Whether you’re looking for your first home or a new investment property, you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of terminology surrounding house styles and their structures. Understanding this terminology can help you find the home you’re looking for, foresee common issues for your home inspection and learn the benefits associated with certain home types.
It’s important to note that there are two main parameters that classify a home: the structure type and the style of the home. The structure refers to the type of building, like a single-family home or a condo – the style consists of the architectural features and design, like Craftsman or contemporary.
We collected the most popular structures and styles of homes so you can narrow down your preferences and better search for your ideal home.
Types Of Houses: Structures
When looking for your new place, the first thing you should do to narrow your search is figure out what type of home structure you’re looking for. Below are the most typical home structures you’ll see when searching for your new place.
An apartment is part of a collection of like units in one building structure. An important feature is that you have to rent the place from a landlord. Oftentimes, apartments have many convenience factors like an on-site repair worker, laundry, gym facilities or a pool. Though you don’t get as much privacy and you won’t be building equity on your residence, there are many additional pros and cons to weigh when deciding whether to buy or rent.
- Pros: Repairs and maintenance are taken care of
- Cons: No option to purchase, less flexibility and freedom
If you like the conveniences that come with an apartment but are looking to own, a condo might be a great fit for you. Instead of having a building manager or landlord manage your unit, you’re in charge of all the repairs and the upkeep of your individual unit. They’re a great option for city living and for older adults who want to own and have a mortgage but don’t want to deal with the upkeep of a single-family home.
- Pros: Less upkeep than a single-family home with the benefits of homeownership
- Cons: Less privacy and free agency
A co-op is also known as a housing cooperative, and this type of housing is quite different from the others. When you buy into a co-op, you’re buying a share of the company that owns the building rather than actual property. The number of shares you own typically correlates to how much space you’re afforded in the co-op. Once accepted into a co-op and after purchasing shares, you’ll have a vote on common spaces, and you’ll split maintenance costs and other fees.
- Pros: Great sense of community, less expensive than a traditional home
- Cons: Less freedom, must get group approval
4. Single-Family (Detached)
The key feature of a single-family home is that it’s completely detached from other housing units, unlike condos, apartments or townhomes. The majority of homes in the U.S. are single-family homes. They’re less common in highly populated areas and are typically found in suburbs. Single-family homes are usually more private and there are more options for personalization (barring any HOA requirements).
- Pros: Greater privacy, more freedom
- Cons: Typically cost more to maintain and own
5. Tiny Home
Tiny home popularity has boomed in recent years, spurring what’s known as the “tiny home movement.” These small abodes usually fall in the range of 60 – 400 square feet. Some tiny homes are prefabricated and some are complete custom builds. They have become greatly popular among single adults and couples who want more financial and physical freedom, as some tiny homes are mobile and can be moved to new locations.
- Pros: More affordable and greater physical freedom
- Cons: Smaller space, less room for family growth
A townhouse or townhome is an individually owned dwelling that shares at least one wall with another unit and has its own entrance from the street. They are most popular in big cities where space is limited. Townhomes typically make use of vertical space with multiple stories but save horizontal space by sitting side by side with other homes. Sometimes there are shared amenities among a collection of townhouses.
- Pros: Typically more affordable than single-family homes
- Cons: Less privacy and less freedom to change the exterior
Types Of Houses: Architectural Home Styles
Your home style will heavily influence the type of interior design that will fit. These home styles span across decades – not only do people put a lot of effort into restoring these beloved styles, but they are also re-created in some new builds. Aside from the aesthetics, knowing a home’s time period can help you prepare for common issues that affect certain styles – make sure to ask the seller and pay close attention during your walkthrough. Browse the house styles below to see which option is the best fit for your preferences and your family’s lifestyle.
7. Cape Cod
The Cape Cod style originated in the 1700s in its namesake city in Massachusetts. These houses are charming but hardy – built to withstand the rough New England winters. Original Cape Cod homes were simple with wood siding, roof shingles and a central door with a window on either side. Today, these same elements are incorporated, but the homes are built with more space and, therefore, more windows.
- Key features: Shingles, wood siding, central door with flanking windows
Colonial homes share a lot of similarities with the Cape Cod style. They have a simple, rectangular, symmetrical structure that dates back to the 1600s. The colonial style has a variety of different influences, identified by the country that occupied the region at the time that they were built – these different types include English, French, Dutch, Georgian, Spanish and American (which closely resembles English) colonials. They are almost always at least two stories tall and feature a central staircase and grand entryway.
- Key features: Two-plus stories tall, symmetrical, central stairway, formal look
The contemporary style is often confused with modern, but the two should not be used interchangeably. Contemporary refers to the present and modern refers to a time period that has already passed (ex: midcentury modern). Contemporary homes today often incorporate elements from modernist styles. Many boast eco-friendly materials and design with a focus on clean lines and natural textures. The color palettes are usually more neutral with pops of color added in the interior.
