Types Of Houses

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Focus Professionals, Inc. Rhode Island Real Estate
In its most simple form, the process of buying a home is little more than a series of decisions -- a sort of Real Estate "what, where, when and how." One of the first decisions (and usually one of the easiest) is the "what" -- as in "what different types of houses are there, and what housing type best meets your needs? Housing types fall into several different categories, most notably, the classification of housing types such as: Single family homes, multi family homes, townhouses, or condominiums. Each of these house types brings its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One housing type may be much better suited to your budget and lifestyle than another. Depending on your location, you may find different types of housing in different areas, and more choices of one particular type of home than others.
Housing Types, Townhouses Condominiums Detached Single Family Multi family houses different types of houses classification of housing types house styles, Categories of Housing Types
Photo Copyright © 2005 Paul Silver Photography
Additionally, there are different STYLES of Houses available. Let's make the distinction clear: Types of houses include distinctions such as single family, multifamily, condominium, Cooperatives, townhouses, etc. Styles of houses include architectural distinctions, such as Cape Cod, Colonial, Ranch, etc. We have included here the styles of architecture as well as the types of housing... we hope this makes it easier to grasp. First, we cover STYLES of houses, then below, TYPES of houses. Links to WIKIPEDIA from each style of house will give more detail on each.
  • A-frame, so-called because of the appearance of the structure
  • Brownstone: see row house
  • Caravan
  • Cape Cod: Popular in the Northeastern United States
  • Colonial house: a traditional style house in the United States
  • Cottage: Usually refers to a small country dwelling, but weavers' cottages are three-storied townhouses with the top floor reserved for the working quarters.
  • Craftsman house:
  • Detached (free-standing): Any house that is completely separated from its neighbors.
    • Bungalow: Single story house (not including optional basement)
    • Back split: Multilevel house that appears as a bungalow from the front elevation
    • Frontsplit: Multilevel house that appears as a two story house in front and a bungalow in the back. It is the opposite of a back split and is a rare configuration.
    • Side split: Multilevel house where the different levels are visible from the front elevation
    • Link-detached: Adjacent detached properties which do not have a party wall, but which are linked by the garage(s) and so forming a single frontage.
    • Two-story, three-story
    • Ranch: Single story house, usually with garage and basement.
  • Prefab, a house where the main structure is prefabricated (common after WWII).
  • Farm house: Building serving as the main residence on a farm.
  • Linked: Rowhouse or semi-detached house that is linked only at the foundation. Above ground, they appear as detached houses. Linking the foundations reduces cost.
  • Geodesic dome, pioneered by Buckminister Fuller
  • Faux chateau: (1980s - 90s) Inflated suburban house with non-contextual French Provencal references.
  • Foursquare house:
  • Log cabin, a house built of unsquared timbers
  • Mansion: Very large/expensive house
  • McMansion (1980s - 90s) Inflated suburban house with classicizing references.
  • Manufactured home
  • Mews property: A Mews is an urban stable-block that has been converted into residential properties. The houses are converted into ground floor garages with a small flat above which used to house the ostler.
  • Mobile home
  • Patio home
  • Rowhouse: (USA); also called "terraced home (USA); also called "townhouse"; ": 3 or more houses in a row sharing a "party" wall with its adjacent neighbor. In New York, "Brownstones" are row houses. Row houses are typically multiple stories. The term townhouse is currently coming into wider use in the UK, but terraced house (not "terraced home") is more common.
  • Split-level house: A style popular in the 50's and 60's.
  • Sears house: Sears houses were owner-built "kit" houses sold by Sears, Roebuck and Co. through its catalog division from 1906 -1940.
  • Semi-detached: two houses joined together, often called a "duplex" in the USA.
  • Storybook Houses 1920s houses inspired by hollywood set design
  • Terraced house: Since the late 18th century is a style of housing where (generally) identical individual houses are conjoined into rows - a line of houses which abut directly on to each other built with shared party walls between dwellings whose uniform fronts and uniform height created an ensemble that was more stylish than a "row house". However this is also the UK term for a "row house" regardless of whether the houses are identical or not.
    • Back-to-back: Terraced houses which also adjoin a second terrace to the rear. They were a common form of housing for workers during the Industrial Revolution in England.
  • Treehouse A house that is built among the branches or around the trunk of one or more mature trees and does not rest on the ground.
  • Townhouse: also called row house (US). In the UK, a townhouse is a traditional term for an upper class house in London (in contrast with country house), and is now coming into use as a term for new terraced houses, which are often three stories tall with a garage on the ground floor.
    • Stacked townhouse: Units are stacked on each other; units may be multilevel; all units have direct access from the outside
  • Victorian house:
  • Tudor style refers to the style of architecture and decorative arts modeled on the original Tudor architecture produced in England between 1485 and 1603.
  • Mock Tudor refers to a modern emulation of Tudorbethan architecture.

