As anyone who's done even a bit of casual house hunting can tell you, real estate has a language all its own. As you begin looking for a home, it's helpful to know your way around some of the terms used to describe a home's style.
As you become more fluent in the language of real estate, you'll be better at scanning a listing to see if it's a house you're interested in, or if it's one you can skip.
To get started, here’s a list of common house styles and descriptors, along with their definitions.
Typical American Home Styles
A bungalow usually refers to a smaller home with a large front porch. Most of the rooms are on the first floor as in a ranch home, but there is often a bedroom or two tucked away under the low roof as well.
These homes are also often known as "Arts and Craft" homes, especially when featuring dark woodwork or built-in bookshelves and cabinetry.
Known in New England simply as a "Cape," this style home is sometimes described as having "one and a half" stories. This is because the second story is marked by a steeply-sloped roof: Imagine a triangle plopped atop a rectangle, and you have a Cape Cod.
The upper floor usually has a slanted roof and and short knee walls; there may also be dormers to let in additional light.
Colonial is used to describe a two-story house, though the exact style of the home is often up for interpretation.
It most often denotes a house with a center entry and two full stories, plus a roof with the gable ends on the sides of the house instead of the front. A typical Colonial is based on the symmetrical, Federal-style homes of the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The farm house style is often two stories, with the gable end of the roof creating a triangle over the front door. The house usually forms an L shape, with a porch tucked in the open angle.
Sometimes farm houses are attached to outbuildings like a garage or barn with a breezeway, mudroom or other low hallway as well.
Spanish or Southwestern:
These homes may be one or two stories and feature smooth stucco or even adobe walls. Rounded doorways, dark wood trim and wavy, terracotta roof tiles complete the look made popular in Mexico and the Southwest. Traditionally, thick walls made of stone or concrete kept the interiors cool in the heat of the day.
This is a single-story home. Traditional ranches are wider than they are deep, with long front facades and bedrooms typically grouped on one side of the house. Newer ranches tend to sprawl out in more interesting shapes than the typical rectangle and may have unique roof lines, courtyards and more.
Many original ranch homes from the 1950s have been added on to with an L-shaped addition.
Victorian homes are often two or even three stories tall, and they are marked by asymmetrical features: rounded turrets, steep and varied roof lines and off-center entrances nestled in sweeping verandas.
Victorian homes are highly decorative, featuring painted shingles and decorative trim work that may even give it a "gingerbread" feel.
Now that you know what real estate descriptions mean, you can peruse home listings like a pro to find exactly the house style to suit your needs. Happy house hunting!