David Collins15-Minute Read
UPDATED: June 30, 2023
A home is not just a house. It can be an apartment, mobile home or even a van in some cases. It’s a place where a person or people can, at the very least, keep their things and sleep. It almost always has a bathroom and a shower, some sort of kitchen with a refrigerator and a stove and hopefully a comfortable bed. The following are the most common house types by structure.
Everyone has their own image in mind of what a single-family home looks like. It can be anything from a simple cottage to a sprawling mansion. It sits independently on its own plot of land and is the home of a single person, a couple, or a family. It can be owned or rented by the people who live there.
An apartment is a home for an individual, couple, or family that is part of an apartment building that has other apartment units – sometimes hundreds of them. The apartment unit is almost always on one floor and can have shared walls with apartments on either side, above, below or in all four directions. Most apartments are rented but some apartment dwellers own their unit.
A condo, also known as a condominium, is a housing or residential complex in which there are separate units, with each unit being owned by an individual. When someone rents a condo, they’re renting directly from the condominium owner. Condo owners are responsible for what goes on within their individual units, including maintenance and repairs. Beyond that, they’re required to pay regular fees to a condo association. Those fees contribute to the maintenance of the shared common areas, building amenities and the exterior of the complex.
Cooperative housing (commonly described by referring to an individual co-op) is a type of homeownership common to apartment buildings in big cities such as New York. For practical intents and purposes, a co-op can be defined as a building that is jointly owned by a corporation made up of all its inhabitants. When you buy into a co-op, you’re not purchasing a piece of property – rather, you’re personally buying shares in a nonprofit corporation that allows you to live in the residence.
A multifamily home is any residential property containing more than one housing unit. Units have separate entrances and may share a common lobby, outdoor space or parking. A duplex, townhome or apartment complex is a good example of a multifamily home. If a property owner chooses to live in one of their multifamily units, it’s considered an owner-occupied property.
A townhouse is a single-family home with at least two floors that share a wall with another house. Unlike duplexes or fourplexes, however, each townhouse is individually owned. And unlike a condo, a townhouse may have an outdoor space that is individually owned. Townhouses are more common in urban areas where land is scarce.
An ADU is an individual apartment or living space that shares property with a primary home or residential unit. While still an independent unit, an ADU cannot be sold or purchased separately from the main home. ADUs go by several different names, including granny flats, in-law suites, accessory houses, carriage houses or, in Hawaii, Ohana units.
A structure less than 400 square feet is considered a tiny house. Advances in computer aided design and prefabrication technology have made these small homes extremely popular. While much smaller than a typical home, a tiny house provides most of the comforts of larger homes, including a full- or queen-sized bed, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room – but on a much smaller scale.
A manufactured home is essentially a factory-built home that meets standards set by the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They belong to a class of prefab homes that also includes modular and kit homes. Manufactured homes are built in a plant or factory and then transported to the location where they can be permanently affixed to the land or left on the chassis.
A modular home is a prefabricated house built in bulk in a climate- and quality-controlled factory. To build a modular house, individual sections called modules are constructed and then transported to the owner’s property where professional home builders will assemble the completed house onto a permanent foundation. While both are built at least in part in a factory, there are several key differences between modular homes and manufactured homes.
Home architectural styles in America vary greatly, with certain types of homes enjoying greater favor in different regions and different eras. Over the last 100 years and more, each of the following types of house architecture have been popular and remain so to this day.
A Cape Cod home is one of the most appealing options for new home buyers. This house can be easily recognized by its gabled roofs, shingle siding and charming exterior.
These houses are often rectangular-shaped and two stories with a symmetrical floor plan. The ground floor typically has a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. The second floor will usually have between two to four bedrooms and at least two bathrooms.
The Cape Cod home originated in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but you can find this style of house throughout the country. Many newer versions of the Cape Cod have upgraded features from the original style.