Definitions courtesy Wikipedia.org

Single Family Homes

By far the most common classification of housing types in North America is the single family detached home -- ranging from 600 square foot bungalows to 6000 (or more) square foot sprawling mansions. The most important distinguishing factors that determine a single family dwelling are that it sits on its own piece of land (which is sold part and parcel with the home) and it is not attached to anyone else's residence. With single family homes, your home pretty much is your castle. Subject to neighborhood and subdivision regulations and ordinances, you can do with it as you wish. Want a different exterior color? Usually you can accomplish that (taking into account the fact that the neighbors may not be receptive to a purple house with ecru trim). Need more room and want to add on? Subject to the codes of your jurisdiction, you may be able to expand your living space.

You will probably have a yard of some sort -- from "postage stamp" size up through multiple acres, and your ownership will include all of it. In effect, when you buy a single family home your purchase will be of a parcel of land (your lot) on which sits a structure (your house).


Is a Single Family Home for You?

  • You like your "space." The idea of apartment living gives you the willies.
  • The prospect of cutting the lawn, trimming the bushes and shoveling snow excite you (or at least don't send you headed for the nearest bridge.)
  • You like the idea of modifying your home -- changing the color, the appearance, the size. Having someone tell you that you couldn't do that would bother you.
  • If you like, you are able to build a single family home (building a townhouse or condominium community gets a little expensive!)
 

Advantages

 

Disadvantages

  • To a large degree, "your space" is your own. You can modify or improve it as you wish.
 
  • All maintenance and repair costs -- interior, exterior and everything in between -- are yours.
  • Resale value is generally the highest on single family detached homes.
 
  • Lack of amenities (for example, pools, playgrounds, etc.) that you may find in other types of housing.
  • If you need more room, you can usually add on to the existing house.
 
  • You are responsible for landscaping and lawn upkeep costs.
  • Generally there are no property management fees as there are in condominiums and many townhouses.
 
  • In most areas, single family homes are more expensive than townhouses or condominiums. 

 

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Advantages

 

Disadvantages

  • Subsidy of payments on your your mortgage .
 
  • You will be responsible for maintenance of apartments in the house.
  • Ability to afford a larger mortgage loan because of the subsidy.
 
  • You give up privacy when compared to single family homes as well as townhouses.
  • And because of the above, the ability to purchase more house than might otherwise be possible. 
 
  • You will have to deal with rent collections, evictions, and other responsibilities of being a landlord.
  • When time to sell, you will open the market with investors, which may pay higher prices if rents are good.
 
  • When it is time to sell, it can often take longer to sell than a single family home or a condominium or townhouse.

 

Multi Family Homes

 

Although there are several different types of houses in the multi family classification of housing types, the easiest way to understand the concept of a multi family house is to think in terms of house styles with a mother in law apartment, or additional other apartments. This situation allows you to subsidize your mortgage payments with rent from tenants, or in some cases even to make a profit. Of course, you will be living with tenants in your own building. And, as the owner, you may be pestered by them on occasion. Many people buy two family houses so that their retired elderly parents can live near them. Thus the so called "Mother in Law Apartment". Other different types of houses that fit this classification of housing type include 3, 4 or even 6 unit houses. In Rhode Island, a three unit multi family house constitutes a residential property. Any more than 3 and your financing will be considered commercial. This is an important consideration when looking for the right property, as it may effect your cash flow and investment return.

Without doubt, owning a multi family home and living in it makes you a landlord. You will be responsible for maintenance on not only your own apartment, but that of the your tenants as well. You will have to tolerate noise or other traffic in the common areas. And you will have to deal with issues of rent collecting, eviction, vacancy periods, and trash removal. As far as vacancy periods are concerned, you should expect some amount of time in which the apartment(s) will be vacant: Between tenants when you will need to paint, repair, or otherwise gain new tenants. These periods can be long or short depending on how proactive you are as a landlord.

