1) I am working with a buyer right now at similar price range in your area. You can get previously constructed homes that are still newer (2000 and above) at this price. You will notice also that it is possible to get new construction at your price, however I don't really reccomend it unless there is a very specific reason. That is because with current market conditions you will "get more house" by not going with new construction. This usually shows up in finished basements (most new construction comes without the basement finished). Also, I can tell what upgrades a homeowner did with the house or improvements they made. Depending on what was completed you are actually getting a better deal than what it would cost to put those same upgrades into your own new construction home.
2) When determining whether to purchase a town-home or single family home it STARTS with the budget and lifestyle. Do you want to do maintenance and repair on a house, and take responsibility for everything else that comes with buying, or would you rather pay an association to do it? What are your needs and goals for this home-buying? What do you prioritize for neighborhood, size of house, beds/baths, etc... and which type of house in your budget meets all of those needs?
In most cases you can find both TH's and single family detached housing for your budget (especially at your price range), and that means lifestyle usually determines which is the BEST route for you.
In general, single-family detached housing is more desirable than TH's and appreciates more in the long run than a TH does. There are always exceptions.
My role with buyers like the one's I am currently working with in the same area/price point as you is to be their resource in the home-buying process. It is my responsibility to:
1) help you find the best financing for your financial situation (always the first step to home-buying)
2) help you understand the market and how that fits with your budget/goals- Your question today is a very common one that gets discussed with my clients all the time. We may also discuss school districts, crime statistics, specific neighborhoods or sub-developments, etc... basically, anything that is relevant to you.
3) Set up property searches that match your criteria- Only the realtor-accessed MLS is 100% accurate in Minnesota. You will get alerted immediately any time a property becomes available. It is normal for me to set up both TH's and single family homes in your situation, so that you can see how they may differ at different price points.
4) Set up showings and negotiate contracts- This is towards the final stages of home-buying, but ultimately I help you purchase a home! I am there every step of the way.
The seller pays our commission as buyer's agents so we are ffffrrrrrreeeeee to work with. My best suggestion for a first time buyer is to interview (or check out our profiles here on Trulia) a couple realtors and see which one you like the most.
As a first time buyer this process can be frustrating and overwhelming at times, but a Realtor will help you process information and be there as a valuable resource.
Hope this helps Good Luck! ~Chris