A Colonial house has a simple, rectangular shape and is typically two to three stories high with a brick or wood facade. These homes were originally created by British colonists in the 1600s and 1700s. They were designed to mirror the homes the colonists were familiar with back in England. In America the Colonial house was popular, particularly among the wealthy, in pre-Revolutionary New England.
No two houses are the same, but there are certain features that set Colonial houses apart. They typically have a symmetrical floor plan with a central hallway and rooms on either side. These houses often come with decorative entryways, like transom windows or a covered porch.
And Colonial homes almost always have at least one fireplace. There may be one large fireplace centered in the back of the home or two smaller fireplaces located at either end of the home.
If you’re interested in buying a Colonial house, you can choose from the following options:
Just like other styles, these homes have their benefits and disadvantages:
The ranch-style house first became popular in the 1950s. These houses are typically one story with low-pitched roofs, large windows and a sliding glass door accessing a back terrace and backyard. There are many different types of ranch houses including:
Another key feature of the ranch home is that it often comes with open living spaces and easy access to the outdoors. These houses usually have a “U” or “L” shape to encourage outdoor spaces.
A contemporary house is a popular house style that reflects 21st century architectural styles. Because it mirrors the trends of the time period it was built in, a contemporary-style house can encompass a number of different architectural and design styles. Current popular contemporary trends range from modern farmhouse to midcentury modern to bohemian. The trends of contemporary architecture are constantly evolving and changing. Today’s contemporary home can reflect some or all of the following: strong lines, unique, asymmetrical shapes, many large windows and mixed building materials.
A cottage-style home is a smaller home that focuses on providing a functional living space. These houses often have a rustic style and charming, cozy feel.
It can be harder to identify a cottage-style house because the architectural style tends to vary. However, most cottage houses are defined by their smaller size. Often, they are built as very simple shelter on a shoestring budget, then later improved upon. These homes are often described as “quaint.”
These homes also tend to make use of outdoor spaces, like having a front porch or back deck where residents can spend time outside. In fact, many lakeside second homes are cottages for this reason. And homeowners will often use landscaping as a key component to the home’s exterior.
A Craftsman-style home is another classic home style, and these houses typically appeal to home buyers who don’t like cookie cutter style houses. The Craftsman-style house is characterized by a covered or screened-in front porch, natural building elements and earthy tones.
These houses tend to have a sturdy, horizontal build with large, tapered columns that support the roof. And the interior may have unique features like built-in cabinets, window seats, natural materials like stone or brick and a grand fireplace.
Modern farmhouse-style homes often come with large front porches, high ceilings and a central fireplace. They typically have a rectangular layout and often have barn-inspired roofs.
The interior of the home typically utilizes farmhouse decor like black metal fixtures against white cabinets for added contrast. Many people like the way modern farmhouses combine a rustic look with more clean lines.
If you like luxurious homes, then you’ll probably appreciate the Mediterranean house style. This home has Spanish and Italian influences and a big focus on indoor-outdoor living spaces. For that reason, they’re popular in warmer climates like California and Florida.
These houses often come with tiled roofs, white stucco walls and metal work on balconies and windows. These homes are usually understated with splashes of color throughout.
A midcentury modern house has a sleek, uncluttered look and utilizes a combination of natural and man-made materials. The midcentury modern calling card can be found in its low-profile structure, with sleek, clean lines in both geometric and organic forms. Traditional materials (such as wood) as well as nontraditional materials (such as metal, glass, vinyl and plywood) are used interchangeably and oftentimes in deliberate juxtaposition in midcentury modern decor. A solid principle of this style of home design is that form follows function.
The Tudor house style became popular in the early 19th century due to its reliance on striking architectural features. The house is known for its steep gabled roof, casement windows and brick chimneys.
Unlike other homes, Tudor houses don’t use an open concept layout. Instead, the house tends to be divided into separate rooms, and each room is used for a specific purpose. The individual rooms will often feature beamed ceilings and arched doorways.
Many buyers like Victorian homes due to their colorful, eye-catching design. However, there are many different types of Victorian homes, like the Gothic revival, the Queen Anne Victorian and the Folk Style Victorian.
