in place, it will collect fees to cover most maintenance.
Gives owner some control over how to change the exterior and use yard Typically comes with lower utility bills than a traditional home
Can be more affordable than traditional detached homes in markets with high prices May not come with convenient parking
If there’s an HOA, fees are usually lower because owners are responsible for much of their own upkeep Means you may have noisy or nosy neighbors
May not provide as much privacy as desired Often has less space than some other types of homes
Thanks to the land ownership, financing is similar to a traditional mortgage It can be harder to finance a condo than a townhouse

3 Home Loan Tips

1.    Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.

2.    Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get them for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.

3.    Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.


Do townhomes appreciate as much as houses?

In general, townhomes do not appreciate as quickly as single-family detached homes, thanks to the amount of land that comes with traditional stand-alone homes.

Are townhouses a bad investment?

In some circumstances, a townhouse may be a good investment. The price, current market conditions, and location are factors.

Are fees higher for a townhouse or condo?

Condo HOA dues are typically a lot higher than townhouse fees (if the townhouse community even has an HOA). Condo communities usually have many more amenities to maintain.

Photo credit: iStock/Auseklis

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How to Invest in Single-Family Rental Homes

Is Investing in Single-Family Homes a Good Idea? A Guide to Investing in Real Estate

Investing in single-family homes is often a good way to build wealth and generate monthly cash flow.

Real estate has proven to be an economic bellwether even when stocks and bonds experience downturns. Of course 2020 and 2021 saw a housing boom unlike any in decades, and Redfin reported that home prices were up nearly 8% year-over-year in late 2022, despite rising interest rates.

Single-family rental homes have lots of upsides for an investor, but there are also a few reasons to look before you leap.

What Is a Single-Family Home?

The popular image of a single-family home is a stand-alone, one-dwelling structure with its own utilities, entrance, exit, and access to the street. The owners own both the building and land it sits on, so condos do not count.

Some government agencies expand this definition to include properties of up to four units, such as duplexes and townhouses.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Why Invest in Single-Family Homes?

Buying investment property offers two key benefits to long-term investors:

•   the potential for capital appreciation

•   immediate cash flow

Let’s walk through some of the key motivators for investing in single-family homes.


Single-family homes are typically easier to obtain financing for than multifamily homes of five or more units.

A multifamily property meeting that criterion requires a commercial loan, which usually has a higher interest rate and shorter term than a residential mortgage.

Lenders often require at least 20% down for an investment property. It could be higher, depending on the borrower’s credit score and savings. Then again, there are creative ways to buy a multifamily property with no money down.

Less Volatility

The market for single-family homes is relatively stable and tends to grow more smoothly over the long run compared with other types of homes.

Unlike commercial real estate and apartments, the demand for single-family homes tends to remain relatively strong at all stages of the economic cycle.

Steady Income

Single-family homes may be rented out for longer terms than apartments and usually sit vacant for less time thanks to the steady demand for single-family housing.

Some contend that single-family rentals feel more like proper homes for tenants and therefore are better cared for than apartments.

You’re also more likely to find more families renting single-family homes than individuals. Families may be more likely to extend the lease if they end up loving the neighborhood and schools, as in a coveted suburb.

Tangible Asset

Many people seek to diversify portfolios with different types of investments. Unlike stocks and bonds, which represent shares of ownership and rights to debt payments from a company, real estate is a tangible asset.

The tangible factor gives you something physical to hold on to that’s unlikely to disintegrate over the long term. Stocks, bonds, and other intangible investments require the underlying company to remain a going concern.

Inflation Hedge

Inflation is the creeping impact of price increases, and when there are concentrated bouts of it over a short period of time, it can rapidly erode the purchasing power of your assets.

Housing has often been touted as an inflation hedge because it has historically held its real value during inflationary markets. This could be because of the following reasons:

1.    Most homebuyers lock in their purchase price through a mortgage.

2.    Rental agreements typically last one or two years, which allows homeowners to gradually raise rents to keep pace with inflation.

3.    Home values typically appreciate over the long run thanks to the intrinsic value of the house and land.

Return on Investment

Thanks to steady demand, single-family homes can match or even exceed the return on investment (ROI) of bigger multifamily properties, with lower volatility than stocks or bonds.

Potential ROI across different real estate properties can be compared using a capitalization rate (cap rate) calculation: net operating income divided by current market value.

