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9 Most-Common Types of Houses in America: A Home Buyer's Guide

Love dormer windows? Prefer large, open floor plans? There's a house style for you but you may not know its name. You’re probably drawn to home types without knowing their names and history, here are nine of the most common homes you’ll see when house hunting.
Love dormer windows? Prefer large, open floor plans? There's a house style for you but you may not know its name. You’re probably drawn to home types without knowing their names and history, here are nine of the most common homes you’ll see when house hunting.

If you’re in the market for a new home, you’ll soon realize that there are many different styles and features out there. The architecture in the United States reflects our history and the different peoples who’ve immigrated here. While certain looks may appeal, if you’re drawn to the formality of a Colonial, for example, or prefer the open spaces in a ranch, there are pros and cons to each housing style.

But which is the right home for you and your family? It can be difficult to choose without learning more about the nine most common types of houses in the U.S. While your realtor will be familiar with each and offer pointers, this list will help you identify what you want and love in a home.


This style comes from Queen Victoria’s reign from 1830 to 1910. Its characteristics include ornate trim along multi-faceted and steep roof lines, front porches, and brightly colored paint.

Home buyers who love small, intricately-planned gardens and the whimsy of round towers will be attracted to Victorians, but they should be aware of the upkeep required. These homes are older, with plumbing and electrical systems that might have needed updating several times.

Rooms are smaller and feature less closet-space than a contemporary home. Be sure to obtain a deleaded certificate and check for asbestos, too. But many homeowners consider their beauty and charm to be worth these inconveniences.


Common in New England, you can identify a Colonial by the evenly-spaced windows and shutters along the home’s front. There may be dormer windows tucked into the steep roof, and a large chimney for heat during cold winters. It’s a very formal design that doesn’t appeal to everybody.

Colonials were built to accommodate large families, though you may find closet space somewhat lacking there will be plenty of bedrooms. The living spaces are all divided, however, rather than having an open floor plan. The kitchen, dining and living rooms will all be separated and you’ll have to climb stairs to get to the bedrooms.

English Tudor

English Tudor homes are also more common in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Their half-timber framing around brick is instantly recognizable. They, too, have multi-gabled and steep roofs to help the snow and ice slide off.

However, if the flashing in valleys isn’t properly installed and maintained those roofs can be prone to leaks. And if the builder used metal lath and cement for the stucco parts of the exterior, it will deteriorate quickly.

Cape Cod

The Cape Cod design has been around since the 1600s. While there are variations, the theme of a Cape Cod is dormer windows, a window in the front door, and cedar shingles.

A Cape Cod won’t fit a larger family but is perfect for a couple looking for their first home. Due to their smaller size, they’re less expensive than other home types.


This design flowed from the Arts and Crafts movement, which ended in 1920. A deep, large front porch is supported by squared-off columns. Natural materials such as stone, wood, or brick are used in its construction. It can be one-story but can also have an attic or dormer level.

Bungalows feature large living rooms for gathering, but space is sacrificed from the bedrooms. This type of home doesn’t have a large master suite, and the rooms are all divided. Not great for families or couples who love to entertain.


Ranch homes are one-story, sprawling homes with all the living areas on one level. Perfect for families with young children or elderly relatives who can’t manage stairs. Exterior repairs and gutter cleaning are easier because it’s all one level.

Ranches have larger roof areas than other types of homes, and thus repairing and replacing it will be more expensive. This also means that more heat will escape in the winter, so you’ll want to make sure the attic is adequately insulated.

Mediterranean or Southwest

Found primarily in Southern California and in the Southwest, Mediterranean homes were built for the heat. Red-tiled roofs, arches, and plaster reference homes in countries such as Italy and Greece. The primary building material is usually stucco.

Tiled roofs are expensive and heavy, and take more time and money to replace. They are, however, low-maintenance and leak-proof. But if a tree branch hits your roof and breaks tiles it will be a costly repair. An experienced realtor and home inspection can help you assess the roof’s age and condition.


Clean, neat lines and large, open windows mark a home as modern, or contemporary. You’ll find lots of light in a modern home, and can feel good about the fact that it’s usually built of eco-friendly and sustainable materials.

Families love open floor plans and big living spaces. But be aware that large windows and open living spaces can lead to high heating and cooling bills unless your home was well-designed.


A version of the ranch-style house, a bi- or split-level house has either stairs leading down to a basement from the main level or stairs leading up to the bedrooms on the second level. The dining room, living room and kitchen are typically on the main level.

This type of home is difficult to regulate heat due to two levels. Because the living space is more concentrated, and the home not as sprawling than a traditional ranch, heating and roofing costs are less of an issue.

When weighing the pros and cons of the home types on your list, it’s a good idea to work with an experienced real estate agent. The questions they ask about you and your lifestyle will guide you to finding the perfect type of home for all your needs.


Reuven Shechter

Reuven Shechter is the Outreach Coordinator at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents to help save on commission. He spreads the word about Clever, disseminating studies to journalists and developing relationships with media outlets. Reuven is passionate about investing in real estate and creating lasting success for families. His writing has been featured in Max Real Estate Exposure, Leverage Marketing, and more.

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