So you are thinking of buying a property in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but what type of house should you buy? There are so many different styles of houses/properties in Canada. In this article, we will focus on housing options in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Here are 5 different types of residential properties you can buy in Calgary (with pictures):
Styles/Types of Houses in Canada: Housing in Alberta, Canada
- Detached Property (2-storey, bungalow, bi-level, 4-level split, other types of split homes)
- Attached Property (duplex, townhouse, rowhouse, villa)
- Apartment (high-rise, low-rise, single-level, multi-level)
- Infill (modern home – can be detached/attached)
- Acreage (detached home on a large lot typically within or close to the City limits/boundaries)
What you must know before we dive in…
In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2-vehicle garages are very popular. Attached and detached properties usually have detached or attached garages. Apartments, townhouses, and rowhouses usually have underground or surface parking, or no parking. The attached garage is a more valuable and more desirable option vs detached garage.
Attached Garage (garage is attached to the front of the property)
The most popular style of housing in Calgary is a detached property with an attached garage. These homes are generally larger in terms of square footage than homes with a detached garage, and they also tend to be more expensive.
Calgarians love the convenience of an attached garage where you don’t need to walk outside in the middle of winter to get to your car. In addition to that, carrying groceries inside the house is much easier as the garage door is often located right across from the kitchen pantry.
Detached Garage (garage is separate from the property and is located at the back of the house)
A detached property with a detached garage is typically a smaller-sized property (but not always!) and is less expensive than a detached property with an attached garage.
If you are looking at a detached property without the garage, you will have to park on the street or in the back (if there is a back lane). Homes without a garage are less expensive than homes with the garage, and if you like to garden, you can grow a bigger garden as there is a lot more space without the garage in the back.
Walkout Basement vs Full Basement
A walkout basement is a basement that incorporates a wall with doors and windows on the ground level. It looks very similar to the main level of the home: the same large windows, plenty of light, and a door that leads to the backyard. Walkout basements are often built into a hill.
Sometimes people rent them out (some basements have an “illegal” or “legal” kitchen (registered with the City of Calgary and built with all the City permits) or spend time watching TV and playing games/working out, etc.
Basements are generally colder, so during those hot summer days, it’s a nice respite from the hot July weather. Walkout basements are valuable and are one of the most popular features that buyers request. Walkout basements are the opposite of the conventional “closed basement” where there are no doors to the outside and the basement is located completely below grade.
A full basement is a basement that matches the floor space of the level above (footprint of the home), and it is generally at least six feet high. The windows are smaller and it is generally much darker than the walkout basement. There are also no doors to the outside, and the basement is usually fully below grade. It is good to remember that finished basements add space (whether they are walkout or full) and increase the home value.
1. DETACHED PROPERTY – SINGLE FAMILY HOME
A single-family home is a separate home meant for only one family. It’s a stand-alone house that doesn’t share any walls with any other property. It’s not attached to any other home and has some open space on all four sides of the property. The owner is responsible for mowing the lawn, clearing the snow, and general upkeep costs of the home and backyard.
There are different styles of detached properties: bungalow (closed basement – no walkout), bungalow with a walkout, raised bungalow, bi-level, 3-level split, 4-level split, 4-level split with walkout, 5-level split, 1 1/2 storey, 2-storey split, 2-storey, 2-storey (with a walkout), 2-storey split with walkout. The garage can be attached to the house, detached (behind the house) or there can be no garage (just a stall or street parking).
Two-storey homes are the most popular choice for many homeowners. They usually have all the bedrooms on the second floor. The main floor has the living room, dining room, one bathroom, and the kitchen. There are stairs going up to the second floor and going down to the basement.
The basement can be developed (all the finishes are done, walls painted, flooring is installed (carpet or hardwood), all electrical connections are installed and approved by the City), or undeveloped (bare concrete and nothing else). Developed basements raise the value of the property and homes are priced much higher if the basement is fully developed. The garage can be attached or detached.
Bungalows are also very popular among Calgarians who are older/have mobility issues and who do not like stairs. There is usually a master bedroom and bathroom on the main floor + living room + kitchen. Other rooms are located on the lower level in the basement. Walk-out basement bungalows are very desirable. Bungalows in Calgary are typically priced higher than 2-storey homes, as there are not many of them in the city and bungalows are quite popular due to their spacious, open layout.
Bi-Levels and 4-Level Splits (and all other split-type of homes)
Bi-levels and 4-level splits were very popular in 1970s-1980s, so there are some communities in Calgary that have many older properties like that (e.g., Silver Springs NW). These types of properties usually have shorter staircases vs 2-storey homes. Often these properties have a second entrance in the back or on the side with walk-up/walk down basements.
In some cases, it is harder to sell a split-level as it’s not the most preferred choice on the market. Some people do not like the stairs or a floor plan with several small rooms and closed spaces; however, not all bi-levels are the same. Some renovated options are excellent and would make ideal homes. In addition to that, they are usually located in older, inner-city desirable communities in green neighbourhoods with mature trees.
2. Attached property (sharing a wall with a neighbour) -duplex (2 units), townhouse (more than 2 units), rowhouse (more than 2 units).
An attached property shares at least one common wall with another unit (e.g., a duplex (also called semi-detached) or a row house (e.g., a townhouse). Sometimes you have to pay a condo fee (depends on the property). An attached property can have a condominium form of ownership (share the common property with other owners + pay a monthly condo fee) or freehold (no condo fee).
Note that detached properties are almost always freehold properties (no condo fee). Note: There is one special case where the detached property can have a condo fee (and be a condominium) – a bareland condo. Read about bareland condos here.