Victorian homes are usually built on narrow plots of land so they are typically at least two to three stories high. These houses often feature large bay windows, towers, turrets, glazed bricks and porches that wrap around the side of the home.
Victorian homes tend to have a closed floor plan to accommodate a more formal lifestyle. And the house will often have ornate interior features like crown molding and door trim.
Neoclassical homes are inspired by Greek and Roman architecture. This house is characterized by its dramatic columns, Greek or Roman detailing and have a domed or flat roof. The White House is the best-known example of neoclassical architecture.
French country homes are modeled after homes you might find in the French countryside. These homes often have a sloping roof, natural wood or stone flooring and shutters. These homes are rustic yet upscale and are designed with nature in mind. The interior often utilizes neutral colors, distressed wood and features a stone fireplace.
Prairie-style homes originated in Chicago in the early 20th century with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This house style is very flat to the ground and utilizes an open living concept, especially in central living areas.
These houses usually have long, hipped roofs that hang beyond the structure of the home by several feet. There’s usually a large, centrally located chimney and fireplace and a focus on using organic materials. A key component of prairie-style homes is the connected indoor/outdoor spaces. Unlike other homes, these spaces tend to blend seamlessly together so the interior of the home naturally flows into the outdoors.
Greek revival homes are easy to spot, thanks to the large columns that imitate those found on classic Greek buildings. Here are some of the key features of this house style:
Spanish-style homes first made an appearance in North America when Spanish colonials began to colonize the Southwest in the late 1600s, making them some of the oldest dwellings in the country. This home style is often found in the south, as their terracotta roofs, thick stucco walls and slim open windows help to combat the southern heat. Exteriors include bright walls with contrasting arched windows, doors and entryways. Offshoots of this style of architecture include Pueblo Revival, Mission Revival and Spanish Eclectic.
The Italianate house style is modeled after Italian villas and farmhouses and are known for their asymmetrical design. An Italianate house can feature a belvedere – a rooftop turret or structure that offers a view – along with tall windows and cast-iron decor. These homes are commonly found across the East Coast.
The Gothic revival-style house became popular in the 1900s and is modeled after country homes in Medieval Europe. Here are some key features of this house style:
Queen Anne homes are a type of Victorian-style home. These homes typically have an asymmetrical layout, gabled roof and a wraparound porch. They often have brightly colored designs on the exterior and interior of the home.
Here are some of the main features of a Queen Anne:
Shingle-style homes are inspired by Colonial architecture and are known for their shingles on the exterior of the home. These homes often have an asymmetrical interior layout and utilize space creatively throughout the home.
If you’re a new home buyer who’s just beginning to explore your options, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. Here is a helpful guide you can use to figure out which type of house is best for you.
Your Home Preferences
Your Ideal House Styles
A unique and beautiful home that has a distinct and memorable style.
Craftsman, Tudor or Mediterranean.
An open floor plan, smart use of geometry, clean lines, natural light and functional spaces.
Contemporary, midcentury modern or ranch.
An adorable and simple home with lots of opportunity to make it your own inside and out.
Cape Cod, farmhouse or cottage.
An impressive and beautiful home with a historical feel.
Victorian, neoclassical or colonial.
House styles will continue to evolve and change, and what’s popular today may not be popular even a few years from now. However, the house styles outlined in this article have stood the test of time. Some are more popular in certain regions of the country depending on when populations shifted and housing booms happened. Some styles are more conducive to colder or warmer climates.
To determine the type of home style that’s best for you, start by identifying the main features you’re looking for in a house. A search of real estate listings – or even just a drive through neighborhoods – in the ZIP code you’re targeting should give you a good idea of that area’s most prominent home styles. From there, it’s time to connect with an agent and begin your search.
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Interested in alternative housing beyond standard single family homes? Read on to find options that are as unique as you are, from green homes to yurts.
Navigating the process of searching for a home can be overwhelming. If you need help, check out our guide on what to look for when buying a house.