An iced cottage topped with gumdrops and peppermint candies is likely your first thought when you hear someone mention a gingerbread house.

But a gingerbread-style home is also a beautiful architectural style with deep historic roots. You’ll know a gingerbread house when you spy one, notes Beverly Solomon of the eponymous design firm.

“They’re the epitome of cute—I like to refer to these homes as ‘architectural lace,’” she says.

For more on this over-the-top home style, including the history, where you’ll find them, and what it’s like to live in and maintain a gingerbread-style home, read on.

The history of gingerbread homes

Photo by Luxe Interior International

Gingerbread-style homes grew in popularity during the Victorian era of architecture in this country, which spanned the late 1830s up until 1900. And it was these homes that were often decorated with delicate ornamentation common to the era’s design.

“The Victorian period in the U.S. was a time of great expansion of wealth, innovation, and an emerging middle class,” explains Solomon. “And this meant that average people wanted their homes to have those extra frills, just like their clothes, which had the same touches to indicate they were moving up in the world.”

But the gingerbread style can also trace its history to Haiti. Architects from this island nation traveled to Paris and then brought home the bold color combinations and decorative scrollwork to use on local residences and municipal buildings.

Key features of a gingerbread home

Photo by Becky Harris 

A gingerbread home isn’t its own style in the way Edwardian and Craftsman styles houses are. Instead, the hallmarks of the gingerbread style—think fancy millwork, scroll designs, steeply pitched rooflines, and lacelike cutouts and patterns—are most often seen grafted onto other architectural styles, notably Victorian-era homes.

Gingerbread houses are also known for their unusual paint shades (think teal, maroon, mustard yellow, and bright white) that were used to highlight the eaves and arches that line the rooftops, porches, and windows.

“A gingerbread-style home is truly special,” says Lacey Power, an associate broker with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Asheville, NC. “It’s not a standard cookie-cutter house, but one that evokes a magical emotion and whimsical flare.”

Where gingerbread homes are found

Photo by Becky Harris

Along with the historic Gingerbread District in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, you’ll also find these adorable cottagelike homes in Cape May, NJ, and a famous grouping in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

“Just about every town in the USA likely has at least one gingerbread house, and you’ll also find them throughout the Caribbean,” adds Solomon.

Living in a gingerbread house

Photo by Durabrac Architectural Components 

While the look embodies curb appeal at its finest, maintaining a gingerbread house takes a good bit of extra effort and patience, says Adam Graham, a construction industry analyst at Fixr.

“The intricate scrollwork in particular needs more attention in terms of time, labor, and cost when it comes to repainting and repairing it,” he says.

Bottom line: “All those different colors on the house can be time-consuming,” says Solomon. And unless you own a scroll saw and have experience using it, you’ll have to hire a pro to replace fallen or rotted-out pieces.

Fortunately, some reproductions of gingerbread house details are being produced in synthetic materials, which are less expensive and more easily maintained than wood.

And don’t forget to consider the weather when keeping a gingerbread home in good shape.

“Heavy rain, strong wind, and other elements can damage features of the house, weakening or breaking them off and peeling all that paint,” says Graham.

And since the color combinations are a key visual to this home’s appeal, it pays to pony up as much as you can to obtain durable high-quality paint for your exterior. Graham advises checking in with a paint expert to learn which kind is right for this home.

Photo by Durabrac Architectural Components 

While the upkeep of this type of home isn’t for the faint of heart, the desirability of the gingerbread style endures.

“These homes are very popular as folks love to buy older houses with character and that feel like they’re owning a piece of history,” says Power.

The cute factor doesn’t hurt either, adds Solomon, since “this house style is perfect for a candle store, bakery, sandwich or toy shop.” Add artists, bed-and-breakfast owners, and other romantics to the long list of homebuyers who love the look and feel of these homes since it reflects both their businesses and their personalities.


For this and similar articles, please visit

You finally found a house that checks all the boxes—well, almost. There’s just one thing that’s bothering you, but you’re not sure how big of a deal it is. Welcome to our take on the internet’s favorite trend: It’s a 10, But. In this column, we’ll explore common issues and ask the experts to weigh in.

Today we ask the pros: How big a deal is an out-of-date kitchen? Their answer: Not as big as you might think. For starters, a kitchen that hasn’t been updated is an opportunity for you to remodel to your own tastes. Even if you end up doing a floor-to-ceiling renovation, you’ll be 100% in control of where your dollars are going.

That said, it really comes down to just how old the kitchen actually is.

“A kitchen that hasn’t been updated in decades will have most buyers convinced they’ll have to spend a lot of time and money to redo it,” says Bill Samuel, a licensed general contractor and residential real estate developer in the Chicago area. On the other hand, a home with a decade-old kitchen is an opportunity for buyers who are willing to take on some DIY work or invest in a remodel over time.

It’s a 10, But: The Kitchen Is Totally Out-of-Date

The verdict: It’s a 6.

Thinking about buying a house with a dated kitchen? We talked to realtors and contractors to get their best advice for small fixes with a big impact. Here are four changes that are sure to make that kitchen feel shiny and new.

Paint it white.

One inexpensive way to perk up any room, especially one that’s dark and small, is to paint it white, says Samuel.

But which white should you pick? There are a lot of options, but they generally fall into three categories: cool, neutral and warm. “Cool whites have a darker tint (blue, black, etc.), neutral whites are the bright whites (plain white), and warm whites have a lighter tint (yellow, red, etc.),” he says.

To make sure you’re picking the right white, paint a small section of the wall, then “observe the colors under different lighting over a few days,” he says. Consider how the wall looks in direct sunlight, overcast light and artificial light. “This will help you make the right choice that will brighten and modernize the space.”

Install open shelving.

Installing open shelves is another easy way to give your kitchen a low-cost makeover and a little individual style, according to Mike Gregor, a Realtor at Cohen Agency in New Hartford, Connecticut.

You can find plenty of options to fit your decor, from sleek and minimalist to more rustic-industrial.


Once you’ve added the shelves, he suggests taking a less-is-more approach to styling. “The key is to keep it simple by avoiding overcrowding,” he says. “Instead of exhibiting every piece of glassware and china, choose favorite everyday objects that can stack to provide depth, color, and intrigue.”

