- Fee simple. The majority of single-family detached homes are fee simple. You own all of the property outright: the house, the land it’s built on, and the yard (if there is one). You’re responsible for insurance and all the maintenance, decorating, landscaping and repairs. You also control all remodeling, though you’re subject to local zoning requirements and any restricting covenants that might affect the property.
- Condominium. You own your unit (townhouse, apartment, detached house) and have certain rights to the common areas (parking, walkways, swimming pool, recreation area). You control how the inside of your unit is decorated, and the condominium association controls the outside area. The association levies a monthly fee for upkeep of the outside area.
- Planned unit development. Your home is one of many homes in a defined community, which may include detached houses, townhouses, garden apartments or high-rise condominiums. You control your unit and have community rights to facilities such as parking, swimming pool, playground and community center. The community association has control over the common areas and charges a monthly fee for their upkeep.
- Co-op. You own a share in a corporation that owns real estate and you have exclusive rights to a specific unit. The co-op board often has great power. For instance, it can prohibit pets and subletting, and it can veto buyers who do not meet its standards. Like condos and planned unit developments, the co-op association charges a monthly fee; however, this fee often includes mortgage costs as well as maintenance, reserves and other expenses.
Note: If you’re looking at a condo, planned unit development or co-op, be sure to ask about the rules, by-laws and regulations used to operate the property.