When it’s time to go house-hunting, home buyers are faced with a wide variety of different types of houses to consider. The final choice will depend on budget, taste and family requirements, however, it pays to peruse the types of houses available, from multifamily options to single-family homes. Take a look at these various styles of homes and see what types might fit your needs — some will likely surprise you!
A condominium differs from other types of houses because it is one unit in a building or a separate building among many on a specific tract of land. Unlike an apartment, a condo is purchased and not rented, with each owner holding title to the residence, whether it’s in a high-rise building or a separate building. Condominiums are governed by a board that is elected by the residents that oversee the overall property and make rules and decisions about maintenance and the operation of the community.
In high-rise buildings, condo units can occupy one floor, two or even three. Other types of condos can be townhouses or other style units. According to Nationwide insurance, condominiums often focus on a community and include a clubhouse or common areas, pool, gym, and other amenities. Of course, while residents enjoy a care-free life and don’t have to care for the common areas, they do have to pay Home Owners Association fees for the upkeep of the common areas and the buildings. These monthly fees can range from $100 to more than $1,000 a month. That said, depending on the neighborhood and the nature of the property, these types of homes will cost less than a single-family detached house in the same area.
The key difference between apartments and other types of houses is that apartments are rental units and are typically not purchased. In larger buildings, apartments are typically owned by a single entity. According to the Apartment Guide, apartment complexes have maintenance and other staff on-call to handle things that break or stop working. These communities also offer amenities such as gyms, pools, party rooms tennis courts and other perks on site. Of course, the other side of the coin is that all the apartment look the same and resident generally cannot make major changes to the unit. In addition, most of the finishes, hardware and detailing will be generic and not as upscale as you could have in a condo or house.
A co-op physically looks the same as a condo or an apartment, but the real difference comes in the legal and financial side of the equation. In a co-op, the co-op members are essentially shareholders in the building. They don’t technically own a specific unit, but are leasing it from the co-op. Purchasing a home in a co-op can be a little more challenging in that the building’s board or association vets each prospective buyer, putting them through a rigorous screening that sometimes seems like an invasion of privacy. Also, according to TheBalance.com, not every bank will make a co-op loan and not every coop qualifies.
A co-op is often cheaper to buy than a condo, but the fees may be higher than those in a comparable condominium. Those fees cover a portion of the building’s mortgage, salaries for doormen, maintenance staff, possibly a building superintendent; insurance; regular maintenance, cleaning of common areas, and real property taxes.
According to Realtor.com, a townhouse is typically a single family home that is sandwiched between or next to other homes just like it. Sometimes called row houses, townhomes share side walls and are often quite uniform, generally have two or three floors. Unlike condos, residents own the interior and the exterior of their homes including any yard that comes with the house. These types of houses also have a homeowners association to cover any shared maintenance costs, such as things like trash removal and snow plowing. The associations also have rules about elements like exterior paint colors, fences and the like.
A ranch style home is a single-story house that has its origins in Spanish hacienda. As the suburbs grew in the 1950’s these types of homes gained popularity thanks to the wide open spaces. According to Angie’s List, a ranch is usually found in a rectangular or L or U shape with an open, casual layout. With a long and low profile, SFGate says that these homes have typically extended eaves and a low-pitched roof, along with an attached garage. The most common types of ranch homes are built with brick, wood or stucco. Many are built on a concrete slab, especially those in California or the Southwest, while others have a crawlspace or full basement. Inside, the floor plan of a ranch is open and flowing and generally has large windows, including sliding glass doors that lead out to a patio.
A small, square, single-story house with a front porch is generally called a bungalow. The name comes from India, says Antique Home Style, where small “bangla” huts were used for travelers. The English then took the style and adapted it to their needs, including covered verandas and open floor plans. SF Gate writes that they became popular in the Northeast US starting around 1900. Typically with this type of house the floor is raised up and front steps are needed.
These types of small houses became less popular as the desire for larger and larger homes took hold. The interior of a bungalow is very efficient with space as closets are small and there are usually built-in cabinets and shelving. Their smaller size makes them ideal for couples, singles, and those who want to downsize their lives.
Originating as a two-story building to house horses with the caretaker’s quarters above, carriage houses were popular in the Northeastern United States, says Realtor.com. Today’s carriage houses, however, are either older renovated buildings or modern ones built in the old style. In fact today these types of houses are a bonus, secondary to the main house, and used for in-law apartments, home offices, art studios and the like.
There is a difference, however, between a carriage house and a carriage home, the website says. A carriage house is a secondary building on the property while a carriage home is a single family home that is similar to a townhouse. These can also be called a zero-lot-line home or patio home.
