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Real Estate Terms You Should Know Before Buying a House

Buying a house is a big deal. Not only is it one of the biggest investments you'll most likely ever make in your life, it's also the place where you'll make a lot of your memories and spend most amount of your time.

For that reason, a brief summary of some key real estate terms you'll most likely hear from your real estate agent, as well as potential listings, is in order. While this list is far from comprehensive, it should provide a good baseline for you to investigate different houses of your choosing.

Detached Home

This is the most common type of house you'll see for sale on the market, depending on where you live. As the name implies, this is a fully autonomous, self-sufficient house that sits on its own property, own foundation, and has no walls that are shared with other owners. You are responsible for the upkeep and the maintenance, as well as all the modifications you make to the house.

A detached home also affords the highest amount of privacy as well. With no shared walls or common backyards, you don't have to worry about unwanted noises or crammed shared areas with people you don't know. If you have a family already or are planning one, you should seriously consider a detached home.

Unfortunately, all this space and privacy comes at a cost. Generally speaking, detached homes are the most expensive homes on the market, no matter where you live. The size, space, and cost can differ dramatically from place to place, but depending on current market conditions, they are more of a hit to the pocketbook.

Still, it's hard to put a price on having your own space and not having to share it with anyone.

Semi-Detached Home

While not as exclusive as the detached home, the semi-detached house still gives the owner a degree of privacy and ownership, but not nearly to the degree that the detached house offers. These homes are usually one house that has been divided into two halves, which shares a wall in the middle and may or may not share a common backyard. One of the major drawbacks is sound. Since there's only a wall dividing the two households, noise can travel freely between the two homes.

Even though you share a wall with your neighbour, you're still responsible for the upkeep and any repairs that need to be made to your side. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that your neighbour will also keep up theirs, which means you could have a potentially difficult situation on your hands should you decide to sell. Moreover, if you have a particularly difficult neighbour in the first place, that brings on other issues as well. Still, the relative inexpensiveness of the semi-detached home makes it an attractive option to many families.


Townhomes are almost identical to semi-detached homes, except multiplied several times over. These are houses that share a common wall with the property next to them, but that home also shares a wall with the home next to them, creating a row of semi-detached homes that could share a roof, walls, or other types of materials.

Often confused with row houses, which are single properties lined up in a row, townhouses could come in several different configurations. The main defining factor is that they share a common wall and are usually two stories (or more). They're found most often in urban areas or places where land prices are exceptionally high and people prefer to build up instead of out. They were popular in the middle of the 20th-century, but still holds a good portion of the real estate market today.

When a single unit is divided up into two units, it's called a duplex, and when it is divided up into three units, it's called a triplex. Often, someone will buy a large unit, live in one dwelling and rent out the other one or two areas. It may be an expensive upfront purchase, but if the other units are rented out at a high enough rate, it could pay for itself very quickly.

Link Home

These are more of a hybrid between the detached and semi-detached home, with one major caveat: link homes share a common foundation. Since they normally look like two distinct homes above ground, many owners are surprised to discover that they share a foundation, which can cause problems in case of repairs. For this reason, real estate agents and homeowners are required to disclose if they're a link home in the listing.

Cost-wise, link homes are somewhere between detached and semi-detached housing, since they provide the benefits of a detached home in terms of security and privacy, but share a few attributes of semi-detached homes structurally. A variation of these types of homes is a mix between linked homes and townhouses, where a row of houses share a foundation, basement, or below-ground garage, but above-ground look to be detached. These are technically called "linked semi-detached homes," and were very popular in the Toronto area in the 1970's.

Despite the detached nature on the surface, the difference between them can be miniscule, at best. Sometimes the separation between houses that are next to each other are inches instead of feet, providing a tiny alleyway that is unusable. Homebuilders generally prefer to build true detached homes, since they sell for more money.

For any questions, or to inquire about the types of properties available in your area, give Spectrum Realty Services a call at (416) 736-6500, or contact us online today.

Spectrum Realty Services Inc., Brokerage

8400 Jane Street Unit 9, Vaughan, Ontario L4K4L8
Office: 416-736-6500
Fax: 416-736-9766

Trademarks owned or controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association. Used under license.

The information provided herein must only be used by consumers that have a bona fide interest in the purchase, sale or lease of real estate and may not be used for any commercial purpose or any other purpose.

Information is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate by TREB.

Toronto Real Estate Board - IDX Last Updated: 5/24/2019 8:53:19 AM