Net operating income is your gross annual income from the property minus operating expenses (like repair costs, groundskeeping, property taxes, insurance, utilities not paid by tenants, and any property management fees). Home mortgage loan payments are not included in the net operating income formula.


Single-family homes could be a good addition to a portfolio of stocks and bonds, but why does portfolio diversification matter anyway? Because by diversifying assets, you may offset a certain amount of risk and improve returns.

When stocks or bonds fall, real estate prices can take much longer to follow.

Things to Know Before Investing in Single-Family Rentals

Because of the high acquisition cost of single-family homes, you’ll want to conduct proper due diligence on your local housing market and target property before you buy.

As with all investments, be cautious when investing a significant portion of your cash in one place.

Your Numbers

While the projected rental income on a property looks attractive at a glance, bear in mind that maintenance costs and surprises should be factored in.

Vacancy rates, legal issues with tenants, and unexpected repairs can sap your returns over time.

It’s smart to factor in a cash buffer to ensure that money is available on short notice.

Your Target Rental and Housing Market

While the rental income streams of New York and California offer much higher revenue potential, keep in mind that the costs of owning real estate in those areas is enormous as well.

Income is only one side of the rate of return calculation, so make sure you have a good handle on the expenses as well. You can only do that by thoroughly investigating your target housing market and relying on the home appraisal.

The local job market, its dominant industries, and the dependability and growth of local businesses also will shed light on how stable a given market will be over time.

Good schools, safe cities, and proximity to workplaces and attractions matter to many renters.

If you’re looking to use the property as a short-term rental, check out the local ordinances, which may prohibit you from doing so.

The 1% and 50% Rules

The 1% rule is a back-of-the-envelope calculation to estimate whether your rental income strategy will be profitable. If the estimated rental income on the property is at least 1% of its purchase price, you should theoretically be able to generate cash flow.

If your purchase price was $300,000, for example, the monthly rent should be at least $3,000, according to the rule.

The 50% rule states that you should expect the expenses on your real estate investment to make up approximately 50% of the gross income generated. That’ll give you a quick and dirty estimate to help you start ballparking your net returns.

Obviously, the exact numbers are more complicated. When you have time, you’ll want to run a full comparison of revenues vs. potential costs of your venture.

Your Strategy

This one’s a little more nuanced, as it depends on your goal amount, the time horizon, and your risk tolerance.

Are you looking to build a rental home empire or are you just looking for a little extra income to supplement your retirement?

Do you intend to tap home equity to buy one or more investment properties? Do you plan to flip or hold the home?

How to Invest in Single-Family Homes

If you’re confident that buying a single-family home is the right choice for you, there are a few ways you can invest:

Buy It Yourself

This is the most capital intensive and least liquid route. Buying a single-family home in the neighborhood of your choice will net you reward as well as the risk that comes with any property.

If you’re handy, you can buy a fixer-upper or a HUD home (bidding opens to investors after owner-occupants are given a chance) and renovate it into turnkey condition.

The expense of any contractors or property managers will need to be factored in.

Invest Through a Crowdfunding Platform

If you don’t have copious amounts of capital, you can still fund real estate investment projects through online crowdfunding platforms like Fundrise.

These allow you to diffuse risk while taking part in more aggressive investments than you might have been willing to by yourself.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to share the benefits with all investors who partake in the process. Another shortcoming is that your funds may be tied up for an extended period of time, which varies by project.

Invest in a Real Estate Investment Trust

REITs are corporate entities that specialize in purchasing and financing pools of real estate investments on behalf of their clients. They sell shares that are publicly traded and can specialize in any number of sectors or strategies.

The big benefit of REITs is that they’re one of the most liquid real estate investments out there, as you can buy or sell your shares at almost any time on the open market. However, the market value of each share will fluctuate daily.

In the realm of investment opportunities, REITs often provide better returns than fixed-income assets like bonds, but REITs carry higher risk.

There are REITs that specialize in buying and operating single-family rentals. These REITs pay out a major portion of their cash earnings to shareholders.

Explore SoFi’s Home Financing Options

When done right, your single-family home investment can offer growth and income and diversify your portfolio. You can start with lower levels of capital by investing in REITs or crowdfunding platforms, but the gains will be diluted.