Multi-family homes are just that –-properties with more than one unit that can serve as home to more than one family. These can be apartments, duplexes, or triplexes, few. According to Mashvisor, the main reason people invest in these is to defray the cost of their own housing. By renting out the unoccupied portion, homeowners can afford to have their own place. Those interested in living in and managing these types of houses have to consider the possibility of vacancies, dealing with renters and managing the maintenance of another person’s home, along with additional insurance considerations.
The term mansion might conjure up visions of grandeur, but it’s hard to define what those have to be. Realtor.com says that there is no rule regarding what square footage qualifies a home as a mansion, but it is generally over 5,000 square feet, while some realtors maintain it needs at least 8,000 square feet.
More than just lots of square feet – and numerous bedrooms and bathrooms — contemporary mansions must have plenty of luxury amenities. These include entertainment and relaxation facilities like high-tech media rooms, pools, bars, wine cellars, cigar rooms, cabanas, gyms and catering kitchens. The closets have to be large and spacious and the security systems top notch. Also, the materials used to construct all those elements have to be top of the line, as do all the appliances in these types of houses.
The term “mansion” is said by dictionaries to be derived “through Old French from the Latin word mansio“, an abstract noun derived from the verb manere to dwell. In order for a mansion to be historic, it has to be more than just big and a little old. This type of house has to be listed by an official body as “historic.” This means it has to meet certain criteria with regard to age, preserved condition, and historical significance. These types of homes are hard to come by and are typically named, either according to the original family or the historical event that defines it.
Most English cottages are immediately recognizable thanks to the exterior characteristics of a steeply pitched roof and cross-gables, large stone or brick chimneys often, and small-paned bands of casement windows. Antique Home Style says that entryways are commonly front-facing gables and the roof is a catslide, which is steep and straight on one side and curved on the other. English cottages are generally asymmetrical and often have a thatched roof. The exterior is usually done in brick, stucco, stone, or wood. Inside, the rooms are small, cozy and compartmentalized — not the open plan style found in many other types of houses.
Synonymous with a secluded getaway, the term cabin can mean many things. These types of houses have traditionally been small, modest structures. That said, today they can be chock full of amenities and as luxurious as a full-time house. Cabins may also be called cottages or camps, all depending on what part of the US you are in. The one thing they all have in common is their rural location in the woods and often by a lake or river.
In the past, cabins were often built with logs or timber, but these days, they can be constructed of just about any kind of building material. These types of houses are usually one, or one and a half stories tall and are simpler and more rustic than a traditional home
The term chalet calls up images of an idyllic Alpine location and actually refers to a house built from wood with a substantial, sloping roof and wide eaves at the sides of the house. The architectural style is well suited to hillsides and areas with plentiful snow. These types of houses have the air of being hand-crafted in a world full of mass-produced home strictures, notes All Things Stone. Chalet style homes originated in the Swiss Alps, where animal herders used them, but over time they became popular in many countries, especially as places for a wintertime getaway. Some of the features that make them so popular are the single-gable silhouette, dominance of wood on the exterior, front balconies and big windows ideal for gazing at the snow-covered landscape outside. The interior of a chalet is focused around the open floor plan and high ceilings, which beings everyone to gather in the heart of the home.
A castle is actually a fortified structure that originated in the Middle Ages, built for noble or royal families. While castles were fortifications built around the world to defend territories, there really aren’t any in the United States, writes the New York Times. Interest in castles has been piqued recently thanks to popular television shoes like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey, however, unless you likely don’t want to live in a real one – not without significant upgrades. In the United States, any castles being built are fantasy structures, the paper says. Buying an existing castle of any size is a big commitment to renovation and maintenance, as most are lacking in the creature comforts most people come to expect and are functionally challenging in many ways, such as with kitchens in the basement and less than optimal plumbing.
Expansive lawns, manicured gardens and a massive stately residence come to mind when someone mentions the word chateau. The French term is actually translated as “castle” but is usually used to describe what most would also call a palace or large country house, according to My French House. Originating in the 13th and 14th centuries the name came to mean a substantial country house. As Britannica.com says, these types of houses became “spacious yet still-fortified private residences of the nobility.” Similar to purchasing an old castle, a European chateau is a financial commitment to constant upkeep and maintenance, both inside and out, thanks to the size and age of most chateaux.
Unlike a castle or chateau, a palace is built specifically to be luxurious, spacious and comfortable. Palaces arose as grand homes for heads of state and dignitaries, hence their large halls and spacious rooms. The aim behind these stately types of houses is to display wealth and opulence with their size, beauty and high-end materials. They are symbolic with a leisurely life and wealth.
Technically, a villa can be similar to a regular single-family home but is actually known for being a larger, more luxurious residence. These types of houses often have gardens, vineyards fountains or courtyards. Villas can have up to 20 bedrooms and typically have a more luxurious feel to them. Villas certainly have the cachet of a private retreat, no matter what their size, and are generally associated with European or tropical locales. In the United States, some planned communities also have units called villas, which are like apartments or condos, as do some hotels.
