Active Adult Villas, Townhomes and Duplexes: What’s the Difference?

Del Webb\'s Carolina Preserve, located in Cary, North Carolina, offers 13 floor plans to choose from including  both duplex villas and single family homes.  
Del Webb’s Carolina Preserve, located in Cary, North Carolina, offers 13 floor plans to choose from including  both duplex villas and single family homes.  

Villas and townhomes and duplexes, oh my! When searching out an ideal active adult community, prospective residents often face confusing terminology when it comes to home descriptions. A similarly designed home may go by multiple names from one community to the next. Conversely, various Realtors or websites may use different terms to describe the exact same home. What does it all mean?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers when it comes to defining various home types. Ask three Realtors what the term “villa” means, and you are likely to get three different answers. You might even get three different answers from each realtor as they struggle to give you an accurate explanation.

Although the terms vary widely among Realtors and developers, there are a few general guidelines that tend to be true of certain home types. The easiest home type to understand is the single-family home. In nearly every case, a single-family home refers to a house that stands alone on its own lot.

Attached Home Styles

Single-family homes are available in many styles and sizes, but the key feature is that they are not attached to another home. The confusing terminology usually comes in with attached homes. There are many ways a home can be attached to others. It may share one or more walls, or it may be divided by floors (upstairs and downstairs).

Duplex, Triplex, Four-Plex

An attached home may be attached to just one other home, or to multiple homes. The terms “duplex”, “triplex”, and “four-plex” are some of the more straightforward names for attached homes. The number of individual homes that are attached in each grouping is right in the name: duplex means two homes, triplex means three, and four-plex means four attached homes. However, this does not specify how the homes are attached.


The homes could have one or more shared walls, or be connected upstairs and downstairs. Townhomes are usually attached homes, although on occasion the term may be used for detached homes as well. When talking about attached homes, townhouses are typically attached in rows with a shared vertical wall between each home. They are generally two or three stories, often with a garage on the lowest level, but can be one story as well.


Among home types, the term “villa” is often the most confusing. Communities may list either detached or attached villas. Detached villas are basically the same as single-family homes. It may simply be the term the developer chose to use. It may also designate a special characteristic of the property, such as condominium status where the homeowner owns the home but not the lot.

Attached villas are often single-story homes, though some include bonus rooms in a second level. Each building may have two or more attached villas. They may be attached in a side-by-side row or clustered in various arrangements. On corner lots, villas may be attached in a way that allows each unit to face a different street.

Other Styles

There are several other less commonly mentioned home styles as well. Some communities offer patio homes, courtyard homes or Casitas. These cozy single-family homes are detached, but usually have small yards and are often arranged in a courtyard configuration. Coach-homes are an attached home style that appear in some communities. They are typically two-story buildings with separate upstairs and downstairs homes.

With so much variety in the terminology used from one active adult community to the next, looking for a home can be confusing. Understanding the common guidelines will help narrow down the choices, but prospective buyers should never assume they know what a term means. Checking with the local realtor is the best way to understand the home types available in a specific active retirement community.

Can you spot the $207,744 difference between these identical homes?

Financing is the difference!

Get the details in The 62+ Loan Homebuyers Guide.

55places Mortgage is a joint venture between Mutual of Omaha Mortgage and
Details here.

Share this post:

We're here to help! (800) 928-2055

Call us to speak with a customer service representative.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get Weekly Updates

I agree that 55places and its affiliates, partner providers or agents may call, text, or email me about my inquiry, which may be made with automated means. I understand that my consent is not a prerequisite for buying a property. I may revoke my consent at any time by contacting Message/data rates may apply. I also agree to’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

The Best Places to Snowbird in 2021

We’ve gathered 25 of the best places for snowbirds, including cities in Florida, Arizona, California, Texas, South Carolina, and Nevada. For each entry, we’ve also provided a list of recommended 55+ communities in the area. If you’re ready to find your own winter retreat this season, here are some of the best places to consider.

A 55+ couple relaxing in lounge chairs on the beach.

25 Cheap Active Adult Communities for an Affordable Retirement

From scenic locations to impressive amenities, these communities provide a range of opportunities for active adults to enjoy their golden years while staying within their budget. Let’s explore 25 active adult communities that offer an affordable retirement experience.

Interest Rate vs. APR (And Other Mortgage Questions)

The mortgage process is pretty complicated. Even if you’ve gone through it before, it’s easy to get tripped up with all the steps, documentation, and financial jargon of it all. Are you planning on applying for a mortgage soon? Before diving straight in, here are some answers to commonly asked mortgage questions.

Two 55+ active adults relaxing in lounge chairs by the beach.

How to Decide Which State to Retire In

It’s common for active adults to relocate to a new state for retirement, and with thousands of 55+ communities across the country, it’s difficult to find the perfect place without narrowing the search first by state. The best guideline is to move to a state that can provide the lifestyle you’re looking for.

An asthmatic 55+ woman reaching for an inhaler.

The Best Places to Retire If You Have Asthma

Climate, geography, and access to health care providers are all key considerations for those with a chronic health condition. Let’s explore some of the best places to retire if you have asthma and what factors may be particularly important to you in a retirement destination.

Happy senior couple relaxes while fishing together by the lake in their 55+ community.

55+ Communities for Lake Lovers: Discover the Top 5 Destinations

Boating, fishing, swimming, and other water sports are popular pastimes for many active adults. While these activities are frequently found in coastal areas, water-loving retirees can enjoy living inland when they choose a community that offers access to a lake!

A mature woman explores an art gallery with her granddaughter in one of her favorite retirement cities.

The 4 Best Places to Retire if You Love Art

Retirement is your chance to devote yourself to the pastimes you love! If you love art, a handful of places across the U.S. will suit you best. Today, the team at is here to explore communities all over the nation that you’re sure to love.

About 55places

We’re changing the way people 55 and older are searching for their perfect next place. With a national network of hand-selected real estate experts, plus comprehensive information, unbiased content, and on-the-go insight about thousands of communities across the country, we’re a trusted resource paving the way from here to home. Whether you’re interested in a low-maintenance single-level residence, an active lifestyle or age-qualified community, an intimate enclave, or anything in between, we can help you make your next move the best one yet.

Scroll to Top