Add a breakfast bar.

If you have the space for it, a breakfast bar is always a win, Gregor says. “A breakfast bar requires significantly less space than a table and chairs, it can be used to prepare and serve food, and it adds a point of architectural interest,” he says.

“If your existing layout has a peninsula, then it’s as easy as installing new larger countertops with a big overhang—provided you make sure the overhang is properly supported,” Samuel says. “If your existing layout doesn’t have a peninsula, then you would need to redesign your cabinet layout.” This may sound complicated, but he assures us that it’s “relatively easy if you have the extra space.”

Embrace old flooring–or cover it up.

If your kitchen has old floors, consider leaning into the look. Those black and white tiles? They’re always in style.

Alternatively, Gregor suggests peel-and-stick vinyl flooring, like this “Carrara marble” option. It’s “easy to use and can transform an unsightly kitchen floor into one that looks updated—and clean.” A case costs just $42 and covers 30 square feet.


For this and related articles, please visit 

Is your kitchen begging for some updates or a full-on makeover? Then you’ll want to be up on the latest design trends and keep the environment in mind, too.

A new survey of 3,600 homeowners by Houzz has found that an overwhelming majority of people planning a kitchen renovation this year (92%) are looking to include eco-friendly features.

Some of the most popular upgrades chosen include energy-saving appliances (61%) and LED lights (65%), as well as more efficient windows (27%) and fixtures that conserve water (34%).

Yet saving the earth is actually more of a side benefit to homeowners’ main goal: saving money.

According to Houzz staff economist Marine Sargsyan, “the most frequent reason behind choosing sustainable options is long-run cost effectiveness, with environmental-friendliness as a secondary consideration.”

Photo by Kountry Kraft 

Saving cash isn’t easy, though, given the median spend on minor kitchen renovations has shot up 40% year over year, to $14,000. Meanwhile, the money plunked down for major overhauls (which include replacing all appliances and cabinets) has remained steady at $45,000.

Here’s a detailed look at the report’s findings, which might get some ideas cooking on how to change up your own kitchen, too.

A new year, a new style

Photo by Winder Gibson Architects 

As has been the pattern over the past few years, 83% of homeowners who are delving into a kitchen rehab are changing the room’s style. Top designs include transitional (23%), followed by modern (14%) and contemporary (12%). Still love the modern farmhouse look? It remains in the mix and even went up a point from last year, to 11%.

Open floor plans are still going strong

Photo by Paragon Custom Builders 

When it comes to kitchen design, the open plan is still in vogue. Last year, interest in this look dropped a bit, but per the latest numbers, 40% of renovating homeowners are opting for cook spaces that are open to the rest of their interiors, which is up from 38% in the previous year.

What’s more, 20% of folks are even looking to open up their new kitchens to the outdoors, with a set of double doors or row of doors taking the top choice (46%), a single door after that (29%), and a pass-through window last, at 14%.

White still rules, with wood tones next

Photo by rk MILES, Inc. 

Forty percent of homeowners surveyed still want white cabinets in their kitchens, but wood-toned options are gaining traction, up 3 percentage points, to 24%, this time around. And for those homeowners who are into contrasting island cabinet doors, black as well as medium and dark wood shades all increased at least 2 percentage points in 2022.

But blue (24%) and gray (15%) still win the kitchen island color contest, even though these hues declined 2 and 3 percentage points respectively since last year.

Electronic upgrades are everywhere

Photo by Mannino Cabinetry 

Sustainability, pretty colors, and a breezy open flow don’t mean a thing if you can’t charge all of the family phones in one easy spot. Electronic improvements continue to increase in desirability, per the report, which includes docking stations (49%, up 9 percentage points), wireless speakers for rocking out during Taco Tuesday (37%, up 11 percentage points), and stereos (up 10 percentage points, to 20%).

Homeowners also crave high-tech bells and whistles in their faucets and appliances. Sink tap choices include ones that save water (24%) and those that offer touch-only or touch-less activation (23%).

As for fridges and other big-ticket items, folks are putting in appliances with Wi-Fi connections (25%) and ones that can be controlled from a phone or tablet (24%).

Put that contractor on speed dial

Photo by M Prevost Design 

Homeowners know they need the right person on the job when it comes to kitchen rehabs, which is why 84% still pick a pro rather than going the DIY route. General contractors rank the highest (50%), with kitchen designers (22%), interior decorators (15%), and architects (11%) following behind.

And to get those green touches just right, 3% of us are hiring a dedicated source to advise on all things eco-friendly in the kitchen. Mother Earth thanks you!


For this and related articles, please visit

Window treatments—a catchall term for shades, blinds, shutters, and more—are one of the most impactful ways to make your new home feel cozier and more lived in. But once you start to explore your options (there are a lot) it can be easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why we asked experts to share the most important things you should know about window treatments, from the basics to the looks that are trending right now. Here’s what they had to say:

5 Essential Things You Need to Know About Window Treatments

Window treatments are for so much more than privacy.

One of the first things you probably think of when you think of window treatments is privacy. And yes, window treatments can provide excellent privacy, says Adam Skalman, Vice President of Sales Development at The Shade Store. But they also offer a variety of other benefits. Solar shades, for example, can prevent glare and block UV rays, while blackout shades can create a more healthful sleep environment. Throughout your home, cellular shades can help moderate temperature, keeping heat in during the winter and keeping it out in the summer. And, of course, they can be decorative.

“Window coverings are truly the jewelry of a room and frame the views beyond,” says interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “I feel they finish a room and add warmth and comfort to a space.”

When considering your options, Skalman says you should take two main things into consideration: “what you would like your window treatments to accomplish in a space and how you would like them to look.”

Most window treatments can be motorized (and they work with your smart-home tech, too). 

Smart shades are the new thing in window treatments, according to Jaret Nichols, co-owner and founder of TBES, which specializes in smart-home systems. These days nearly all of his customers want at least one motorized shade, and while most of his clients are creating custom-made window treatments, he says nearly all window treatments can be motorized. All you really need is a motor.

