Attached vs. semi-detached vs. detached (Arlington, Alexandria: renter, HOA, condo)
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Hi all! Recently had my house (an older place in Old Town, Alexandria) appraised for a re-fi. All worked out with that, but the appraiser struggled with comps because the house is completely detached in an area of mostly attached rowhouses, a good number of which may be semi-detached or end units, with only the occassional fully detached thrown in. (all that I'm comparing with are fee-simple ownership with no HOA)
When shopping around, we liked that the house had more light than many we saw, but we didn't focus much on it being "detached". We've come to appreciate it -- our lot is still tiny like our neighbors' lots (but low maintenance!) and not all that private, but we never hear neighbor noise on either side.
So, we see being detached as a big plus (and a reason not to move) -- but, were we to be in the market again, we would certainly be considering all types (attached, semi-detached) since other factors like price, location, and layout were important, too. On the other hand, at the closing, the seller mentioned that he only considered detached houses. For the appraisal, the appraiser gave us a 2.5% price bump over an interior unit and 1.8% over a semi-detached -- interesting, but seems kind of arbitrary.
So, I'm curious from others here --
1). What if any difference did attached/semi-detached/detached make in your house search and/or how much of a difference do you think it would make if you were looking in one of the more urban parts of the region?;
2). If it would make a (positive) difference, would it affect the homes you would consider or the price you'd pay, or both (i.e., you'd consider attached homes but be willing to pay more for detached)?
3). If you'd be willing to pay more, what premium do you think it merits?
This is a hard question to ask because, generally, when you are referring to detached, semi-detached and attached, people think single family home, duplex or townhome in most areas. Those types of housing typically attract different buyers who are looking for different things. That being said, in places like Old Town and Baltimore City, where rowhouses are the norm, I'm not sure what the premium would be.
We own a rowhouse in the Federal Hill portion of Baltimore City. I think there are a couple of freestanding homes in the area. We weren't specifically looking for one but would have checked it out and considered it if one were available. I don't know how much more we would have been willing to pay for a comparable detached home. When we purchased that home, we were looking for a pretty specific location in our price range, with a wide street with permitted parking to prevent stadiumgoers from taking up the parking. Those were the main criteria. And it has turned out in our circumstance that location is absolutely everything! I think Old Town buyers would probably be using similar criteria- if it's in an area they want to be in and within their price range.
We are only looking for detached homes. I have a dog who likes to bark her head off when the mailman, UPS, or anyone, really, comes near the front door. We also foster dogs for rescue or dog-sit for friends frequently, all of whom are various levels of barkers. I would not be comfortable making someone share a wall with me in that situation. If they had a baby or worked odd hours, I'd constantly worry that I was being rude and waking them up.
I can't tell you how much more a detached home is worth to me than a row house, because in our situation we won't consider a row house.
When we were looking at houses we only considered SFH. One of the reasons was that most attached houses had only 1 garage. However the main reason was that we didn't want to be so close to any neighbors.
I saw several very nice attached houses online but being detached was far more important.
My wife and I had minor issues with parking when we lived off of Columbia Pike (the big issue there was having Columbia Pike right outside our backyard and hearing the attendant crashes) and major issues with parking when we lived in the Parkway area of Arlington. (as in, neighbors who'd only interact with us when we dared to park in "their" space. On Columbia Pike we never even met the complaining neighbor, she'd just leave notes on our car/door!)
Plus, if neighbors are trashy in a condo/TH/duplex neighborhood, you get to hear all the details, unless, of course, your particular TH area is well noise-proofed. The TH on Columbia Pike was ok with noise; I'd hear occasional "thumps" but nothing big, the duplex in Parkway was horrible, I heard every argument and lots of TV/radio noise.
Of course -- a lot will depend on your tolerance for noise.
I used to live in a 1930ís all brick semi-detached. For the first few years, there were no problems and I actually thought the brick wall between the 2 houses was sound proofed. Then the renter moved out and when the owner rented to 2 young men just out of college the situation changed completely.
People are legally allowed to be quite loud and no HOA to intervene in that case. Some folks complain that their neighbors are aloof. To me, that is not a problem.
We're still close to the neighbors. Our house is built to the lot line on the front and one side. There's a 3' service alley on the lot line side (on neighbor's property, but we have a recorded access easement). On the other side, there's about 15' between us and the next house. But, for those of you who want SFH, would you still perceive this as too close? (and, thus, not consider this type of neighborhood in the first place?)
We don't have a garage or off street parking. This is true of most of our neighbors. I can't say there's much correlation that I've noticed between having a garage or off street parking and being detached/attached/or semi-detached in our neighborhood.
When we searched in a more urban area, like Old Town for example, we didn't care if was attached or not, as nearly everything is attached, especially in our price range. We did occasionally come across detached and semi-detached, but we didn't really look specifically for them. I guess we would have been willing to pay a little bit more for it, although in our case the detached homes were priced too high for what they were - extremely tiny, almost no lot and no parking, but priced more than a bigger row home. So while detached would have been a small plus, we would not have been willing to sacrifice space in the home for it - we'd have preferred something bigger and nicer that was attached.
In the end we couldn't afford anything though, and moved out to the suburbs.
It's very dependent on the area and the supply of affordable detached housing in the area. You are talking about Old Town where townhouses are the norm and the area is dense enough to support that (places in DC / Arlington are the same way).
For anything outside the beltway (especially in PWC), where detached homes are the norm, attached homes are going to be much less desirable than detached because there are plenty of detached homes to go around and they are affordable to most people. Perhaps I am generalizing a bit, but in a area where detached housing is the norm (think outside the beltway), most people in TH are doing it because they can't afford the SFH.
Detached housing is more desirable because in many cases people won't even look at townhouses.
I think your comfort has as much to do with your neighbors as whether the house is detached.
I lived in a DC row house when I first moved here, and the neighbors were quiet--so it was great. (The walls were also probably 2 solid feet of plaster, but still.) We've lived in a SFH for the last eight years and had a condo before that.
If you live near neighbors who are always coming and going with their cars, who talk on the cellphone on the front porch, have tons of screaming kids, own a bassett hound, or have loud late-night parties, that 10 feet of airspace between your house and theirs will not help much. I'd rather live in an upscale townhouse with quiet, middle-aged, professional people than a slummy area of SFHs.
Last edited by Carlingtonian; 03-19-2011 at 01:44 PM..
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