Your Homebuying Checklist: Which Home Style Fits You?

Posted by Laine Smith on 2/10/16 3:33 PM

Topics: Home Buying

Buying a home means making a lot of choices. How many bedrooms do I need? Who should I hire as my real estate agent? What’s my home style?

Before you start your home search, make a list of characteristics you desire in your home, whether they are functional or aesthetic. To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of the top U.S. home styles and their distinguishing characteristics.


Cape Cod


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The Cape Cod home style began in colonial New England during the late 17th century as a cheap and efficient form of shelter from harsh coastal weather. The idyllic home style we are familiar with became popular throughout the rest of the United States during the 1930s-1950s.

Cape Cod style homes typically feature a symmetrical façade, steep roof, functional or decorative shutters, little-to-no decorative exterior trim, and simple design. If you like the cozy, cottage feel of traditional features like wood-shake siding, doghouse dormers, white window trim, etc. this home style may be right for you.



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This type of home style emerged from the Arts and Crafts Movement during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Craftsman style homes are not cookie-cutter homes. They vary immensely but all have a great amount detail.

You can recognize a Craftsman home by these features:

  • Low-pitched, gabled roof
  • Inviting entryway with front porch
  • Tapered columns
  • Multi-paned windows
  • Stone details



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The Contemporary-style home is a hard style to pinpoint, as it is a broad category and changing on a regular basis. This home style arose from the Industrial Revolution during the early 20thcentury. It typically embodies the simplicity of “form following function”.

Common characteristics of Contemporary-style housing include:

  •          An irregular, asymmetrical façade
  •          Large windows, extensive use of natural light
  •          Sustainable, eco-friendly materials
  •          Open, flexible floor plan

Though some critics find the Contemporary home plan to be cold and museum-like, others find the Contemporary home’s connection to the outdoors through sustainable materials and natural lighting to be warm and inviting.



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The Colonial-style home is one of the most popular home styles in the United States. Influenced by European settlers, this style erupted along the Eastern coastline and eventually made its way inland with adjustments made to the classic Colonial model to allow for climate changes.

There are several types of Colonial homes, including classic, Georgian, saltbox, French, etc., but all tend to have the following distinguishing characteristics:

  •          Symmetrical or square shape
  •          Entry door in the middle of the front of the home
  •          Paired chimneys
  •          Medium pitched roof
  •          Stairway located directly behind entry door



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European style homes are typically a mixture of French, Italian and English architectural characteristics. There is a heavy emphasis on durability and luxury in European-style homes with the use of high-quality stone flooring, marble, decorative stone and large fireplaces.

From the exterior, European homes have complex rooflines, lots of architectural detail and exterior cladding of stucco, stone or brick.



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At one point, the word “farmhouse” was a better descriptor of location and function rather than a home style as these home types were built out of necessity starting in the 1700’s for rural use.

Fast-forward to modern day, farmhouses are still popular among fixer-upper shows and even new-builds as their rectangular shape and simple roofline are relatively easy to add on to and upkeep.



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This home style gained popularity in the post-WWII era when large suburban lots were plentiful and there was little need to conserve space by building up. The Ranch style also developed and flourished as families found the need for an attached garage.

Ranch style homes gained popularity as residents enjoyed their affordability, livability, flexibility, and uncomplicated design. Ranch homes typically feature a rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped floor plan, large picture windows, a low-pitched roof, and an open floor plan. They sometimes feature a basement or are built on a cement slab. 



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Tudor-style homes are one of the most distinctive styles of residential architecture. The steeply-pitched roof lines and contrasting timber, stucco, and stone of 1500’s England attracted American homebuilders in the 1920’s because Tudor homes convey old money and heritage.

Exterior color schemes of this medieval-inspired home style typically sticks to brown , cream, and white tones, which complement traditional Tudor materials, such as brick, stone, slate, and concrete. Indoors, Tudor homes focus particularly around the hearth, and ceilings are low with decorative beams.

If you like the picturesque features of asymmetrical appearance, a steep roof, and grandiose chimneys and fireplaces, Tudor might be the way to go.

Looking for more information on home buying and financing? Our free Mortgage 101 Handbook is a great resource for first-time and repeat homebuyers.

Download: Mortgage 101 Handbook

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