Popular brands include Lutron, HunterDouglas, Somfy, Control4, and Savant. Regardless of which brand of motor you choose or whether you have a professionally installed system or a DIY system, Nichols says almost all products have integration with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit.

Window treatments can cost a lot of money, but they can also save you money.

When it comes to budget, there are plenty of affordable options out there: Cellular shades, wood, faux wood, or metal blinds, and roller shades are some of the most wallet-friendly options out there, according to Skalman. On the other end of the spectrum, there is no ceiling; the sky is really the limit, especially once you start adding in features like upholstered valances and automation. Want the option to have your shades be sheer or blackout? Considering blinds and drapes? Have to have Roman shades in heathered linen? It’s going to cost you.

The flip side is that window treatments can save you money by keeping heat out (and air conditioning costs down) or by keeping heat in (and reducing heating bills). The Department of Energy recommends looking for products with the Attachments Energy Rating Council (AERC) Energy Improvement rating to maximize savings, while Nichols suggests programming your system to lower the shades when it reaches a certain temperature. He also says that you can find specific fabrics, like KOOLBLACK, that reduce heat absorption and help your home stay cooler.

Colorful, patterned window treatments are having a moment. 

Some fabrics and styles will always be in vogue. Linen, for one, continues to be the most popular choice in materials, according to Bullard: “Its durability, natural beauty, and texture is always a winner.” Interior designer Cortney Novogratz adds that a textured white sheer on a French rod is her favorite classic look.”It is a style that is complementary to so many decors,” she says.

But if you’re looking to make a statement with your window treatments, the time to do so is now. “Both color and pattern are back in a big way,” says Bullard. “Patterns, like vines and palm leaves, are very strong motifs that transcend time and place, whilst green seems to be a very strong color in the design world currently. Florals and even chintz designs are back and making bold statements, especially in blinds.” As for linen? “Plain linen is giving way to textures and exotic weaves like the Moroccan basket weave and tone-on-tone embroidery.”

Window treatments should make use of the full window space.

Both Bullard and Novogratz agree that the biggest mistake people make with window treatments is not taking advantage of the full window space, including the space above the window. “You can create an illusion that your ceilings are higher, but you need to utilize every part of the window and above to be successful,” Novogratz says. Bullard adds that seeing a gap between the bottom of the floor and the hemline of your drape is definite no. “Either touch the floor or allow a small cuff of fabric to gather at the floor.”


For this and similar articles, please visit

Spring is the quintessential time for cleaning and sprucing up your space. For many homeowners, that ritual includes refreshing tired walls with new paint.

But choosing a paint color you won’t regret can be tricky. You might be torn between two (or five!) shades. Or maybe you’re just looking for something a bit out of the norm.

The following paint colors are certainly bold, but we promise this: Stepping away from ho-hum white and gray hues is guaranteed to enliven your living space.

If you’re planning to remake your walls this spring, these are the au courant colors to consider. Our experts were happy to weigh in on the paint trends they’re seeing right now.

Rich reds

Living room painted in Raspberry Blush, Benjamin Moore’s 2023 color of the year

(Benjamin Moore)

Red will make a big statement this spring.

“Red is a bold color that adds drama and sophistication to any space,” says Matt Teifke, founder and CEO of Teifke Real Estate in Austin, TX.

Several design companies, such as Pantone and Benjamin Moore, chose red-tinged hues for their 2023 colors of the year. For example, Benjamin Moore’s pick—Raspberry Blush—is a vibrant, red-orange color.

“People are ready to bring color back into the home, taking a step outside their color comfort zones,” said Andrea Magno, color marketing and development director at Benjamin Moore, in a press release. “Raspberry Blush [delivers] delight and personality while transforming rooms for incredible results.”

However, if you’re not ready to paint a whole room this color, Kendal Cavalieri, MBA, AKBD, founder and principal designer at Kendal Cavalieri Design in Buffalo, NY, recommends starting small.

“Consider using it as an accent in furniture, pillows, draperies, and wallpaper,” she suggests.


Living room painted in Vardo by Farrow & Ball

(Farrow & Ball)

Devin Shaffer, lead interior designer at Decorilla, shares that teal is a rich, versatile color that plays nicely with many design styles.

“It has a classic quality that makes it a timeless choice,” he says. “It can also add a pop of modern flair when paired with the right colors and textures.”

However, it’s essential to remember that the appearance of teal may vary depending on the lighting.

“Teal can look more blue in natural light and more green in artificial light,” Shaffer says.

Because of this, he recommends testing the color on a small area before painting a whole room.

One of our top teal picks is Vardo from Farrow & Ball—a sumptuous, lively color that works particularly well with reds or dark greys.

Vining Ivy, a blue-green jewel tone, was selected by Glidden Paint by PPG as their 2023 color of the year.

Muted blues

Kitchen wall painted in Smoky Azurite by Sherwin-Williams


Soft, muted blues will be a go-to for those looking to create a relaxing atmosphere, says Graham Gordon, senior designer marketplace manager at Block Renovation.

“This calming color is a nod to the sky and water,” he says.

Give new life to your slab-front kitchen cabinets by painting them Smoky Azurite by Sherwin-Williams, a cool denim hue with yellow-gray undertones.

If you’re looking for the perfect shade of light blue, Philippa Radon, a color and design specialist from C2 Paint, recommends C2’s Thermal.

“This cool and sophisticated hue of blue delivers an airy, soothing veil of color that delights the eye,” Radon says.

This versatile shade works well with light-bleached woods and deeper, mid-tone blues.

Jewel tones

Wall painted in Shamrock by Sherwin-Williams


You can also expect to see Art Deco-inspired paint palettes pop up.

“Art Deco color schemes often center on moody, saturated tones,” says Diana Viera, managing partner at ITALKRAFT in Miami.

She recommends opting for jewel tones, such as cobalt blue, emerald, and pure purple—rich shades that are proven to lend a sophisticated look.

“When you contrast these colors with dark gray or black paint, it establishes a striking, elegant atmosphere,” explains Viera.