Looking at single-family home rentals or other investment property? SoFi offers financing for one- to four-unit owner-occupied residences, second homes, and investment properties.

Rates are competitive.


Is renting out a single-family home worth it?

It can be. Appreciation and rental income have made single-family homes attractive to investors. Multifamily properties provide more rental income streams but also require more property and tenant management.

How do you value a single-family home rental?

There are a few ways. One is to look at recent comparable sales. Another is to calculate the capitalization rate (net operating income divided by property price or value). A third is to use the gross rent multiplier approach (property price divided by gross rental income).

How fast does the value of single-family homes appreciate?

It depends on the market. Lately, appreciation has decelerated. But the national median single-family existing-home price had risen 8.6% in a year, the National Association of Realtors® reported in late 2022.

Photo credit: iStock/Phynart Studio

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Investing in Duplexes: Is It a Good Idea?

Investing in Duplexes: Is It a Good Idea?

Investing in a duplex can be a good idea if you can pony up the cost and don’t mind being a hands-on landlord. A key advantage is the ability to live in one of the units or rent both out.

If the purchase will be strictly a rental, duplexes offer the capacity to double your cash flow for less than the cost of two single-family homes. You also have the freedom to make half your home.

Buying a duplex for investment is a popular strategy for breaking into real estate, and they’re in demand in every major city.

What Is a Duplex?

A duplex consists of two living units on top of each other or side by side, along with the land.

Each unit has its own entrance and exit, kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms. The two units are conjoined by a wall or a floor/ceiling.

Regardless of their layout, the units share the same plot and deed, and are sold as a single property. Unlike a twin home, a duplex has one owner.

A duplex is technically a multifamily property but qualifies — as does any building with up to four units — for the same kind of favorable financing that a single-family home does if you make the property your address.

The units may share the same utilities but otherwise operate as separate residences. This allows you to avoid doubling expenses over time when you need to replace a water heater, for instance.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Advantages of Investing in Duplexes

The advantage of buying a duplex, with the freedom to live in half and rent out the other (or not), speaks for itself.

There are other pros. Here are the major ones.

Cash Flow

Whether you’re trying to build or buy a duplex, a key advantage is the cash flow potential by renting out both units.

Alternatively, you can live in one of the units, which will ultimately reduce the risk if the other half sits vacant for an extended period.

The rent from the other unit may cover part or all of your mortgage costs, depending on how much you put down on the property.

Financing If Owner-Occupied

Eligible duplex owner-occupants have financing choices:

•   FHA loans

•   VA loans

•   Conventional mortgages

Each of those calls for a low down payment or none at all.

The government-insured loans can be used for properties with up to four units as long as the buyer plans to live in one of the units. FHA loans are favored by first-time homebuyers — those who have not owned a principal residence in the past three years — and buyers with lower credit scores.

For an FHA or VA multifamily loan, the owner is to live onsite for at least a year.

Investors who plan to rent out both units must use conventional mortgage loans. They should expect to put down at least 20%. The mortgage rate will likely run a bit higher than for a loan for an owner-occupied property.

A duplex buyer can use both current and projected rental income to qualify for an FHA loan and conventional mortgage loan but not a VA-backed loan.

Faster Portfolio Building

Unlike starting with a detached single-family home and working your way up, buying a duplex lets you double the number of rentable units you own upfront for less than the cost of two single-family rental homes in most markets.

This cuts down on the amount of time you need to find suitable properties to purchase and the closing costs you need to pay.

Buying a duplex also will give you a chance to enhance your portfolio diversification.

Tax Breaks

Owner-occupants can deduct mortgage interest and property tax on their half.

If they have a renter, they can write off expenses for that half: repairs, insurance, any utility bills, advertising, management fees, and so on. And they can depreciate the rented half of the property.

Risk Mitigation

If you’re living in one of the units, you’re still getting some use out of the property if the other remains vacant. You can even bide your time if you need to make home improvements to the other unit.

Comparatively, if you own a single-family rental that sits vacant, that’s cash every month out of your pocket that it remains empty.

Additionally, lenders view the risk to be more diffused for duplexes, particularly if the owner’s living in one unit. From their perspective, it’s much less likely that borrowers would default on a duplex that serves as their primary residence than the owner of a comparable investment property.

