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Types of Houses: What’s the Difference?

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Buying, Real Estate Glossary

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If you’re searching for a new home, it’s helpful to know the terms commonly used to describe home and property types. After all, the types of houses you consider purchasing can affect your mortgage and home insurance. 

There are 2 ways different types of houses are categorized. One being searching for types of houses by architectural styles, meaning a home’s interior and exterior design. The second is what we will be discussing: types of houses by residential building structures. There are 6 common types of houses that are helpful to know when searching for a new home. 

Single Family Home

You may have heard the term single family home before, but aren’t quite sure what it means. Typically, a single family home is exactly as it sounds. Thus, a single, free standing home on its own piece of property. It is designed to be used only as a single dwelling. With that, this type of home has only one kitchen, independent utilities and unshared walls. 

A single family home varies in its interior and exterior design. For example, a ranch style home, bungalow or mediterranean style home all vary in their overall layout and design but can each be considered a single family home. This varies from other types of homes that are typically more straightforward in their design, such as a condo or townhome. 

Multi Family Homes

Another type of home commonly found when searching for properties is a multi family home. This is different from a single family home in that it can have multiple units within one structure on a single lot. For example, a large house on a single lot may initially look like a single family home. However, looking at its interior the property has a main residence, with two upstairs apartments. These apartments have independent utilities, and each have their own separate kitchen. Thus, this property could not be considered a single family home and instead should be classified as a multi family home. 


A townhome is structurally defined as a multilevel residence attached to other residences on a street or road. Often, this description can be a little confusing as it sounds similar to a condo duplex or single family home. 

Townhomes differ from condos in that usually townhome owners own the house and the land it’s on. A townhome is similar to a single family home in this way, except it is often attached to another unit on one or both sides. This type of house can be two or even three stories tall. Like a single family home, townhouse owners are financially responsible for the maintenance of the interior and exterior of the home. 

HOA’s are common for townhouse owners. Similar to condo owners, townhome owners pay monthly dues to cover certain maintenance services such as trash pickup. 

Types of Houses: Condominium

A condominium, or “condo” for short is one of many homes within one building or a series of buildings on one piece of land. Each condo owner owns their unit within the larger community in the building or property. This means condo owners hold the title to their unit, but also jointly own the shared common areas of the community. For example, condo owners can enjoy community pools, gyms and garages that are frequented by fellow residents of the building. 

A condo is a great option for homeowners who want more flexibility and simplicity. Most condo’s only require owners to maintain the interior of their home, while the HOA covers common spaces and the exterior. When choosing between types of houses, condos are often priced lower than single family homes and have lower taxes too. 

Condos can vary in their structure and physical appearance. Aside from a large building similar in looks to an apartment complex, there are two common types of condominiums. 

  • Duplex: A two story condo unit. This may look like a townhome, but with two units. 
  • Triplex:  Same as duplex condo but housing three units within one building

It’s also important to note when considering a condo that this type of house is different from an apartment. SImilar to a condo, an apartment is a unit within a larger building or community. However, all apartment units are owned by one owner or entity rather than each unit being owned individually. Ultimately, apartments are rented to tenants, while you own a condo. 

Home Owners Association

The community and its common areas are maintained by an elected body called the Home Owners Association (HOA). This group oversees decisions on behalf of the community for all condo unit owners. Typically, the HOA facilitates maintenance of the community grounds and landscaping. This means condo owners don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn or snow removal around their home. The HOA also determines pet policies, noise ordinances and even plans social events in some cases. In exchange for these duties, condo owners pay a monthly or annual HOA fee. This fee can increase over time. Thus, you should factor this expense into your budget if considering a condo as your next home. 

Tiny Home

When considering types of houses, a tiny home may not be at the top of your list. However, in recent years these are growing in popularity for a variety of reasons. 

A tiny home is exactly as it sounds: a very small home. This type of house can be stationary or mobile, and ranges from 100 to 400 square feet. You can find both one and two story houses, both are extremely efficient in their use of space. 

Many people are downsizing to tiny houses in order to live mortgage-free. The total cost of a tiny house ranges from as low as $10,000 all the way to $100,000. This varies based on the cost to build or renovate the home, and the materials you use as well as the appliances you choose. 

Tiny homes are a great option for reducing your carbon footprint as well. Less space means less stuff and ultimately less energy consumed.

A recent study found that people who downsized to a tiny home reduced their energy consumption by 45%. 

When considering types of houses, this is a great choice for your wallet and the environment. However, it’s important to be sure you’re ready for the lifestyle change that comes with downsizing and a smaller living space before you commit to a tiny home. 


Originally, cottages were smaller homes designed with thick walls, a pitched roof and only a single room. This differs drastically from the historical definition of a cottage. Today, a cottage is commonly a vacation home. 

Modern cottages can vary in design and architectural styles based on their location. Many cottages are found in rural areas, but they’re also popular along the beach and offer a cozy escape from everyday life. 

If you are considering a cottage as a vacation home, it’s important to be aware of the expenses that come with it. Consult an expert real estate agent to help you better understand what you’re getting into when thinking about purchasing a cottage. 

General Maintenance: Do you have the time to dedicate to maintaining a vacation cottage? Chances are if you already own a home, you’re familiar with the time and money needed to maintain it. Be sure to consider how much time your new property will need. For example, purchasing a recreational property requires much less maintenance than a historical cottage that may be routine maintenance to keep it in pristine condition. 

Water: Is your cottage urban or rural? In rural areas you may not be using city water and instead have a septic system to upkeep. When considering buying the property, be sure the home inspection includes an in depth inspection of the current septic system. 

Winterizing: Will you be visiting your cottage in the winter? COnsider whether the heat can be shut off if you’re not present. In some environments, the pipes will freeze if the heat is shut off. In others, you may be able to simply shut off the water if you know your cottage is solely a summer residence. 

Insurance: These expenses vary with different types of houses. However, a lake or ocean front cottage typically means higher insurance costs to include flood coverage. Make sure to work this into your budget before committing to a cottage. 

Log cabin

When comparing types of houses, a log cabin home is occasionally compared to a cottage. Overall, cabins tend to have a more simple, rustic style. While a cottage typically acts as a higher end vacation home. With that, cabins are typically in more rural or recreational areas while cottages can be rural or urban. 

As the name states, these types of houses are made from logs. But, the specific type of wood used varies by location, climate and personal taste. There are three types of log cabin homes: full scribe, Post and beam and timber frame. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages based on what you’re looking for in a home. 

Log cabins are most commonly found throughout the Midwest and Western parts of the United States. Today, log cabins are becoming more and more modern and often serve as beautiful vacation spots.

Types of Houses: Choose What’s Best For You

There are many types of houses to choose from when considering your next home. Each type has its own unique pros and cons as well as financial differences. Buyers should consider their lifestyle and budget before falling in love with a certain type of house. It’s almost important to look closely at the level of maintenance required. 

A real estate agent can make the stress of home search easier by providing expert advise and insider tips throughout the process. With Trelora, modern discount real estate you might even be able to afford more home than you think. Our agents split their buyers commission with you 50/50 when you purchase your home with Trelora, up to $6,000 cash back. That could pay your mortgage for a few months, cover new appliances, or even pay for your next vacation!

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The information contained in this blog is for general information purposes only, and while believed to be accurate, Trelora assumes no legal responsibility for accuracy. Information provided within should not relied upon as legal advice. Please consult with your local advisors for independent information regarding availability and applicability in your market.