Sherwin-Williams’ Shamrock is a classic, emerald paint choice. And Purple Mist by Valspar is a cool, light purple that celebrates the beauty of an amethyst stone.

Unexpected color pairings

Not only will we see unexpected paint colors this spring—but also unexpected color pairings, says Gena Kirk, vice president of Corporate Design Studio at KB Home.

“As we continue to personalize our spaces to make them a reflection of our personal styles, some old rules go out the window,” she says.

Surprising pairings may include browns with warmer blue tones or mushroom-inspired grays placed alongside magentas.

Eli Pasternak, a real estate professional and founder of Liberty House Buying Group, echoes this sentiment and says he’s observed increasingly frequent mashups of warm and cool tones in a single space.

“For example, homeowners might use a deep green to cool a warm brown or a vibrant pop of purple against a tan,” Pasternak notes.

However, he cautions that you should be mindful when mixing colors.

“Never let the color tone in a room be so muddled that you can’t tell if it’s warm or cool,” Pasternak says. “Remember, one temperature ought to predominate over the other.”


For this and similar articles, please visit

Many first-time homebuyers might presume they’re better off going used rather than new—in other words, purchasing a pre-existing property rather than pricey new construction.

While it’s true that brand-new homes often come with a heftier price tag upfront, these properties can actually end up being a good—even great—deal for first-time buyers.

“It is true that new-construction homes, on average, are 10% to 15% higher in sales price than resale homes, but that doesn’t mean that they are less affordable,” says Bob Seeman, vice president of sales for New Homes at “Simply put, total homeownership costs are more than a monthly mortgage payment alone.”

Here’s why first-time homebuyers shouldn’t rule out new construction, and how these opportunities can be a better deal than many might think.

Low inventory means first-time buyers should explore all options

Unless you want to be waiting a long time to buy your first home, you should consider new-construction homes.

(Getty Images)

In a housing market that’s still dealing with extremely limited inventory, the reality is first-time homebuyers can’t afford to dismiss this option.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, the inventory of existing homes on the market in December 2022 was at an all-time low of 910,000. That was a year-over-year decrease of 18%, and marks 31 straight months of declines in available homes.

“The housing shortage will get worse over the next year—we simply don’t have enough supply,” says John Hunt, chief analyst for MarketNsight.

For example, Hunt says, to get back to “normal” and meet demand, Atlanta alone would need 66,000 additional homes on the market over the next 12 months.

Compounding the problem is that homeowners who might normally sell aren’t doing so because they’re reluctant to buy a new home—and get a new mortgage—when interest rates are so high.

Translation: Unless you want to be waiting a long time to buy your first home, you should consider new-construction homes because there just aren’t enough homes of any kind to satisfy the current demand.

Builders can help first-time buyers with better financing

Many builders can offer financing through their company’s mortgage arm or through a lender affiliate and also have programs to help reduce the amount of cash a buyer needs to close on a home.

(Getty Images)

Let’s face it, price matters. That’s true whether you’re buying your first home or third luxury vacation property. The difference with a new-construction purchase, however, is you might be able to save money through builder incentives.

These promotions—meant to attract buyers to a certain development project—frequently come in the form of financing help, and this is what can make a new-construction home purchase workable for a first-time buyer.

“What many first-time buyers most need are cash to close and monthly payments that they can afford,” says Seeman. “Because many builders can offer financing through their company’s mortgage arm or through a lender affiliate, they have programs to help reduce the amount of cash a buyer needs to close on a home.”

A reduction in the initial cash outlay can make all the difference for a first-time homebuyer. Many builders are also currently offering much lower mortgage rates through their lenders as well in order to attract first-time buyers who would otherwise be priced out of the market.

“We’re seeing builders get creative with financing—offering rates as low as 4.99% to 5.99% right now, which is lower than what you’ll see for existing homes,” says Alex Toth, director of homebuilder partnerships at Opendoor.

Since mortgage rates spiked in October to over 7% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan for the first time in 20 years, this could indeed determine if a first-time buyer can qualify for a home or not.

Another benefit of working with a builder’s lender is that the lender is usually well-versed in FHA and VA loan options. These low or no-down payment loans might also be a huge benefit to first-time homebuyers trying to secure a mortgage if they qualify.

New-construction homes can save you money on utilities

New homes are built to the latest building codes which set more stringent insulation and energy standards.

(Getty Images)

Total homeownership costs include more than just a down payment and mortgage, but many first-time buyers forget that part of the equation.

“Even if a new home is 10% more than a resale home, new homes are built to the latest building codes, which set more stringent insulation and energy standards,” says Seeman. This means new homes might cost a buyer less in heating and cooling costs.

“Those efficiencies should help offset a slightly higher monthly mortgage payment,” adds Seeman.

Bill Samuel, owner of Blue Ladder Development, agrees.

“In most cases, a new-construction home will be considerably more energy-efficient than an older home since it was built to a higher standard of energy building code, so you’ll likely have lower utility expenses than an older, similar sized home,” Samuel explains.

However, Janice Glessner, the online sales and marketing manager for S&A Homes, suggests first-time homebuyers look for a builder that can offer proof of the home’s energy efficiency through a Home Energy Rating Score.

“This can translate to hundreds of dollars, even thousands, saved every year depending on where and how you live,” says Glessner.

New-construction homes often require fewer repairs—and come with warranties

Another way that a first-time homebuyer might save money by purchasing a new-construction home is through far lower maintenance expenses over the years since all of the components of the house are new.

“Older homes have hidden costs,” says Glessner. “For example, having to replace an HVAC system in an old home can cost thousands.”

But if something does go wrong with your new home, not only are there likely some manufacturer warranties in place, but many builders also include additional home warranties, which can save a first-time buyer from unforeseen expenses.

“Builder warranties usually come with multiple components,” explains Seeman. “For instance, a warranty may cover major appliances and systems—for example, plumbing, electrical—for two years, and structural defects for 10.”

Customization is cheaper than renovation

One of the biggest benefits of purchasing a new-construction home is the potential to customize the home to meet specific tastes.