- Key features: Clean, simple lines, neutral colors, natural textures
Cottage-style houses are often described as cozy and charming. They are typically on the smaller side when it comes to square footage but have a big personality. The style was brought over from Europe, namely England, where cottages were the home to working-class farmers. In the U.S., cottages are often used as vacation homes, though many are primary residences. They often feature wood siding or wood shingle siding (sometimes made from brick or stone), small porches and a cozy fireplace.
- Key features: Cozy, small porch, small living spaces, individual character
The Craftsman style focuses on the value of handmade, well-constructed architecture. Craftsman houses go against the mass-produced or cookie-cutter home developments – they are typically a horizontal, sturdy build. They feature beautiful hand-worked materials, exposed beams, low-pitched gable roofs and tapered columns on their porches. Inside you may find custom elements like built-in bookshelves and a hand-laid fireplace.
- Key features: Hand-crafted wood features, exposed beams, large columns
12. Greek Revival
Greek revival-style homes are one of the easiest styles to point out due to their impressive columns that emulate those found on the Parthenon and other famous Greek buildings. Inspired by Greek democracy, philosophy and culture, this style emerged in the U.S. in the 1830s. These houses have large columns with Greek-style embellishments, white or subdued colors, and a grand front door and entrance.
- Key features: Large white columns, Greek-style embellishments, grand entrance
Put simply, farmhouse-style homes pull inspiration from farmhouse buildings for the interior and exterior of the home. There are often tall ceilings, exposed beams, a large front porch, a rectangular layout and a central fireplace. Some farmhouse style homes have barn-shaped roofs while others aren’t as on the nose. The details are typically rustic, often featuring exposed brick and stone. Modern farmhouse style takes a rustic look and combines it with more clean lines and other updated features.
- Key features: Rustic, rectangular, large porch, barn-inspired roofs and features
14. French Country
French country-style homes are inspired by the abodes found in the French countryside, like Provence. They share some similar features with farmhouse style houses but it’s definitely a style all its own. French country homes have pointed roofs, shutters, and are typically made from stone. Inside you’ll find a stone fireplace, distressed wood, subdued palettes with pastels or worn colors worked in.
- Key features: Provencal influences, stone exterior, weathered look
Mediterranean-style homes feature elements from Spanish and Italian villas. There is a big focus on indoor-outdoor living, so they’re most popular in areas with temperate weather like California and Florida. They feature tiled roofs, white stucco walls, warm stone and wood as well as metalwork on balconies and windows. Even though most Mediterranean-style houses have an understated look, you’ll often see splashes of color through gorgeous tile work.
- Key features: White stucco, warm wood and stone, tiled roofs
16. Midcentury Modern
Midcentury modern design emerged after WWII from the Bauhaus movement. Midcentury mod homes possess a sleek, uncluttered design that meets an appreciation for nature through large windows (connecting you to nature) and a mix of natural and man-made materials. These homes feature well-thought-out architectural design that allows function to inspire form.
- Key features: Mix of organic and geometric, sleek, uncluttered, large windows
Ranch-style houses appeared in the 1930s, but their popularity boomed in the 1950s. These homes are typically one story and feature low-pitched roofs, large windows, sliding glass doors, large backyards, open living spaces and attached garages. They come in a variety of iterations like split-level, storybook, California and raised ranch. For example, California ranch homes are shaped in an “L” or “U” with a backyard to encourage outdoor living.
- Key features: One story, low-pitched roof, open living spaces, backyard
Split-level homes emerged from the ranch-style home design and became popular in the 1950s and ’60s. What sets a split-level home apart is how the living spaces of the home are separated. Split-level homes have multiple floors that are connected with short flights of stairs (unlike regular two- or three-story homes with long flights of stairs). Some love the unique separation of space while others find the numerous short flights of stairs to be cumbersome.
- Key features: Living spaces segmented by short flights of stairs
The Tudor home style was brought by European-trained architects in the late-1800s and gained popularity in the 1920s. Late Medieval and early Renaissance architectural elements inspired the Tudor style’s stone masonry, timber-framing, steep gable roofs, and classic leaded windows. These homes are usually asymmetrical and look like something out of a storybook.
- Key features: Timber-framing, stonework, asymmetrical, steep gable roofs
Named after Queen Victoria, Victorian homes emerged in the 1830s and were popular through the early 1900s. They are typically two to three stories and include ornate elements, bay windows, small towers, porches, steep gable roofs and brightly colored facades. There are a variety of different designs that play off of these core elements – including more ornate styles like Gothic Revival and Queen Anne or less ornate, like the Folk style.
- Key features: 2 – 3-plus stories, ornate, steep gable roofs, small towers, bright facades
Which home style fits you best? It’s great to know before you start your search and can help you narrow down your options. Landing the home of your dreams can be difficult, but getting preapproved for a mortgage can help speed up the process once you find the one. Talk to a Home Loan Expert to gain insights and create a financial plan.
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