Find the right house for you

A condominium or condo. (Image courtesy of Flickr.)

A condominium or condo. (Image courtesy of Flickr.)

By Ling-Mei Wong


When it comes to finding a house, there are many options to consider. Identifying the ideal kind of house helps you find the right place more quickly.

For people who do not need a large house and do not want to bother with yard work, buying an apartment may be the best option. A condominium (condo), townhouse or row house is usually managed by a professional management company. Residents pay a monthly condo fee to the management company to take care of landscaping, trash collection and maintenance. Most condo fees cover water bills, master insurance and snow removal. Others may cover heat, hot water and more, depending on the agreement with the owner and trustees.

Condo living offers convenience, although communal living means rubbing shoulders with neighbors. A master deed covers the whole apartment complex, with each condo owner having the deed to their own unit. The unit deed will state the percentage of ownership. Mortgage loan applications will be affected if the owner occupancy for the condo complex is less than half or more, depending on the lender.


Single-family homes

Single-family homes are designed for a couple with a few children, meaning no extended family such as aunts, uncles or grandparents. However, the number of bedrooms will determine how many people can live in the house.

The deed for a single-family house offers 100 percent ownership for complete control. Many Chinese homeowners plan to renovate their attics or basements for more room. This requires filing an application before construction takes place, with construction plans subject to city rules.

Architectural styles of building can be confusing. Most refer to when the house was built, which influence the home’s design. Below are several common houses in the Northeast.

  • Bungalow: Any simple, single-story house without a basement.
  • Cape Cod: a New England style of house from the 17th century. It is characterized by a low, broad frame building, generally a story and a half high, with a steep roof, large central chimney and little ornamentation.
  • Colonial: These homes typically include steep roofs, small leaded glass windows, rich ornamentation (in the more expensive houses) and a massive central chimney. To maximize natural light in northern climates, early houses faced southeast, regardless of a building’s alignment to the road.
  • Georgian: A house built in the architectural styles from 1720 to 1840, when four British monarchs named George ruled continuously. Georgian houses feature a central front door, decorative moldings and symmetrically laid-out rooms.
  • Ranch: A rambling single-story house, often containing a garage and sometimes constructed over a basement.
  • Tudor: The Tudor architectural style is the final development of medieval architecture during the Tudor period (1485-1603) and beyond. Buildings have six distinctive features: Decorative half-timbering; steeply pitched roof; prominent cross gables; tall, narrow doors and windows; small window panes; and large chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots.
  • Victorian: Any house built during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Victorian-era homes in eastern American cities tend to be three stories.


Multifamily home

If you have more people in your home, a multifamily house offers more space. For example, a house could be divided into two halves with separate entrances, allowing more privacy for family members or an additional unit to rent out. For a Chinese family with several generations under one roof, a multifamily home provides greater flexibility and more room for everyone.

Rental income is an incentive to buy a multifamily home, as it can help offset mortgage payments. A large single-family home can be converted into a two- or three-family home, if there is land for parking spaces and it is in good enough condition. For example, a single-family home could be split into two condos and the owner can sell the condos separately. However, construction for more than four units would be classified as an investment property, which significantly affects the mortgage loan and down payment.


With reporting from Melody Tsang, Multi-Service Center coordinator at the Asian American Civic Association. This is part two of an affordable housing series.

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About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England 舢舨報紙總編輯。舢舨是全紐英倫唯一的中英雙語雙週報。
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