(Getty Images)

“Cost aside, a lot of first-time homebuyers are of the millennial generation, who are used to and expect customization in almost everything they do–and a new-construction home provides that,” says Toth. “From integrated smart home systems and technology to customizable finishes, today’s builders are giving first-time homebuyers a wealth of options.”

Numerous experts also agree that one of the biggest benefits of purchasing a new-construction home is the potential to customize the home to meet specific tastes. And this is also a financially savvy move since renovating a resale home can be costlier than new construction.

“Oftentimes a builder will have access to favorable pricing from its subcontractors and suppliers,” says Samuel. “So it is typically much more economical for them to perform upgrades during the construction process versus buying a property as is and hiring a retail contractor to make the requested improvements.


For this and similar articles, please visit

Finding a new place to plant roots isn’t solely about the price tag. Your real estate search is likely to include a range of options: condo vs. townhouse, condo vs. house, house vs. townhouse and more. As you stack different types of properties against each other, it’s important to think about not only what you can afford, but also your preferences and expectations as a homeowner or renter.

“When it comes to deciding which style of home to focus their search on, buyers should consider their budget and lifestyle, as well as their desired amount of involvement in home maintenance,” says John Ameralis, a licensed associate broker and leader of The Ameralis Team at Compass in New York City.

Maybe you’re a first-time homebuyer, or an empty nester looking to downsize. No matter where you are in life, consider this your primer on what type of housing will best fit your needs.

A comparison of four housing types

Condo vs. house vs. townhouse vs. apartment

Living Space Cost Ownership Best for
Condo Down payment, monthly mortgage payment and HOA fees Unit First-time homebuyers, downsizers
House Down payment and monthly mortgage payment, maintenance House and property it sits on Couples, families
Townhouse Down payment, monthly mortgage payment and HOA fees Unit and property it sits on Those who want more space than a condo, but not all the responsibilities of a house
Apartment Security deposit and monthly rent No ownership Those who want flexibility to relocate or are saving for a down payment


condominium (or condo for short) is a salable unit within a larger community, which could be a high-rise building. Condos can be a good option for anyone who wants to keep home maintenance to a minimum, including first-time homebuyers, singles, older homeowners or people who travel frequently. Condos are similar to apartments, in that both are likely to share multiple walls with neighbors. There is one major point of distinction, however: You own a condo, and you rent an apartment.

Of all the home types on the market for sale, condos “require the least amount of maintenance. You only need to maintain the ‘walls in,’” Ameralis explains. So, if the roof is leaking or the carpet in the lobby needs to be replaced, that’s not your responsibility — the condo association handles those duties. In addition, some condo buildings have doormen and offer an extra level of security, particularly in large cities.

Of course, you and all your neighbors pay HOA or condo fees to cover the costs. Condo association rules can be highly restrictive, as well. You may not be able to customize your unit the way you want, and you may be prohibited from renting it out to others.

Those who value privacy might find a condo’s communal areas less than ideal, too. “It is important to keep in mind that in condos, even the most exclusive ones, you are still sharing elevators and other amenities,” explains Judy Zeder, a Realtor with the Jills Zeder Group at Coldwell Banker in Miami.


  • Limited maintenance
  • Extra security


  • Monthly fees
  • Communal spaces


When most people talk about buying a house, they mean purchasing a single-family home, which is a standalone structure on a foundation. It doesn’t share walls or common spaces as condos, apartments and townhomes do, and it may also come with a lot of land to enjoy.

Two of the biggest points in favor of buying a house are privacy and the freedom to decorate and maintain it however you like. (Within the frame of local ordinances and/or HOA guidelines, of course.) “Owning your own house gives you more freedom to live how you want to versus condos, which have bylaws that govern what you can and cannot do,” Ameralis says.

Single-family homes are usually the most spacious housing option, and you can expect a higher price tag to reflect that. The average single-family home sold for $58,000 more than a condo in 2020, according to data from real estate brokerage Redfin.

In addition to paying more up front, you’ll likely pay more down the road, too. Owning a house means you’ll be responsible for all of the lawn care, maintenance and repairs, which can be considerably more cumbersome than you’d have with another type of home.

Here are more house vs. condo differences.


  • Freedom over aesthetic choices
  • More space, both outdoors and inside


  • Higher price
  • All maintenance is your responsibility


Townhouses can be much cheaper to buy than a single-family home. Some even have small yards or patios. However, most modern townhouses have fairly small footprints and shared exterior walls with neighboring homes.

Townhouses also usually come with HOA rules and fees. When it comes to the ability to make your own choices, you might have a bit more autonomy than condo owners, but your decisions still typically have to be HOA-approved.

“The older a townhouse development, the higher the maintenance fees tend to be, because the communal parts of the property — whether it’s the grounds, a pool, roofs or siding — need to be repaired over time,” explains Andrea Webb, a Senior Real Estate Advisor with Keller Williams Realty in Montclair, New Jersey.

For homebuyers debating between a house or a condo, a townhouse might be the best of both worlds. You get more space, often in multiple levels (like a single-family house), with less exterior maintenance (like a condo).


  • Lower price
  • More space


  • Monthly fees
  • Shared walls


An apartment is any residence inside of a residential building where the individual units are rented, not sold. In bigger cities, these can be condos that are being individually rented. Apartment buildings often have shared amenities for tenants, like a gym or a pool.

A big factor in determining if a condo or apartment is right for you comes down to money: Do you have enough cash to put toward a down payment? You can use Bankrate’s rent vs. buy calculator to get a good idea of which is a better financial move for you.

There are other questions to consider, too. How long do you plan to live there? Are you likely to have a job or lifestyle change that would require you to move? If you plan to move within five years, it could be better to rent than buy for now.

Renting an apartment provides a place to live minus most of the responsibilities that come with homeownership. However, as with condos, you’re limited in the changes you can make (think paint colors or fixtures), and the landlord can dictate things like whether to allow pets. Also, you won’t build any equity, nor get the tax perks that come with homeownership.

Here are more condo vs. apartment differences.


  • Flexibility to move
  • No maintenance


  • No equity or ownership benefits
  • Must abide by landlord’s rules

Bottom line

To help you choose among a condo, home, townhouse or apartment, consider your savings account, how much space you need, how long you plan to live there and how much money you can comfortably put toward repairs, maintenance and remodeling costs.

