If you are thinking about buying a house, particularly if you are buying your first house, you may be a bit confused by house styles. Understandably so. There are many styles to choose from, so it is helpful to know what each one means.
Refer to this guide to help you understand which style of house is which. You’ll be a whiz at knowing a Split from a Splanch or a Post modern from a Victorian.
Cape, or Cape Cod
A cape is defined as being a one and a half story house. However, this may have variations. A non-dormered cape will have a small upstairs with a very slanted triangular ceiling. This is the half story.
Sometimes capes are dormered, however, and will have more room in the upstairs bedrooms. Usually, the ceilings toward the front of the house will still be fairly slanted and may have alcove-type windows, called dog-house dormers. You will usually see a lot of roof from the outside.
A cape may typically have two bedrooms downstairs and one or two bedrooms upstairs.
A colonial is the most popular style of house. The name colonial conjures up images of quaint early American homes. However, all that is really meant by the term colonial is that all of the bedrooms are upstairs. Very simple.
There are also center hall colonials. This means that the front door is in the center of the house, not towards either side. You will also find the stair case and hall way in the middle of the house. A side hall colonial will, therefore, have the front door to one side of the front of the house, with the stairs and hall also to one side.
These are usually pretty easy to identify. They have a very modern look with soaring ceilings and some angular construction. They may have many skylights. They tend to have open floor plans, with one room flowing into another without necessarily having walls between them. Many homes of this style were built in the 1980s.
A farm ranch is somewhat similar to a cape, but it is usually larger. It will have the same kind of sloped roof and ceiling upstairs the way a cape does. A farm ranch will usually have two or more likely three bedrooms downstairs. The downstairs will be larger than the upstairs, which can give it a feeling similar to a ranch. Often, the master bedroom is on the first floor and may or may not have its own bathroom.
There are usually two bedrooms upstairs with slanted ceilings. Farm ranches can also be dormered (have their upstairs ceilings raised and unslanted) for more space.
High Ranch or Raised Ranch
High ranches or raised ranches are usually easy to identify. You typically have to go up a few stairs to get to the front door. Then, you have to make a choice of whether to go up a few stairs or down a few stairs.
The main floor or upstairs of a high ranch will have most of the living space. Kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedrooms. This gives it a feeling similar to a ranch.
The downstairs of a high ranch is not completely underground the way a basement is. So it can have good sized windows. There may be a den area at the bottom of the stairs which can typically have doors to the backyard. There will usually be a door to a garage at this level as well. There is no additional basement.
A post modern style house is usually a term that we use for newer construction. It is usually a colonial (with bedrooms upstairs, remember?) and may have some cathedral ceilings and oversized windows.
A ranch is not necessarily a house that you will find in the middle of cattle country. A ranch is a house with only one level besides a basement. The living space, bathrooms and bedrooms will all be on this level.
Ranches are advantageous to anyone who does not want to climb stairs very often as all the living space in on the same level. Sometimes, however, the garage will be underneath the house, requiring a hike up. Sometimes, though, it will be at ground level.
Split Level or Split
A split level house, or split, will have many half stair cases. You never go up or down an entire level at once as each level is offset halfway from the other.
Typically, on the main level of a split, you will find the living room, dining room and kitchen. One disadvantage of this style is that there is no bathroom on the main level.
If you go half a flight up from the main level, you will get to the bedrooms and main bath. The master bedroom may or may not have its own bathroom. It could also be another half flight up from here.
If you go a half flight down from the main level, you will usually be in a den which is mostly above ground. There may also be a bath and a bedroom. You can sometimes access the garage and backyard from here.
Down again a half flight from the den level is the true basement. These are usually partial basements.
A splanch is somewhat similar to a split. On the main entry level of the house, you will find the living room, dining room, kitchen, bath or powder room and sometimes a den. If you go upstairs half a level you will come to a floating living room. This means that it is all by itself on this level. The living room may be somewhat open to the kitchen or the den.
Up another half flight from the living room are the bedrooms and at least one full bath. Again the master bedroom may or may not have its own bath. Splanches are usually fairly large. They have partial basements.
Tudors are usually quite charming and distinct. They are usually colonials with stucco exterior walls with beautiful woodwork. They may have small windows. You will usually find Tudors with lots of woodwork inside and the windows may have leaded or divided glass panes.
Victorians are usually colonials. They are not necessarily old, however. They usually have front porches or turrets. There may be gingerbread style siding on the outside. These additional architectural features conjure the charm that is associated with a Victorian.
Now that you have your glossary of house styles, you may want to print it out and take it with you while you are looking for houses. This way, when your Realtor says she is going to show you a Post Modern Victorian, Side Hall Colonial or a Dormered Cape, you will know exactly what she means.