Looking at listings and come across descriptions saying “cozy ranch” or “colonial” and wonder what differentiates these home styles and what it means for livability and cost?
We’ve been getting a lot of questions on this so we figured we would dive and and provide the definitive guide on home styles and how each style affects the livability, aesthetics, and the cost to make changes / additions to each style.
You’ll want to arm yourself with this information so you can be prepared when flipping through listings.
Let’s jump right in!
Ranch Home Style
Perhaps the most popular home style in America today is the ranch. The ranch has no stairs, the entire house is on one level. There are various shapes for the ranch style, but the main theme is that the entire house is on one level–which has it’s perks.
The Straight Ranch, also known as the “Rambler” is generally the cheapest house to build,also in the ranch family are the “L” shaped ranch and a “U” shaped ranch.
The L shaped ranch is a great way to incorporate a garage into the house plans.
The U shaped ranch gives you a ton of options for the open space in the middle—you can put a pool, front porch or a courtyard area there.
For people that have trouble making it up and down the stairs, the ranch style is ideal. It’s also nice if you just prefer to have everything on one level. It’s much easier to move things in and out of the house when everything is on one level.
If you don’t plan on staying in your home for the long term, you might want to consider a ranch to lower your moving costs—it’ll take an extra person or two for you or the moving company to get things up and down the stairs when you get ready to move.
Ranches tend to be easier to maintain—particularly on the outside.
While the ranch will need more roof to cover the square footage than a multi-level house, the roof lines of a ranch are cheaper to construct, so you’re still coming out ahead overall.
Negatives of the Ranch Style
Since the house is all on one level, you will need more square footage to get privacy from other household members.
Another common complaint about the ranch style of home is that the outside can tend to have a boring, lackluster appeal. It’s nothing that can’t be remedied with a little green thumb!
With a little landscaping, you can really jazz up your ranch!
The raised ranch introduces some stair climbing into the mix. The raised ranch came into popularity as land in the suburbs became more scarce and families wanted to get more of a house on a smaller piece of property.
The need to climb stairs tends to lower the value a little bit, which can help first-time homebuyers that are looking to break into home ownership.
More square footage on a smaller lot—a way to separate children and parents for increased sense of independence and privacy.
Negatives of the Raised Ranch Style
Facing a set of steps every time you enter your house can get old, especially when you are doing stuff like bringing groceries in the house.
Colonial Home Style
The colonial style is associated with the style of building used from the 17th to the 19th century, particularly in colonial America. There are many sub types of the Colonial style, with each world power at the time putting it’s own unique stamp on this traditional style.
The French, Spanish, German, and Colonial “Georgian” are all sub types of this once dominant architectural style.
The defining characteristic of the Colonial style of home is two stories, with a formally defined living room and dining room on the first floor and maybe one bedroom, with the other bedrooms being on the second story of the home. They feature a prominent front door, medium roofing lines for drainage and
There are also one or two chimneys (remember in the old days how they kept the place warm).
You can find the majority of colonial style houses in the northeastern and southern U.S.
This style of home is good for entertaining,and there is a nice separation of space, which creates a deeper sense of separation. The Colonial style is steeped with tradition and has a lot of character on the outside.
Downsides of the Colonial Style
In today’s world many people find the formal areas of a colonial to be a waste of space. People want more bedrooms, more bedrooms, more bedrooms at the expense of the communal space.
While some styles create space with doors, the colonial does it with staircase.
The split level came into prominence in the 1950’s and 60’s when returning GI’s and others wanted a more grand looking home with a small budget.
The split level can be built on a sloping a sloping lot (cheaper) with more square footage under one roof (cheaper!)
Plus it looks like a really sophisticated structure, so neighbors will be impressed (good!)
Popularity for the split level style was at it’s greatest in the 70’s after the style was featured as the “Brady Bunch” home. The idea with the Split level is that you can accommodate a large family on a modest budget.
