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 [email protected] 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 senior couple takes a hike in a low-humidity state they chose for their retirement.

Retirement: What Are the Top 5 States With the Lowest Humidity?

There are many factors in deciding where to retire, and the weather can be one of them. Luckily, many of the states with nice weather also offer additional benefits for people over 60 and have several exciting active adult communities. Here are the four best states for a low-humidity retirement.

Lake view during autumn at dusk of Table Rock Mountain in Pickens, South Carolina.

5 Reasons To Consider a South Carolina Retirement

What does South Carolina have to offer active adults? A selection of over 80 active adult communities is just the beginning. These five reasons to consider a South Carolina retirement just might convince you that this southern coastal state has everything you’re looking for in a 55+ community.

The Best Places to Retire in South Carolina

South Carolina is known for having some of the best golf courses in the country, but that’s not all it has to offer active adults. The state has a rich history and culture, a wide selection of entertainment and recreation, and miles of beaches and coastal living.

North Carolina vs. South Carolina

The Carolinas are a power couple when it comes to maintaining an active lifestyle in an amazing climate, but they’re separated by more than just a border. A side-by-side comparison of the two can quickly show which is better for you when it comes to your interests and needs.

Exterior view of a model home at Del Webb Carolina Gardens, Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina on a sunny day.

55+ Communities With New Homes for Sale Near Raleigh

If you’re in the market for a new construction home in Raleigh, North Carolina there are plenty of options to consider. We’ve put together a list to help you start your search for the perfect neighborhood with new homes.

A woman playing pickleball in her 55+ community.

Raleigh Area 55+ Communities Big on Pickleball

With the pickleball’s rising popularity, many active adult communities across the country have taken heed and added pickleball courts to their lists of amenities. And, the Raleigh-Durham area–which is home to 40 active adult communities–is no different.

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