On the up side, you will have a subsidy for the payments. Many people are able to afford much more of an investment in real estate by purchasing a multi family house precisely because of the subsidy to the mortgage expense provided by tenants.


Is a Multi Family for You?

  • You don't mind dealing with both interior and exterior maintenance and repairs, for both your own space and for the rental spaces.
  • You like the idea of being able to afford more house for similar or lower payments.
  • You like the safety of numerous and nearby neighbors.
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Condominiums

Again, although there are different types of houses that fall within the classification Condominium, the easiest way to understand the concept of condominium ownership is to see at as an apartment you own (in fact, many condominiums are apartments that have been converted over the years). Your ownership extends inward from your interior walls, floors and ceilings. In addition, you are a partner, with all of the other owners in the complex, of the exterior structure (the foundation, exterior walls and roof) as well as any common areas and amenities (for example, swimming pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, play areas, etc.)

One of the requirements of condominium ownership is the payment of a monthly condo fee, which covers general repairs and maintenance to the common areas of the complex as well as (hopefully) build up a cash reserve for future needs. In general, all exterior maintenance and repairs are the responsibility of the condominium association, although you will be charged for them, either through your association dues or a special assessment (a one time charge assessed to all owners for, as an example, a new roof). The normal day-to-day maintenance of the grounds (some examples are cutting the grass, shoveling snow and maintaining the pool) are also the responsibility of the association. Interior maintenance and repairs (for example, replacing a dishwasher) are the responsibility of the individual owner.

In some areas, a condominium may be the only consideration that fits within your budget. The reason for this is simple. In general, the same square footage will cost less in a condo setting than it will in a single family home or townhouse, due mainly to land cost -- you can build many more condos than you can single family homes on the same amount of land.


Is a Condominium for You?

  • You want absolutely nothing to do with exterior maintenance and repairs.
  • You like the idea of amenities (swimming pools, tennis courts and the like) but you don't like the idea of having to pay for them on your own.
  • You like the safety of numerous and nearby neighbors.
 

Advantages

 

Disadvantages

  • You will be responsible for little or no exterior maintenance or repairs.
 
  • You will be responsible for payment of Condominium Association fees.
  • Many condominium communities offer amenities (pools, play areas, tennis courts, etc.) you may otherwise not be able to afford.
 
  • You give up more privacy when compared to single family homes as well as townhouses.
  • Condominiums are often located in locations convenient to centers of employment and shopping. 
 
  • You only own from your interior walls inward. The rest of the structure and all of the land is owned in common with the other condominium owners.
  • Condominiums are often more reasonably priced than other forms of housing.
 
  • When it is time to sell, it can often take longer to sell a condominium.
........................................................................
 

Advantages

 

Disadvantages

  • May have less exterior maintenance and repairs to be responsible for.
 
  • You will be responsible for payment of Home Owner's Association fees.
  • Having a neighbor's home attached to yours may bring a higher level of security.
 
  • You give up privacy when compared to single family homes.
  • There may be amenities in the community (for example, pools, tennis courts, playgrounds and the like).
 
  • Your options for changing the exterior look of your house will be limited.

 

 

Townhouses

Townhouses often can make an excellent "middle ground" between a detached single family home and a full fledged condominium because, to some degree, they offer attributes of both.

For purposes of definition, we will describe a townhouse as a home that is attached to one or more other houses, but which sits directly on a parcel of land that you also own (if you don't own the land, it is a
condominium). For this discussion, townhouses can ranges from duplexes and triplexes all the way through huge townhouse communities consisting of hundreds of similar homes.

There is a good degree of variance in the way townhouse communities are structured. It may be a simple agreement (as is often the case of duplexes and triplexes) that each parcel of land and the home that sits on it is separately owned. In the case of larger townhouse communities, you will generally have an additional shared ownership in the common areas of the complex as well as any amenities such as swimming pools, park areas, etc. This ownership you will share jointly with all other townhouse owners in the complex.

In any townhouse purchase that involves an Homeowners'
Association, it is vitally important to get as much information as you can, since the association can have a considerable impact on your ownership experience!


Is a Townhouse for You?

  • You like the idea of your "space" but not having to deal with most exterior maintenance has even more appeal.
  • A small backyard "retreat" or deck is just about all the yard you need.
  • The idea of having neighbors close doesn't really bother you -- you just don't want them above and below as well as next to you!
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