What Is a Single-Family Home, Exactly? Realtors Explain

Exterior of cottage style house with front yard
Credit: Ivan Hunter | Getty Images Credit: Ivan Hunter | Getty Images

When it comes to buying and owning your first home, what priorities come to mind? Maybe it’s having an open concept living room, a spacious bedroom, or an en-suite bathroom  — essentially, you’re looking for a home with personality that matches your specific needs. Purchasing a single-family home can be one of the first steps to getting there. But what is a “single family home,” exactly? Here is how the experts define it so you know what you’re looking at when you see it in a listing.

What Is a Single-Family Home?

According to NYC-based real estate salesperson Allison Chiaramonte, single-family homes are detached homes with no shared walls that were built to house a single owner or family. “Single-family homes have one large kitchen, and don’t share any walls, roof, or mechanicals with other homes,” she explains.

While a single-family home is an umbrella term, it can take many shapes — bungalows and ranch-style homes are just a few examples of residential properties that can also be considered single-family homes. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned real estate connoisseur, single-family homes are a great option for families and individuals alike. What makes single-family homes a standout option for clients? And who are they made for, exactly? Let’s dive in.

What are potential buyers looking for in a single-family home?

According to Chiaramonte, single-family homebuyers are looking for three things: space, privacy, and flexibility. In metropolitan cities like New York, real estate is highly competitive, making spacious interior layouts like single-family homes a commodity. “These homes generally have significant outdoor space, a rarity in NYC,” Chiaramonte says. “Further, houses allow privacy that is missing in a doorman or multiunit building where you share not only common spaces but walls with neighbors.”

In 2022, Statista declared the average U.S. single-family home to be an estimated 2,299 square feet. As a result, lifestyle preferences, family size, and financial situation all play a role in one’s desire to move from an apartment to a single-family home.

What makes single-family homes unique?

Single-family homes provide individuals and families with a sense of autonomy that just can’t be found in rental apartments. From subletting and design alterations to ownership structure and financing amounts, the strict rules that often regulate apartment rentals may be another reason why people turn to single-family homes when it comes time to buy, Chiaramonte explains.

For homeowners with children, a single-family home layout can offer more privacy than an apartment. And, to be clear, however — regardless of its title, single-family homes can be a great option for individuals, couples, and families.

Who are single-family homes made for?

Anyone who wants to live in one! Single-family homes are pursued by a wide range of demographics that are inclusive of age, occupation, family size, etc. “While it’s true that most people pursue single-family homes for their value on a PSF [per square foot] basis and to get more space, families of all sizes and shapes seek them out,” Chiaramonte says.

Besides seeking out more space for a large family, other factors like having a home office, building a home gym, or curating an outdoor space all play a role in the decision to move to a single-family home. And it’s not always easy — what could be the perfect home for one family might be rejected by another. Yet another reason single-family homes are not just built for nuclear families!