Lower Overhead Cost

The same furnace, AC unit, and hot water heater may serve both units in a duplex. If that’s the case, you may only need to worry about maintaining a single set of utilities for both dwellings.

Disadvantages of Investing in Duplexes

Like all rental properties, the primary disadvantage of duplex is the risk that it remains vacant for an extended period of time, although the risk is mitigated if you’re living in the other unit.

Here are other possible downsides when investing in a duplex.

Possibly Cost Intensive

While it may be more efficient than buying two detached single-family homes, a duplex still might cost more than if you had bought a single stand-alone property.

You’ll have twice the number of kitchens and bathrooms to contend with, which will increase costs if you intend to renovate both units.

The cost of building a duplex may exceed the cost of building a house.

Finally, property insurance for a duplex is usually higher than for a single-family home.

Risk of Vacancies

If one or both of the units in your duplex remain vacant, the opportunity cost and negative impact on your bottom line could be enormous.

If the average person is spending a lot on rent, that’s either a great sum to put in your pocket or a terrible one to lose.

Make sure you properly research your target market. Just because you stumble on a duplex that looks great doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll rent from day one.

Proximity to Tenants

If you intend to live in one unit and rent the other out, the coziness with your tenants is a double-edged sword. On the other hand, you’ll be able to monitor the coming and goings of your neighbor, but on the other, you’ll be right next door if any issues arise.

Where to Find Duplexes and How to Buy One

If a stream of rental income and capital appreciation sound good, it’s smart to start scoping out what’s on the market.

You also can seek prequalification and preapproval for financing.

Don’t expect an easy hunt, as serviceable duplexes in great locations are in demand. When you find one, expect competition, true of any good investment property.

Like all real estate, asking prices for prime duplexes have spiked over the past few years due to low supply and record demand.

Start by browsing online listings and filtering for properties with two units. It’s also a good idea to find a reputable real estate agent and specifically request to view duplex properties.

Time is of the essence when making offers. A preapproval letter can carry a lot of weight.

Explore SoFi’s Home Financing Options

Buying a duplex can be a smart move: You’re getting two potential rental streams under one roof typically for less than two single-family homes. Financing is especially attractive if you plan to live onsite.

If you’re shopping for a duplex, keep SoFi in mind. SoFi offers home mortgage loans for owner-occupied primary residences, second homes, and investment properties.

Get a personal rate quote today.


What should I look for when investing in a duplex?

Make sure it’s legally zoned as a duplex. Know the neighborhood. See if the numbers would make sense by researching comparable rents and factoring in any repairs. Gauge noise transfer and privacy if you plan to live there and rent the other unit out.

How do I buy a duplex?

Know whether you plan to live at the property, which will affect your financing. Getting preapproved for a mortgage is a good idea. Look at prices in your area, scour online listings, and consider hiring a good buyer’s agent. In most markets, expect competition.

Is it profitable to own a duplex?

Because a duplex usually does not come with HOA fees and consists of two rentable units, it can be profitable. A duplex also might be more appealing to renters than apartments are. And maintaining a duplex costs less than managing two individual rental units.

Do duplexes increase in value?

They often do, but appreciation tends to be lower for duplexes than stand-alone single-family homes.

Photo credit: iStock/aluxum

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Duplex vs Townhouse: Deciding Which Is Best for You

Duplex vs Townhouse: Deciding Which Is Best for You

A duplex or townhouse can be a more affordable alternative to a detached single-family home, yet offer a taste of that residential lifestyle. These medium-density housing choices are sandwiched between suburban and high-density development.

When deciding on a duplex vs. townhouse, consider the amount of space you need, the amount of maintenance you want to do, your budget, and whether the rental component of a duplex — or Aunt Jill, Cousin Joe, or Mom next door — appeals to you.

Let’s take a deep dive into the differences between a duplex and townhouse.

What Is a Duplex?

A duplex is a single structure with two conjoined units on one plot of land. Each unit has its own entrance, kitchen, beds and baths. The two units often share the yard, laundry area, and garage space, but that isn’t always the case.

A duplex shouldn’t be confused with a “twin home,” which is two homes that share a wall, but each unit and the land it sits on is individually owned. The lot line actually runs through the common wall.

Buying a duplex is often touted as a good investment because owners can rent out one side while living in the other.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

Types of Duplexes

There are two common configurations when it comes to duplex living:

•   Side by side. The shared wall is in the middle.

