August 5, 2010

When is a “town home” not a town home?

danBy Dan Dolan
Dan Dolan Homes

When is a “town home” not a town home and what do you call a “town home” that is a stand-alone
home? And what’s a villa?

Virtually every weekend during my open houses someone asks me about the difference between a town home, villa, condo, zero lot line home –and often about home types I’ve never heard of. The answers for a number of these are often the same —“I’m not quite sure but…”

For instance, I’m not totally sure I know the difference between a villa and a town home. Is one in the country and the other in the city? Have you ever heard the movie lothario invite the leading lady to his “villa” overlooking the Mediterranean – or the ocean at Malibu? The number of homes in our area that would meet that definition are few and fewer.

Some definitions are clearer. We build many “zero lot line town homes.” Those are “regular” homes except that you share a common wall with your adjoining neighbor and your lot line goes through the middle of the common wall. Thus “a zero lot line.” In our case, however, that common wall is a concrete core with two inches of insulation on each side for added safety and comfort. Moreover, each homeowner owns the inside and outside of his home including the yard, the siding, the
driveway, the roof, etc. Typically there are no additional fees, assessments or escrows for common area maintenance and future siding or window replacements. You want a tree in the yard? You can plant it. Would you like roses around the home’s foundation? You can plant them (and take care of them). Again, in our case you pay currently $65 a month for lawn maintenance and snow removal.

By contrast, in a condo the homeowner owns and controls only the inside of his/her home, and the outside is owned and controlled as common area by the association. Some associations also collect a
monthly fee for eventual roof, roadway, window and siding replacement and for liability insurance. Since you don’t own your own yard, plantings may be done with approval of the association, and they may or may not agree to your wishes. They may cite uniformity or maintenance issues for rejection. Moreover, once they are planted, the association “owns” the improvements, and they may or may not be retained on an ongoing basis.

Now how about this? What do you call the freestanding home we are building among the “zero lot line townhomes” at Northwest Circle in Davenport? Should you drive by there (Off 53rd St across from Fareway Market) you’ll find the last remaining home under construction. And there’s only one on the cul-de-sac. From outward appearances it is essentially “half” of a side-by-side zero lot line town home, but it is freestanding – i.e. not attached to the adjacent home.

Like an ordinary home, it has four exposed exterior walls and on the inside you wouldn’t notice a single difference. The layout is essentially the same as that of its attached siblings. But is this a villa? A “house”? A single family dwelling? A ranch? It has over 1400 square feet of finished space all on one floor with two bedrooms, two baths, a two-car garage and a full basement. It features a no-step entry from the outside. Monthly association fee is also currently $65 a month for lawn maintenance and snow removal.

But there is another BIG difference. Geothermal heating and cooling. All Dan Dolan town homes feature high efficiency cooling and heating systems from some of the best manufacturers in the industry. Slowly, however, we are introducing geothermal systems. Yes, they are a little more expensive to install, and regrettably we have to pass on that added cost to the homeowner. So on the face of it some of our new homes with that feature may seem a bit more expensive. HOWEVER, the rest of the news is all good. First of all, these homes qualify for an energy-related federal tax rebate of about $4,500. More importantly, ongoing monthly utility costs could be in the range of 60% to 70% lower than with conventional high efficiency systems. So if a “regular” home would have an average monthly utility bill of $100, the geothermal home might be in the range of $30 to $40. With the likely rising cost of energy, this could mean significant ongoing cost savings for the homeowner.

Now for the “cherry on the top”. This and the other nearby Dan Dolan town homes all qualify for the Davenport Now tax rebate. We estimate that on this specific home listed at $217,900 the total combined local and federal rebates would cut an estimated $10,000 off the up-front cost of the home. In today’s housing environment, that’s spectacular!

Whether you call it a villa, a town home or simply a terrific home, we would encourage anyone interested in an outstanding value to drive out any Saturday or Sunday from 1 to 4 PM to view the few remaining homes in this latest Dan Dolan addition. Cal me at 570-1460 to set up an appointment, or call Don Gibeault our Realtor/host for these homes at 650-8007.

Definitions According to Wikipedia…

VILLA – An ancient Roman upper-class country house. In Australia, “villas” is used to describe a type of town house complex of detached houses of 3 or 4 bedrooms built since the early 1980’s.

TOWN HOUSE/HOME – Derived from “House in town.” Today in North America it is used to describe terraced housing and in Australia the term is used for contemporary homes in the terraced style.

CONDOS – Typically a condo consists of multi-house dwellings where each unit is individually owned and the common areas i.e. hallways, recreation facilities, yards, home exteriors, are jointly owned by all the unit owners in the building(s).

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