Learn How To Start Investing In Real Estate
Learn How To Start Investing In Real Estate

Types of Houses: Understanding Your Dream Home

Written by Paul Esajian

With the housing market in the midst of a slow recovery, economists have suggested that a return to normalcy may be on the horizon. This means an increased rate of housing sector transactions for potential buyers and sellers. For those looking to purchase a home, it is important to familiarize yourself with the types of houses that may become available in the upcoming months. Understanding the characteristics of each individual building may serve to streamline the process and get you into your dream home faster than ever imagined.

The following is a comprehensive list of the types of houses you may come across in your endeavor to find a potential home:

Cape Cod Homes

With roots dating as far back as the 17th century, this style of home regained its popularity in the 1930s. Drawing from a design that was more functional than fashionable, Cape Cod homes are traditionally very simple in nature. They are, for all intents and purposes, indicative of their region of origin.

These types of houses illustrate the importance of functionality in harsher climates. They were specifically designed to withstand the stormy, stark weather of the Massachusetts coast. It is uncommon to find extremely ornate homes in this category, as aesthetic features were more cumbersome than functional.

Unique architecture boasts a low, broad frame that serves as the foundation for the story and a half that typically sit upon it. Complimenting the foundation is a steep, pitched roof that silhouettes approximately two gables. The simple design is almost always symmetrical, with a centrally located front door serving as its most prominent feature. Surrounding the door, you will typically find two multi-paned windows. A large chimney can usually be seen protruding from the center of these types of houses.

While original Cape styles are still common today, homeowners have begun to experiment. The addition of new wings has become a common trend, as they greatly increase the living area with minimal effort. Roof dormers became popular because of their ability to increase space, light, and ventilation without detracting from the aesthetic qualities of the house. Despite recent alterations, these types of houses are still a popular, affordable style on the market.

Country French-Style Homes

Country French-style homes embrace an eclectic variety of stylistic elements. These types of homes are a unique combination of American ingenuity and French pleasantries.

American soldiers returning home from World War I adopted a variety of old-world designs from rural France and incorporated them into their homes, generating an entirely new concept. Typical characteristics associated with a Country French-style house may include:

  • Tall hipped roof
  • Flared eaves
  • No dominant front-facing cross gables
  • Brick, stone or stucco exterior
  • Dormers
  • Multi-paned windows
  • Half-timbering used to create a visually aesthetic look
  • Arched doorways
  • Round tower at entry way

The rural architecture witnessed in the French countryside captivated those who set eyes upon it. It didn’t take long for a French Revival to sweep through America. Many of these types of homes are entrenched in suburban neighborhoods, creating a montage of rural and urban qualities.

They became very popular between the 1920s and 1940s. Depending on the developer, and the size of their wallet, these homes were representative of quaint little cottages or elaborate castle dwellings.

Colonial-Style Homes

According to “Better Homes and Gardens,” Colonial-style homes are one of the most popular types of houses made available in the United States. As their names suggest, Colonial-style homes are the result of European influence that followed colonists from England to America in the 1700s. Their distinctly geometric design is due, in part, to Roman and Greek influences. This is particularly evident in the decorative columns that have become synonymous with these types of houses.

Despite significant variations in size, Colonial-style homes share several similar characteristics. For construction purposes, they are typically developed on symmetrical or square foundations. The relatively simple look is usually highlighted by a centrally located front door that serves as the focal point of the entire home. They tend to consist of two or three stories with either a brick or wood façade. It is common for the front of the home to incorporate a lot of windows. A steady row of five windows compliments the upper floors while four can be seen on the first level.

Other distinct characteristics include a set of paired chimneys, a roof with a modest pitch to provide drainage in less than optimal weather and a stairway that is directly behind the entry door. The foyer stairs lead to a hallway that bisects the middle of the second floor.

As traditional as they are, these types of houses have yet to change significantly. Small additions can be seen in individual homes, but the style generally remains undisturbed.

Victorian Houses

Victorian houses are the direct result of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901. The Industrial Revolution contributed to the development of millions of these types of houses, as their unique characteristics were unmatched at the time. Their popularity in England translated to colonists establishing several variations of the style in America.

While Victorian homes continue to evolve, they still exhibit personal aspects reflected by the individual architect, area and time. Victorian home styles may include any of the following:

  • Edwardian
  • Gothic
  • Italianate
  • Richardsonian-Romanesque
  • Second Empire
  • Stick-Eastlake
  • Shingle
  • Queen Anne

While these types of homes have no one defining characteristic, they are a culmination of several identifying assets. They typically exhibit an asymmetrical façade that expresses a lot of detail. Most Victorian houses have protruding bay windows, ornate molding, columns, dormers, cornices, porticos, turrets and mansard roofs. Most Victorian houses display steeply pitched roofs with prominent front-facing gables. Textured shingles are often used to avoid the appearance of a smooth wall. On the east coast, these types of houses tend to be three stories, while those on the west are usually two-story houses or one-story cottages.