•   Up and down. When the units are in an upstairs and downstairs arrangement, the dividing wall is the floor/ceiling.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Duplex Living?

Duplexes are in demand, often by first-time homebuyers.

Owner-occupants have a big financing advantage: If you buy a multifamily property of four or fewer units and plan to live onsite, you can use an FHA loan with a low down payment or a VA loan, if you’re eligible, with no down payment at all.

There are other upsides, and potential downsides, you may want to consider before deciding on a townhouse vs. duplex.

Duplex Pros

Duplex Cons

May be more affordable than a traditional single-family home Shared wall and yard means limited privacy
Usually less maintenance than a single- family home Owners still have some maintenance responsibilities
More residential feel than an apartment Usually more expensive than a condo
Half or all can be rented out The neighbor sharing your wall may be loud, or a relative next door could be intrusive
Usually has a washer and dryer If both units will be rented out, an investment property loan typically calls for 25% down and has a higher mortgage rate

What Is a Townhouse?

You get the idea about duplexes, but what is a townhouse? A townhouse is an individually owned home with two or more stories and at least one shared wall.

You own the inside and outside of your unit and the land it rests on, whereas a condo owner owns the interior of the condo. A townhouse has a separate entrance but may share communal spaces.

Townhouses are often found where land is in short supply. This is particularly true in areas that transition from dense, urban cities to the suburbs. They make good use of the space with their vertical nature and shared walls.

They are typically lower priced than detached single-family homes. By the way, the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks residential construction, considers townhouses and duplexes single-family homes.

Townhome ownership has been rising, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says the long-term prospects for townhouse construction remain positive as homebuyers seek medium-density residential neighborhoods such as urban villages.

The NAHB expects townhouses to comprise more than 15% of all single-family homes in the coming years.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Townhouse Living?

As the prices of traditional single-family homes have gone through the roof in most markets, townhomes have become popular as starter homes.

And downsizers may be attracted to townhouses, whose cost may be lower than their detached counterparts.

Townhouses make great use of space, but they also have less privacy, and you may need to follow the rules of a homeowners association, if one exists. (In the condo vs. townhouse comparison, condos come with an HOA, but not all townhouse communities do.)

Financing a townhouse works just like financing any single-family home. Here are pros and cons of buying a townhouse compared with a detached single-family home.

Townhouse Pros

Townhouse Cons

Typically more affordable May not appreciate as much
May share cost of maintenance in the development Less privacy
Townhomes may have amenities attractive to residents Owners may need to pay dues each month as well as special assessments
Full ownership of a property Neighbors are closer together
Small yard or patio requires less maintenance Yard or patio tends to be small

Recommended: Visit the Home Loan Help Center

Weighing the Differences Between Duplexes and Townhouse

Taking a look at living in a duplex vs. a townhouse side by side, they have commonalities but also differences. Here are some.

Structure and Design

A townhome typically is in a planned unit development where the homes share walls and community spaces. A duplex is structured to share a yard and a wall with only one neighbor.

Purchase Price

Cost will vary based on square footage, neighborhood, amenities, lot size, and other factors. A duplex will usually cost more than buying a townhouse, but the tradeoff is that you can rent out one side.

Maintenance Cost

A townhouse may have HOA dues, though they might not be ample because owners are responsible for much of their own maintenance. A duplex owner will need to maintain both units and the yard. A comparison will depend on the size and age of the properties and more.

Rental Income

If you plan to rent out a townhouse you buy, it’s a single unit. A duplex has two units, so it may be easier to make the financials work.


With a townhome, you’ll be living in a community. Compare that with a duplex, where you’re sharing space with one neighbor.

Then again, having a single neighbor might feel less private than if you had many.

Investment Value

The ability to rent at least one side of a duplex holds more investment value than a townhome. The townhome may also have HOA rules about renting that may not jibe with your idea of how to use your property.

The Takeaway

The difference between a townhouse and a duplex is what fits your lifestyle. A duplex can offer a larger yard and rental potential, but a townhouse may bring that single-family home vibe at a lower price point than a duplex.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders, such as SoFi, allow home mortgage loans with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. Not to be confused with prequalification, preapproval involves a longer application, documentation, and hard credit pulls. Ideally, you want to keep your applications for preapproval to within the same 14- to 45-day period, since many hard credit pulls outside the given time period can adversely affect your credit score, which in turn affects the mortgage terms you’ll be offered.
  3. Your parents or grandparents probably got mortgages for 30 years. But these days, you can get them for 20, 15, or 10 years — and pay less interest over the life of the loan.