A condominium is a form of ownership – not the type of style of a property!! Most attached properties such as apartments, villas, townhouses, duplexes, and rowhouses are condominiums. You pay a monthly condo fee and share common spaces with other owners. Many people associate the word “condo” only with apartments, but that’s not true. This term also includes villas, townhouses, duplexes, and even some detached homes – bareland condos. You can read about different types of Calgary condos here. Note: there are some townhouses and duplexes with NO condo fees but not that many of them. These types of properties are not condominiums and are called freehold properties.
A building comprised of two distinct units is known as a duplex. The duplex can have a condominium form of ownership (share common property + pay a monthly condo fee) or freehold (no condo fee). The two units may either be placed adjacent to one another or one unit may be situated above the second unit.
Typically, each unit within a duplex has a separate entrance. In a few buildings, each of the units may be provided with a dedicated garage and outdoor area as well. Similarly, buildings comprised of three distinct units and four separate units are known as triplexes and fourplexes, respectively.
A townhome is a unique concept, wherein the advantages of a single-family home are leveraged with a twist. Every homeowner and their neighbour share a common wall. Typically, a townhouse is built to hold several floors and instead of being horizontally expansive, a townhouse uses space vertically. There is no singular rule pertaining to garages: some have one, others don’t.
Although the house may come with an open space, either at the front or as a backyard, the homeowners association might be in charge of maintaining them. A townhouse may offer other advantages to its residents as well, such as pools, parks, or playgrounds. But remember that there is a maintenance fee that can be included in your condo fees.
Row houses are also referred to as townhomes or townhouses. As the name suggests, they incorporate multiple single-family homes, placed adjacent to each other, with each sharing a common wall with another.
One downside is that, when compared to a conventional single-family home, they tend to compromise on privacy to some extent, although each home has a separate door.
Although a townhouse and a rowhouse may sound similar and the terms may be used interchangeably, the two types of housing are actually quite different. When compared to other types of housing, rowhouses are designed to align more effectively with the infrastructure of the city.
The houses are quite compact using space more effectively. Moreover, due to their size, they can be constructed in areas close to offices and stores. Although convenient for residents, they may not include garages, common spaces, and elevators, which are perks offered by most apartment buildings.
Another subtle difference between townhouses and rowhouses is that, while the former is typically established with varying layouts and groups the houses together to form development, the latter comes with a common façade – all the houses are positioned in a line on a street and each one is owned individually. In the case of a townhouse, a homeowner’s association is quite common.
In technical terms, a rowhouse includes a group of low-rise buildings established for residential purposes, where the walls, as well as roofs, are commonly shared with the houses adjacent to them.
A villa is usually an attached duplex (bungalow style) or a detached bungalow (but as a bareland condo – learn about bareland condos here). For a Calgary home buyer seeking the comfort and the privacy of a single-family home, but devoid of all the responsibilities, a villa is an ideal option.
This type of option is very popular with people who want to downsize and seniors. When you own a villa, you can enjoy independence without being burdened with maintaining the outdoors, which is a responsibility that is typically covered by the condo fee/maintenance fee.
If you choose a villa in Calgary, you can bid adieu to painstaking tasks like shovelling, mowing lawns, raking leaves, painting fences, and other maintenance work, which is quite time-consuming. However, remember that you have to pay for those services.
An apartment, commonly referred to as a flat in Europe, is an independent unit contained within a building, which typically occupies one floor. As an apartment owner, you are subjected to a condo fee, and the common areas are shared with owners of other apartments in the building. An apartment may either be in a high-rise or a low-rise apartment building.
High-Rise or Low Rise Apartment
High-rise apartments are apartments that are 5+ stories high. They almost always have elevators, amenities, security, and an on-site property management office. Mark on 10th is a good example of a high-rise apartment building.
Low-rise apartments are less than 5 stories high (2-4 stories), and are located in residential areas with typically less foot and vehicle traffic. Low-rise apartments sometimes offer more privacy and negotiability of rent and utilities than high-rise apartments.
Single Level or Multi-Level Apartment
If you are looking for an apartment, you can choose from a single-level apartment or multi-level apartment or a loft (yes, they exist!). You pay your condo fees, own everything inside your unit, and share the common property with other people in your building.
4. Infill (attached or detached) -aka modern-looking home in older communities.
An infill is a form of development where a new home is built on an older lot and the old structure is removed. Infills are usually located in the inner-city of Calgary. In simple words, infill is a modern looking home located in Calgary’s older inner-city communities.
The infill can be attached or detached. The garage is usually detached but there are some infills with an attached garage. You can view a variety of Calgary Infills on my other website: https://CalgaryInfillsGuide.com, your trusted source for inner-city infills in Calgary.
5. Acreage (a property with a large lot – can be right outside of Calgary limits (e.g. Springbank, Rocky View County).
Acreage is a form of detached property built on private land that’s one acre or larger. Ah, that fresh country air! There are lots of acreages located very close to Calgary (25 min away from downtown) in the areas called Springbank, Bearspaw, and Church Ranches – all located in Rocky View County (an area right outside of Calgary limits).
There are also many of them located in the De Winton and Priddis areas located in the deep south part of Calgary. An acreage home is typically an estate luxury home that is much larger than a typical detached home in Calgary. According to Rocky View County, residents can keep one horse for every four acres or a maximum of 20 chickens (cannot have both).
Some estate acreages have strict architectural/design controls, e.g. in some cases, you cannot build a fence around your property. Sometimes you also have to pay a membership fee when you are buying an acreage. There also might be extra costs for water as the acreage water system is usually a part of the local water co-op (not municipal City of Calgary water), and that can be costly. The taxes are generally lower than the taxes for a similar property in Calgary.
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What about you? What is your favourite type of property and why?