Terms of engagement: A new-home buyers’ glossary

You’re ready. You’ve made the decision. It’s time to start looking for a home to call your own. But where to start? And what does it all mean? Freehold, condo, semi-detached – sometimes it seems as if the new-home market has a language all of its own.

To help you better understand some housing terminology, with the help of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA), New Home + Condo Guide has compiled – and defined – frequently used new-home vocabulary to help you with your house hunting.

Types of home ownership


Freehold ownership means you own the land and house outright, with no space co-owned or co-managed with owners of adjacent homes.

You are also solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of your property, and the property taxes associated with it. Detached and semi-detached homes, duplexes and townhouses are usually owned freehold.


Condominium ownership means you own the individual unit you live in, and share in the ownership of common spaces. Common spaces can be within the building (e.g. corridors and foyers), the grounds around the building, and any shared amenities (e.g. swimming pools, recreation rooms). You are responsible for the upkeep of your unit, including property taxes, and pay a monthly “condo fee” towards the costs of maintaining common spaces and amenities.

You and the other owners of units within your building manage the common areas through an owners’ association. The association makes decisions about using and maintaining the common space and sets your condo fees.

Types of homes

Single-family detached

A single-family detached home is one dwelling unit that stands alone, on its own lot. These are normally freehold.

Single-family semi-detached

A semi-detached home is a single-family home that is joined on one side to another home. It can offer many of the advantages of a single-family detached home but is usually somewhat less expensive to buy and maintain. These are normally freehold.

Single-family semi-detached

Single-family semi-detached

Row house (townhome or townhouse)

Row houses (also called townhomes or townhouses), consist of several similar single-family homes, side-by-side, joined by common walls. They can be freehold or condominiums. They offer less privacy than a single-family detached home, although each usually has a private outdoor space. These homes come in a wide range of sizes, configurations and price points.

Condo townhomes

Condo townhomes

Stacked townhome

“Stacked towns” are usually two-storey homes stacked one on top of the other. The buildings are usually attached in groups of four or more. Each unit has direct access from the outside. They are usually condominiums.

Modular home

A modular home is a factory-built, single-family home. The home is typically shipped to a location in two or more sections (or modules) and then completed. Any of the above types of homes could also be modular homes.

Condominium (Strata) apartment

A self-contained housing unit located in a building that includes other similar condominium units.
Condo apartments are built in a wide range of sizes, from bachelor units to multi-bedroom suites. Each condo apartment includes its own kitchen and bathroom facilities, and often has its own heating and air conditioning system.

Condo apartments

Condo apartments

Source: gohba.ca


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