Visit open houses and search online listings to see what’s on the market in your price range. Consider working with a real estate agent to help you narrow your choices, and do in-depth research so you have a solid understanding of the process. If you aren’t sure of where you want to land just yet, follow Bankrate’s Housing Heat Index to get a sense of where you might be able to find a good deal today.


For this and related articles, please visit

Before you start your house-hunting journey, you’ll need to know your budget. The most accurate way to do that is by getting pre-approved for a mortgage.

How long does it take to get a mortgage pre-approval? To answer that, you’ll need to learn a bit more about the pre-approval process and what to expect when buying a home.

Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval

If you’ve already been pre-qualified, do you also need to be pre-approved for a mortgage?

While it’s not a strict necessity, you’ll need to go through the pre-approval process if you want to get the most accurate mortgage estimate. Some borrowers use  “pre-approval” and “pre-qualification” interchangeably, but there are distinct difference

Pre-qualification is a quick, rough estimate of your purchasing budget. A mortgage lender can pre-qualify you after a soft credit pull, and the whole process can be completed within minutes based on the information you tell your Loan Officer..

The pre-approval process is more in-depth and involves a thorough examination of your finances, as well as a hard credit pull and documentation to support your income and assets. In return, you’ll receive a document known as a “pre-approval letter,” which will outline your purchase price and the type and terms of your mortgage loan that you qualify for..

What Information Is Needed to Get Pre-Approval for a Mortgage?

In order to receive a pre-approval letter, you’ll need to provide your lender with a full financial history. This typically includes:

  • Social Security number
  • Pay stubs
  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of income
  • Bank statements
  • W-2 statements
  • Tax returns
  • Employment verification
  • Proof of assets

Most significantly, your lender will do a hard credit pull (credit report pulled through 3 bureau’s: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to evaluate your credit history. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate is likely to be. A low credit score doesn’t prevent you from being pre-approved, though it can affect the type of home loan you qualify for or interest rate.

Self-Employed Mortgage Approval

If you’re a business owner, freelancer, or private contractor, you may have found it challenging to get mortgage pre-approval since you lack the formal documents to prove your income, assets, and other financial data. But self-employed individuals can still receive approval for a mortgage loan if they supply certain documentation, such as:

  • Form 1099
  • Recent tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Company balance sheets

As always, self-employed borrowers can expect a hard credit pull to assess their credit history prior to receiving final approval.

What’s in a Pre-Approval Letter for a Mortgage?

Once you’re approved, you’ll receive a document known as a “pre-approval letter.” This document includes information about you and the nature and terms of your loan. It commonly includes:

  • Your name (and the names of any other borrowers)
  • The total purchase price you’re approved for
  • The type of mortgage and the term
  • Your approved interest rate
  • The property address (or area you’re looking to buy a home)
  • Your down payment amount
  • The expiration date of the pre-approval letter

Keep in mind that a pre-approval letter doesn’t guarantee the terms it contains. Purchase price, loan type, and interest rate are all subject to final approval, which depends on your financial information remaining unchanged between pre-approval and final purchase.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval Letter?

Depending on your lender and the complexity of your finances, you should be able to receive pre-approval within the same business day. But for some, the process can take up to a week.

How Can I Get Pre-Approved Faster?

You can speed up the pre-approval process by gathering your documents ahead of time. While your lender will still need time to review your mortgage application and financial data, having your data organized well in advance will simplify the process.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, start saving your pay stubs and bank statements now — you’ll need them when you go through the pre-approval process.

How Long Does Pre-Approval Last?

Pre-approval has an expiration date, usually 60 to 90 days after receiving the letter. Your pre-approval letter will likely specify the expiration date, after which you’ll need to apply for pre-approval again to continue house hunting.

Does Pre-Approval Hurt My Credit Score?

Because the pre-approval process involves a hard credit check, it can lower your credit score by a few points. This effect can be multiplied if you fill out multiple mortgage applications within the same period.

However, the impact on your credit score is relatively small and is unlikely to alter the interest rate you’re approved for. And after roughly two years, hard credit inquiries will disappear from your credit report.

With that being said, because the pre-approval process affects your credit, you should only seek pre-approval when you’re ready to get serious about buying a home.

Before that, you can seek pre-qualification to give yourself a ballpark estimate of your purchase budget, then seek pre-approval once you’re ready.

Why Should You Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

There’s no law that says you have to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start shopping for a home, but a pre-approval letter will make the process much easier. Here’s how.

Your Offer Carries More Weight

Many sellers are unwilling to consider an offer unless you have pre-approval. Without a pre-approval letter, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll fail to obtain financing, causing the deal to fall through. And in a seller’s market, a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender can help you stand out from other competing buyers.

Know What You Can Afford

One of the most important benefits of mortgage pre-approval is that you’ll be able to zero in on your price range. Doing so will allow you to proceed through the home-hunting process with realistic expectations about what you can afford and find a property that matches your needs and budget.

Easier to Look for Homes

An approval letter can also give you greater confidence when searching for the right home.

Even in an unstable housing market, you’ll know exactly what to expect in terms of down payment, interest rate, and more. Additionally, your pre-approval letter will usually specify the geographic area you’re approved to shop in, which can help you narrow down your list of potential properties.

Lock in Your Mortgage Rate

Some lenders offer a mortgage interest rate lock, which lets you tell your loan originator you want to lock in your interest rate. With a mortgage interest rate lock in place, your interest rate will remain unchanged as long as you close your loan on time.

CrossCountry Mortgage FastTrack Credit Approval

How long does it take to get a mortgage pre-approval? With some lenders, the process can take as long as a week. But time is of the essence — the faster you can obtain financing, the more competitive you’ll be in sellers’ eyes.

That’s why CrossCountry Mortgage offers a FastTrack Credit Approval program. Our clients have closed their home loans within seven days of signing the original purchase contract. That kind of speed matters to sellers, who are generally more willing to work with buyers who offer a quick turnaround.

For more information, contact CrossCountry Mortgage today.