A manor house is essentially a country house that has land associated with it. Historically, it was the principal house of a landed estate, according to Castles and Manor Houses. Similar to a mansion, the term manor house is more commonly used in the UK, where it is associated with an estate that encompasses fields, woods and sometimes other buildings. Collectively, the entire package is called a manor. The term manor house has become associated with spaciousness but not all display largesse and some can be quite modest.
A mobile home is just that – mobile. Mind you, this type of house is not like a camper that you can move around frequently. It’s actually a large trailer or pre-built structure that is used as a permanent residence. It can be situated on a slab and connects to utilities just like a regular house. Living in a mobile home — also called a manufactured home – requires property where the home can be sited. This can be an individual plot or a location in a mobile home park. In either case, owners are responsible for property taxes and insurance. In a park, there is a homeowners association as in other communities, and residents have to abide by rules and pay the fees to cover upkeep of any communal areas and other services.
The tiny home movement has been growing across the globe for the past few years and shows no signs of dying down. These tiny residences allow people to free themselves from a lot of the expenses associated with larger homes, giving them the freedom to pursue activities other than house maintenance and upkeep. Traditionally, these tiny houses are around 2.4 x 5 meters, which is between 100 and 400 square feet, according to Living Big in a Tiny House. These homes generally have a sleeping loft, multipurpose central space and a small bathroom. While they do cut down on expenses, these types of houses require significant downsizing of belongings and a change in lifestyle.
A bit like condo or a mobile home in a park, a floating home is built on a dock-like structure and permanently connected to utilities. The floating homeowner is responsible to pay fees for the dock and the slip, along with utilities and any other associated costs. One of the more unusual costs is the inspection that must include a diver to examine the underside. Moreover, these types of houses have to meet all building codes and carry all the closing and other costs associated with a more traditional home.
Sure they’re still built for kids in the backyard, but increasingly, homeowners looking for something more novel are turning to the trees. Treehouses are becoming more common as primary residences or weekend getaways, especially for those who want to disconnect from technology. Much like regular homes, treehouses run the gamut from modest structures made from upcycled materials to luxurious versions designed by professional architects. Security and privacy are among the bonuses, however, different locations will have different building codes governing whether treehouses are allowed.
Sustainability considerations are modernizing the image of the yurt from a 1970’s phenomenon associated with hippie culture into a viable home with a smaller carbon footprint. According to the Mother Nature Network, yurt design has moved from felted wool mats to modern structures with high-efficiency glass windows, high-tech insulation, and clear translucent vinyl skylights. With an exterior of marine-quality sailcloth, a yurt can withstand all sorts of weather. Yurts are generally built on a platform, making them quick, easy and economical to build, however, they do pose challenges for electrical lines and plumbing. Other considerations are a lack of privacy for residents, as can close interaction with all types of nature. That said, they can be a great choice for those who like to live close to nature with fewer belongings.
Container homes have exploded in popularity since the one of the first and most famous was built in Brisbane, Australia in 2011. Since then, people have found that these types of homes have lots of benefits besides being eco-friendly. According to DiscoverContainers, homes made from shipping containers can cost much less than traditional homes and are generally faster to construct. On the sustainability side, each time a container is repurposed for a home, more than 7,000 pounds of steel are recycled and fewer new building materials are used. Houses made from shipping containers range from modest, off-the-grid homes to luxurious constructions with several containers joined together.
Caves might have been the earliest type of housing, but they can still serve as homes for people today. In fact, for those who want to minimize the impact they have on the environment, cave homes are a popular option, writes Earth Homes Now. From a practical standpoint, cave homes are a good idea: They are quiet, secure, maintain a constant temperature and are well protected against the elements and storms. That said, a natural cave is probably too small for a family home, so it will either need to be excavated further or the cave will need to be created artificially. Regardless, these types of homes have some definite advantages.
Underground homes have generally been in the realm of doomsday preppers and fodder for late night comedy, but they are actually an efficient – and popular – way to live. Earth Homes Now says that in the US, there are already more than 6,000 underground homes. These types of homes are not just for people awaiting the apocalypse. Those who want to be more eco-friendly like these homes because they don’t use as many natural resources. They are safe in natural disasters and are more energy efficient because they are underground. Underground homes also require very little exterior maintenance because at most, one wall of the home is exposed Styles of building underground homes can range from earth berms, rammed earth, urban sites, shafts, tunnels and even abandoned underground nuclear missile silos.
As always, different types of houses have advantages and disadvantages, and not every kind will be suitable for every person. This just provides an overview of the breadth of selections available when considering a home. Determining the lifestyle you want to lead and the priorities you have will help guide you to the type of house that will be the most appropriate.