Their scarcity in today’s market has made them a commodity, with some tax advantages made available to those who buy them for restoration purposes.

Tudor-Style Houses

As their names suggest, Tudor homes are likely the product of the aptly named dynasty of the 1500s. However, their appearance in modern society is more likely the result of a Tudor revival. The resurgence of Tudor style homes is directly correlated to ornate gothic and Victorian architecture. Their simplicity and clean lines provided homeowners with an alternative to traditionally decorative designs.

These types of houses often exhibit characteristics based on a variety of late Medieval English cottages. They may even go as far as including a false thatched roof to achieve a level of authenticity. Characteristics may include overlapping gables, parapets, and beautifully patterned brick or stonework. These historic details blend perfectly with Victorian or Craftsman touches that are less noticeable.

The most identifying feature of a Tudor-style house is the presence of decorative timbers. Their strategic placement resembles that of medieval construction techniques. While their placement is strictly decretive, they give off a sense of structural stability.

A distinct lack of symmetry can be seen in many of these types of houses. Tudor-style homes tend to be abstract, consisting of various shapes and angles throughout the composition.

This particular style of home was popular in newer American homes of the 1970s and 1980s. However, their presence is diminishing, as Italian, Mediterranean and French style homes have taken precedence.

Craftsman Houses

Craftsman houses, otherwise known as Arts and Crafts homes, are rooted in the British arts and crafts movement. It originally began as a philosophy and artistic style founded by William Morris in the 1860s. More specifically, this style of home served as a reaction to ornate Victorian style homes.

Craftsman-style houses were popular between 1905 and 1920, as their smaller size was more suitable for living at the time. A low-pitched, gabled roof complimented the one-to-two story designs that usually accompanied these types of houses. A defining characteristic witnessed in most Craftsman houses is the wide, unenclosed eave on the front of the house. It was also common to see exposed roof rafters, stone porch supports, exterior stone chimneys, open floor plans, numerous windows, and built-in wood features. Craftsman houses are typically defined as a bungalow, but may also be classified in the following ways:

  • Prairie
  • Mission
  • Foursquare
  • Western Stick
  • Pueblo

As more people are looking to simplify their lifestyle, these types of houses are currently making a comeback in today’s market.

Spanish Eclectic-Style Homes

Spanish Eclectic-style homes were born in California, but can attribute their influences to the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. While they display an overwhelming Spanish theme, these types of houses incorporate aspects from Portugal, Italy, Greece and even North Africa. Typical features associated with Spanish Eclectic houses are:

  • Asymmetrical facade
  • Exterior walls made of stucco
  • Red tile roofs
  • Low-pitched roofs with little to no overhang
  • Excessive use of arches
  • Dark, stained ornamental woodwork
  • Wrought-iron grillwork
  • Tiled floors and courtyards

Spanish Eclectic homes were first built in California in the early part of the 20th century, and were referred to as Spanish Colonial Revival. Despite the name, they are the result of several Mediterranean influences. The variety exhibited in these types of houses make it easy to create a superficial harmony between the exterior, interior and decorative elements.

It is worth noting that the landscaping for these types of houses plays a very important role in their classification.

Traditional Ranch Homes

As one of the few styles of architecture that originated in America, traditional ranch homes were built in the 1920s. This particular style of home became popular amongst the middle class between the 1940s and 1970s.

Rooted in North American Spanish colonial architecture, these types of houses typically consisted of a single story floor plan. Simple roofs complimented the design of the home, as low-hung extensions served to reduce sun exposure. Buildings implemented interior courtyards that were surrounded by the floor plan. Large front porches were typically associated with traditional ranch homes in the Southwest.

Ranch houses are noted for their long, close-to-the-ground profile, and minimal use of exterior and interior decoration. They attempt to fuse modernist ideas and styles with notions of the American Western period working ranches to create a very informal and casual living space.

These types of houses are most commonly associated with cookie cutter communities.

Contemporary-Style Homes

Focusing entirely on individually-designed homes built between 1950 to 1970, the term “contemporary” housing has become synonymous with a variety of houses built in recent decades that concentrate on simple forms and geometric lines. While a combination of several aspects, Contemporary-style houses have a distinctive feel.

Floor plans are generally open, with minimal doors and walls. It has become common practice to blend indoor and outdoor features into one flowing floor plan. In keeping with today’s lifestyles, they are designed to serve a functional purpose without the cold feel associated with Modern styles. Common, distinguishable features may include:

  • Irregular, asymmetrical façade
  • Strong, geometric shapes
  • Large windows, often tall and seemingly randomly placed in the façade
  • Distinctive roofline — sometimes flat, other times gabled — usually with wide eave overhang
  • Natural, often local, building materials
  • Sustainable, eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo flooring and granite countertops
  • Solar energy systems

These types of houses are amongst the most innovative on the market. Of particular interest to potential buyers are the prospects of energy efficient homes. More and more Contemporary houses are being designed with eco-friendly materials and features.