There is a wonderful separation of space going on in the split level thanks to the small staircases–which are half of what it would be for a true 2 story.
You actually get 3 levels for living space so you really get a sense of depth being in the house.
The main level is street level so there is no need to be climbing up or down stairs with groceries etc.
The lot needs to have a certain slope for the split level style to work. The exterior can have a look that might be considered dated. The style is not quite old enough to be considered a classic, but is no longer modern.
While it’s rare that a person requests to have a split level house built today, it can be a great house for a new family breaking into home ownership in the suburbs.
The cape cod style originates in 17th century New England and was built with total practicality in mind.
Cape Cods are a story and a half high with a steep, pitched roof designed to keep the snow from piling up on the roof. There is a large chimney in the center of the house used to keep the home warm during the harsh northeastern winters.
The shutters on the windows were originally used to protect the windows from the wind during a storm and the ceilings are kept low to maximize heat conservation.
The Cape Cod is truly a no frills style home.
Modern Capes from 1920’s and after kept many of the exterior features of the original Cape with a modified interior for a more comfortable living experience. The chimney and fireplace became mostly decorations.
Thanks to it’s inexpensive style, the Cape Cod was a popular choice for many of the first major housing developments after soldiers came back from World War II.
The story and a ½ is my favorite, especially if the children in the house are a bit older and don’t need to be close to the adults,or if you have out of town company. The roof lines create an interesting look and this style never seems to be out-dated.
Negatives of the Cape Cod
The types of siding that are typical on this style are generally wood and high maintenance,it can be replaced with hardy board which is less maintenance. If you come across an early cape it might seem a bit utilitarian on the inside but that’s an easy fix with a little charm!
The Art Deco designed home was made popular during the “Roaring Twenties.” Discovery of King Tut’s tomb, as well as a surging industrial revolution inspired a generation of flat roofs, smooth, rounded walls and vibrant colors.
The Empire State Building is a glowing example of the Art Deco style and it’s “reach for the sky” ethos.
In Miami’s South Beach, the Art Deco style saw a resurgence in the 1980’s with pastel colors.
Art Deco has a cool, interesting style that sets it apart from other homes. The aesthetic lends itself to an imaginative use of color, glass and circles.
Drawbacks of Art Deco
In some parts of the country flat roofs can be a problem and need continual maintenance. Snow can pile up, causing damage and it’s harder for rain to drain off.
You may be used to shoveling the driveway, imagine if you had to add your roof to the list of items to shovel.
Now we know why Art Deco is popular in Miami!
The craftsman style home was born out of a reaction to the industrial revolution. Many saw what was happening as a devaluation of human labor and an emphasis on mass production rather than individualism and hand-crafted items.
Open front porches and stone features are common on the craftsman.
The floor plan is generally a story and ½ which is popular everybody loves a big deep front porch
Drawbacks of the Craftsman Style Home
Again, as with the cape cod , the siding may need regular maintenance.
Cottage / Bungalow
The original use of the cottage was to house agricultural workers on a farm.
A cottage is typically a one bedroom dwelling meant for travelers or people on vacation. Many people have different ideas of what a cottage truly is, but the universal agreement is that a cottage is a small, cozy and old-fashioned house.
The trend these days is to minimize , and cottages do just that–keeping heating and cooling costs down and making maintenance chores a breeze. Your house payment will be lower, property taxes will be less, fewer headaches, less clutter. You can see the appeal here.
It can be difficult to downsize and there are challenges with smaller spaces ,storage etc.
If you are moving from a large house to a cottage or a bungalow, you really need to plan out what you can take and what you need to leave behind.
There is nothing worse than overestimating the amount of stuff a smaller house can accommodate, and now you have no space for the stuff you just spent a small fortune to move!
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about the pros and cons of each type of home style, you can make a more informed decision when you go out and look at listings. Keep in mind that easiest homes to maintain and make additions to tend to be ranches–which is why they have become one of the most popular style of home!