Lessons from the field that will save you time, money, and stress along your co-buying journey.

Most co-buyers are excited about the adventure of buying and owning a home together. At some point, many feel overwhelmed. This is normal. Buying a home is complicated, full stop. Compared to a married couple or a singleton, co-buyers have more research and planning to do. In fact, co-buyers face greater complexity across every aspect of their purchase and homeownership.

Here’s where many co-buyers who come to us say they’re having difficulties:

  • Navigating the process
  • Finding the right professionals
  • Managing market competition
  • Setting up co-ownership

While the preferences, circumstances, and goals vary from one situation to the next, there are common patterns and friction points.

In this post, we’ll look at how these obstacles hold co-buyers back. Understanding where things get tricky makes it easier to navigate around roadblocks.

⛔ Mistake #1: Searching for homes before getting approved for a mortgage

It may sound obvious. Still, nearly half of buyers start the home search before sorting out financing. This approach to home shopping is inefficient and ineffective.

First off, it’s shopping without a budget. According to a recent HarrisX survey, nearly 70% of first-time buyers misunderstood their budget.

Second, it generally results in disappointment. In competitive west coast markets, the most desirable homes are currently on the market for less than 14 days. Say you do find the perfect home online. By the time you and your co-buyer(s) have:

  1. worked through the important details of your joint purchase
  2. agreed on key elements of co-ownership
  3. secured financing

…there’s a good chance the home has already sold.

The costs of this approach can mount quickly, particularly in an environment where home prices are rising.

⛔ Mistake #2: Not getting clear about participation and contributions

It’s essential to get clear on who will be involved, how each party will participate, and what each party is bringing to the table.

→ Who will be an owner?

→ Who will be an occupant?

→ How much is each party contributing in cash up front?

→ How much will each party contribute to total monthly housing expenses?

→ What is each party’s credit situation?

These are just a few of the decisions that need to be ironed out—the earlier, the better. What you decide will impact every aspect of the purchase process and co-ownership. For starters, mortgage pre-approval will require clarity on these issues.

⛔ Mistake #3: Sticking to unrealistic expectations

It’s human to want more than we can afford, particularly when it comes to our home. A recent nationwide survey of first-time homebuyers found that 40% had to compromise on budget, features, amenities, or location. In competitive metros—where home prices are two to four times higher than the national average—most buyers have to compromise to get an offer accepted.

Managing expectations against reality is tough(er) for co-buyers. When compromise is required to successfully purchase a home, everyone must agree on what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Co-buyers may or may not have the flexibility or appetite to increase their budget, widen the geographic search area, or give up certain features. The list goes on. Ultimately, you need to weigh the desire to become a homeowner with the concessions required to get there.

⛔ Mistake #4: Selecting the wrong professionals

If you’re not a soccer fan, you’d probably struggle to put together a U.S. Olympic soccer team that could take home gold. Selecting the best professionals for your joint home purchase isn’t so different. Co-buyers depend on guidance from a range of pros who have the right skills, experience, and approach. There’s a vast spectrum of talent and different types of expertise. To achieve a successful outcome, the players have to work together.

It’s understandable why co-buyers struggle to select the right professionals in the wild. A typical home purchase involves 11 or more parties. Finding the right real estate agent, lender, attorney, and others—all with relevant experience in co-buying and co-ownership—would be a tall order. But having the right professional guidance is critical to a smooth purchase and the success of your co-ownership arrangement.

⛔ Mistake #5: Starting the journey without a roadmap (DIY approach)

Co-buying involves a multitude of moving parts before, during, and after the purchase. The decisions on any given issue—the target home, financial considerations, structuring co-ownership, day-to-day running of the home, etc.—have implications for other aspects of the co-buying journey.

Without a roadmap, navigating the co-buying process and decision points is (at best) inefficient. More unsavory outcomes include: not being ready in time to submit an offer, making multiple offers without success, the purchase falling through during closing, incurring unanticipated costs, incurring financial loss after the purchase, and experiencing disagreements during co-ownership.

“If you invest the time earlier to create structure and process around communication, planning, and goal setting, you can prevent missteps before they occur.”

-Christine Tsai

⛔ Mistake #6: Forgetting to plan your exit strategy

It’s said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. One way or another, the co-ownership period will eventually conclude through sale, buyout, or transfer of ownership. What an exit looks like depends on how co-ownership is structured.

When a married couple owns a home and divorces, the process of dissolving jointly held assets is defined. Still, 71% of divorcees wish they had more guidance splitting assets (Fidelity 2019). Co-owners who are not married to one another do not benefit from established legal frameworks or structures. Even amicable conclusions to co-ownership can have unintended consequences and costs in the absence of a defined exit strategy.


For this and other articles, please visit CoBuy Blog

Every new year, countless vows are made to declutter—which explains the enduring popularity of Marie Kondo.

This tidying expert “sparked joy” around the world with the release of her bestselling book in 2010, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Since then, she’s starred in her own Netflix series, “Sparking Joy With Marie Kondo,” recently released yet another tome, “Kurashi at Home,” and has even encouraged us to add to our pile of possessions by launching her own line of organizational products.

Yet in the 12 years since she first encouraged household purging, Kondo’s approach to organization has evolved, expanding beyond streamlining our closets and cabinets into a whole way of life. Curious to hear what’s changed, we asked Kondo about her own New Year’s resolutions, the biggest mistakes people still make when decluttering, and much more that will help you live your best life at home in 2023 and beyond.

Marie Kondo practices category-based decluttering.
Marie Kondo practices category-based decluttering.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Clearing out clutter is a common New Year’s resolution. What’s your best advice for achieving that goal?

My best advice for those looking to initiate a New Year’s organization project is to think clearly about what intentions you want to set. Ask yourself what your ideal life looks like, and envision what exactly you want to be surrounded by.

When you work through this step of the decluttering process, you are really clarifying why you want to tidy and envisioning your best life.

I feel the same goes for setting a resolution; be honest with yourself and what you want out of the new year.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions and if so, what are they? What are you looking forward to in 2023 that will spark joy in your own life?