Are townhomes becoming more popular?

The market share of townhomes is rising. According to the National Association of Home Builders, more townhomes were built in 2022 (152,000) than the previous year (122,000), representing 13.4% of all new single-family starts.

Which is a better investment: a duplex or a townhouse?

A duplex may be the better investment because you have the potential to rent out both units or live in one and collect rent from the other.

Is it faster to build a duplex or a townhouse?

A lot of factors affect how long it takes to build your new home: size, location, materials, weather, subcontractors, the city or county building department, and the complexity of your building plans. Many townhomes are built at once and may become available more quickly. Construction of a duplex is more like a house.

Photo credit: iStock/peterspiro

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Home Loans for People With Disabilities: What You Should Know

Can a person on disability buy a house? Yes, if that aspiring homeowner’s income, debt, and credit qualify them for the house they want to buy. Lenders look at those factors for all applicants.

Income can come from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), long-term disability from an employer or insurer, or veterans disability compensation.

Let’s take a look at housing rights, how to qualify to buy a house on disability, and home loans that make sense.

Legal Protections for People With Disabilities

The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination when people are buying or renting a home, applying for a mortgage, or finding housing assistance. That shields people with disabilities, among many others.

Mortgage lenders are not to:

•   Approve or deny loans based on an applicant’s disability

•   Refuse to provide a mortgage or information about a mortgage to a person with a disability

•   Create different terms, rates, or fees for a disabled person

•   Appraise a property differently for a disabled person

•   Modify homeowners insurance for a person with a disability

•   Discriminate in a home loan modification

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also stipulate that people with disabilities should not be excluded from federal housing programs offering financial assistance and do require accommodation in the construction and modification of public and commercial spaces.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

How to Buy a Home on Disability

If you receive disability pay and want to buy a house, you might start by seeking prequalification and preapproval for a mortgage.

Prequalifying is quick and provides a ballpark figure of how much of a mortgage you can afford.

This mortgage calculator can also give you an idea.

Preapproval begins with a mortgage loan application, which can be made for many different types of mortgage loans. A lender will look at your credit scores, income, debt, and assets.

If you’re preapproved for a mortgage, the lender will issue a letter with a maximum amount you can likely borrow. Buying a home under this amount gives your loan a good chance of closing because it’s based on hard credit inquiries and documentation you provided.

You may have a chance to buy a house from a family member. If so, a gift of equity is a wonderful one: The relative sells the home to you for less than full market value.

Credit Scores

Your credit scores and history are a big part of qualifying for a mortgage. Your median credit score of three represents your risk to the lender. A higher credit score means you pay your bills on time and are less likely to default.

Lenders often offer the most favorable interest rates to borrowers with credit scores above 740, but a government home loan like an FHA loan is available to people with credit scores as low as 500.

If you have past medical bills or an imperfect credit history as a result of your disability, you can focus on factors that affect your credit score and make improvements as needed. Making on-time payments and paying down debt can go a long way toward helping your credit.

Income Requirements

Income and debts help determine home affordability.

Your disability income counts as long as there is no expiration date on your benefits in the next three years (or you have a guaranteed job waiting with the same pay once you’ve recovered, as can be the case with a maternity leave).

General guidelines suggest looking for a home with a monthly payment that is around 28% of your gross monthly income, or three to five times your yearly income.

See also: How Much House Can I Afford Based on My Income?

Debt Requirements

Your debt also plays a large factor when your lender determines how much you’re able to borrow.

Lenders will look at your debt-to-income ratio, which is your debt payments each month relative to your monthly income. This number is recommended by lenders to be 43% or less, though the exact ratio will depend on the mortgage loan you’re applying for.

Generally, the lower the number, the better your chances of being approved for the mortgage you want.

To find your DTI ratio, add up your monthly bills (not including groceries, utilities, cellphone bill, car insurance, or health insurance) and divide that sum by your monthly gross income. Then turn it into a percentage.

Sometimes qualifying for a mortgage with your own income isn’t enough. There are assistance programs worth looking into.