Winter months are the ideal time to go inward and plan for the year ahead. Journaling is how I sort my thoughts and tidy my mind. I use the opportunity to identify what I am looking forward to reorganizing, whether it be related to my personal or professional life.

To me, a fresh notebook can go a long way when it comes to getting your life in order, especially around the new year. I often will refer to what I’ve written to check back with my original resolutions and track how I’ve progressed, or if the original intention has evolved since working toward it.

The new year is a time of rich tradition in Japan, with family and friends gathering for days to celebrate the occasion. From writing intentions to eating symbolic foods, this time of year is great for resolution setting.

In 2023, I am setting the resolution to use something new. Replacing something that you often use, like a toothbrush, towels, or socks, can infuse fresh energy into our life and make the new year one that truly sparks joy.

What are the most common mistakes you see clients make when decluttering in the new year?

In the KonMari Method, we tidy by category and not by location. When clients tidy a single closet or room at a time, they’re repeating the same work in many locations. That is why my method believes in category-based decluttering, so you can tackle all of one category or type of item at once—beginning with clothes, then books, moving over to papers, then komono [miscellaneous items], and finally sentimental items.

Tidying in this specific order is not only efficient, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the method and of yourself as you move along.

Marie Kondo journals to set organizational intentions.
Kondo journals to set organizational intentions.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Gifts are an inevitable part of the holiday season. … What’s your strategy for giving presents that don’t contribute to clutter, and how do you deal with receiving items that don’t spark joy?

When giving gifts, I urge people to follow these three steps: Think about the recipient’s lifestyle, imagine them using the gift, and let go of the end results.

When you think intentionally about what your friend or family member may need in their life, the process becomes a little simpler. It doesn’t have to spark joy for you, but it obviously should for them!

Lastly, I urge people to give gifts without expectations or an agenda, which can help both the giver and the receiver from feeling undue pressure or like they’ve fallen short.

My recommendation for making the most of gifts you’ve received is to try it out at least once.

The ability to feel what truly excites you is only gained through experience. Be adventurous and welcome things that are different. After trying the gift out, if it still doesn’t feel like a fit, thank it for the joy it brought when you first received it and let go with gratitude. There are many ways to mindfully discard an unused gift.

Marie Kondo with her new book, “Kurashi at Home.”
Kondo with her new book, “Kurashi at Home”

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

How is your new book an evolution or next step from your prior books on organizing and living your best life?

Writing “Kurashi at Home” gave me the opportunity to show readers how [to] tidy all aspects of your life, not just your home. Mindful rituals have always been very important to me, and while everyone’s daily rituals will look a little different, explore the ones that encourage you to achieve your best life.

The book goes into more depth about the steps to take to achieve Kurashi. It also offers inspiration throughout via wonderful imagery and my own personal rituals that I hope will help readers better understand how to surround themselves with joy.

How do you approach organizing your digital life?

When it comes to your computer, phone, or tablet files, identifying what exactly sparks joy in this capacity is that your files are organized and tidy, so you can find what you need when you need it.

Digital clutter can be more tedious and time-consuming to sort through, but once it’s done, you’ll feel relief each time you log on. Don’t be afraid to archive and store a majority of your data. If you aren’t using it every day or needing it readily available, it can definitely live elsewhere!

Now that she's a mother, Marie Kondo embraces the occasional mess.
Now that she’s a mother, Kondo embraces the occasional mess.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

How has your organizing method evolved since having children?

Since having children, [my] method has not changed but my daily mindset definitely has. It will always stay true to its six basic principles, but since the founding of the method, I’ve become a mother and faced many business changes as well.

Before my children were born, it was easy to completely devote myself to tidying and the growth of the method and business. Now, since having children and learning to juggle my priorities, I have become less critical of messes in my life both literally and figuratively. I try to keep my life in order as much as possible, but with juggling a family and a brand, these days I am OK with—and embrace—the occasional mess.

When one family member—spouse or kids—is messy and other is not, how should they approach finding an organizational system that works for them both?

It can be hard to find middle ground when a family member or roommate has a different living style than you. A few tips I recommend to create a functional, shared organizational system is to find a time that works for everyone, including kids, and commit to tidying and organizing together.

I also recommend dividing and conquering. Maybe your roommate or partner doesn’t mind vacuuming and sweeping, and you prefer to do the dishes and fold laundry—lean into each other’s tidying preferences.

Lastly, if you’re looking to incorporate your children more, I always tell parents to make organizing fun for children. Teach your children that everything has a home so when cleanup time comes around, it can be made into more of a fun game where children will want to tuck their toys into designated spots.

All in all, open dialogue and understanding of preferences can help you develop an organization system where everyone under one roof is held accountable!

Marie Kondo gives a home to every item in her house.
Kondo gives a home to every item in her house.

(KonMari Media, Inc.)

Working from home is now common. What’s the best way to keep spaces that serve dual purposes—work and personal—organized?

It is vital to keep dual-functioning, work-from-home spaces organized so when you are working from that area, you can have a productive and efficient day.

Go through your desk drawers and toss out old receipts, corral loose change, and recycle paper items that are no longer needed.

Consolidate same-category items versus having them loosely scattered in multiple areas. Office supplies, paperwork, books, and other items should all have a specific home within your desk area.

I also recommend making a clear separation of your professional and personal paperwork. Items like [a] bamboo file divider and organizer or letter and papers tray are a great addition to any desktop to keep important paperwork separate and neat.

You’ve been practicing and teaching your method for years. What new lessons have you learned, and what still surprises you about organization?

Since my first book, I’ve learned countless lessons both professionally and personally. Since meeting my husband and growing our family, I’ve learned how special raising children has been for both of us and helped us lead more fulfilled lives.

With the publishing of my latest book, “Kurashi at Home,” the opportunity to teach people how to apply the method to other areas of their life has been an exciting lesson that I’ve been developing for a while.

Organization is truly an act of self-care, and I am able to practice that craft each day, which is what makes my job feel so special. Tidying my surroundings and practicing a tidy lifestyle is constantly teaching me new lessons, and I cannot wait to continue to explore it further.


For this and similar articles, please visit