Financial Assistance in Your State

One of the first places you can look for homeownership assistance is your individual state. Once you click on your state, you’ll see a link for “homeownership assistance” or “homebuying programs.” From there, you’ll be directed to programs in your area that offer down payment assistance and other help.

Are you a first-time homebuyer, meaning you haven’t owned a principal residence in the past three years? If so, you may qualify for more housing perks than others.

Another reference is the National Council of State Housing Agencies, which has a state-by-state list of housing finance agencies, which cater to low- and middle-income households.

Recommended: Short-Term vs Long-Term Disability Insurance

Home Loan Programs for People With Disabilities

There may be a specialized program to fit your needs. Take a look at some of these options.

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program

Most know the Section 8 housing program as providing rental assistance for the elderly, very low-income families, and people with disabilities. But did you know that low-income families may be able to use the vouchers to buy a home and assist with mortgage payments?

The conditions are up to the public housing agencies in your area. Contact information for each state can be found on HUD’s website.

General qualifications may include:

•   Be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher program

•   Be a first-time homebuyer

•   Family cannot pay more than 40% of monthly income for housing expenses and utilities

•   Must meet minimum income standard

•   Full-time employment

•   Applicant cannot have defaulted on a previous mortgage

•   Complete homeownership counseling sessions

VA Loans

Whether you receive Veterans Affairs disability compensation or not, if you’re a veteran, VA home loans make a lot of sense. There’s no down payment and no minimum credit score requirement (although many lenders require a FICO® score of at least 580 to 620). Most borrowers pay a one-time funding fee.

Disabled Veteran Housing Assistance

Veterans who have service-related or aging-related disabilities may be able to qualify for grants through the VA. Three types of grants can be used to modify a home for your needs.

•   Specially Adapted Housing or a Special Housing Adaptation grant. This grant allows disabled veterans to buy, build, or modify a home to help them live independently.

•   Temporary Residence Adaptation grant. If you’re living with a family member or in another temporary living situation, you may be able to qualify for grant money to modify the home to meet your needs.

•   Home Improvements and Structural Alterations grant. This grant allows you to make structural or medically necessary improvements to your home. Veterans may not need to have a service-connected disability to qualify.

FHA Loans

Credit scores of at least 500 are required for an FHA loan. If your credit score is between 500 and 579, you’ll need a 10% down payment. A score above 580 earns the privilege of putting as little as 3.5% down.

Conventional Loans

If you have good credit and a decent down payment, a conventional loan may be a more inexpensive option than an FHA loan.

A Fannie Mae “family opportunity mortgage” can also make sense for a parent who wants to buy a home for an adult disabled child and retain owner-occupant status, even if the parent won’t be living in the home.

A Fannie Mae HomeReady® Mortgage is ideal for low-income borrowers who may need down payment assistance. It allows for a down payment as low as 3% to come from various sources, such as grants, gifts, and “Community Seconds” second mortgages. Borrowers must have a FICO score of at least 620, but a credit score above 680 gets the best pricing.

USDA Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has nothing-down options to buy a home through its Rural Development office. Low- and moderate-income buyers in rural areas may apply for a USDA loan through approved lenders. Low- and very-low-income buyers may apply directly to the USDA for a subsidy to lower mortgage payments for a period of time.

The Takeaway

A person who receives disability benefits may be able to buy a house if they qualify based on income, debts, and credit score. There are also programs to help buyers qualify for a mortgage.

If you need a reliable partner in your home-buying journey, give SoFi a look. SoFi offers low-fixed-rate mortgages, and qualifying first-time buyers may put just 3% down.

Take a look at home mortgage loans with SoFi today.


Can you get preapproved for a mortgage while on disability?

Yes, it is possible to get preapproved for a mortgage while on disability. You’ll submit an application to one or more lenders, which will look at your income, debt, assets, and credit history.

Is it possible to buy a house on disability?

Yes. You will need to show that your disability income will continue for at least three years or that you have a comparable job waiting once you’ve recovered.

Can I buy a house on SSI?

Yes, you can use Supplemental Security Income to qualify for a home as long as there’s no documented expiration date in the next three years. SSI payments alone usually aren’t enough to pay mortgage payments, but it might be possible to buy a house with help from family members.

Photo credit: iStock/baona

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See for more information.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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