Home Types

What Fits? Trying on Home Styles

Michele Allen
MilitaryByOwner Advertising, Inc.

Skinny or Flare?  Baggy or Boot Cut?  When shopping for Jeans, consumers often have more information about what looks good on their body type, than which style home would best fit their lifestyle.  Every men’s and women’s magazine has run multiple articles on what looks best on your body, but there are few resources out there to help you "try on" house styles! What fits you and your family??From Colonial to apartment, let’s try some on.


The most common home style and one with the broadest appeal.  A typical colonial home has a first floor of 3-4 rooms:  Kitchen, Dining, Living and/or Family Room and a half bath.  Second floor will have bedrooms and full baths.

 Most colonial style homes have a basement, and if unfinished it is an excellent way to later improve the value of the home.  Colonial homes can have lots of square footage, but it is usually broken into distinct rooms, in contrast to a "great room" west coast style home.  A big thing to consider in colonials is Stairs.  Because of the traditional high ceilinged colonial floor plan, staircases are long.  Keep this in mind if you have anyone that may have difficulty with stairs in your house.   Overall, colonials appeal to the broadest base of buyers. 

Split Level:

 A home style that rose to popularity in the 70’s, split levels are rectangular homes with a stairway right inside the front door.  A half course of stairs goes up to the top level, generally 6-8 steps. And an adjoining stairway leads down to the lower level, generally 6-8 steps.  The upper level usually contains 6 rooms; three bedrooms, kitchen open to dining room with a larger living room in the front. 

The lower level can be arranged in a variety of ways, often containing a rec room or additional bedroom/bathroom combination.  The laundry area is almost always located on the lower level.   Because of the unique setup of split levels, they are often favored by those looking for a home either with an existing or potential for an in-law apartment.  The Split level configuration lends itself well to a three room basement area, as well as the six rooms upstairs which can function just like a ranch home.


A Ranch is a one-level home.  In Northern States, they usually have basements which are often finished to increase the living area.  In the south, these homes are usually built on slabs because of increased risk of flooding in more humid climates. 

 Ranches often feel slightly bigger than a corresponding colonial of equal square feet, because the lack of stairs eating up interior living area.  Many owners finish ranch basements as an inexpensive way to increase living area.  If buying a ranch is a consideration for you, be sure to get a seller’s statement of condition that clearly discloses any history of water penetration.

Many are attracted to ranch homes because most don’t contain stairs.  Even if there is no one in your family that struggles with stairs now, if you are planning on staying in this home, stairs can often become an issue later in life.


Townhomes are often multi-level homes, sometimes with basement.  Unlike apartments or condo you enter directly into unit from outside.  Usually they have some sort of outside patio and/or deck area for each individual home and common play areas that are shared by all.  If there is a garage it is attached.  At least one side wall usually shared, back wall may be shared or open to the outside

Townhomes can be significantly less expensive than individual homes in the same area but come with some compromises. In a townhome you will share at least one, and up to three common walls with other residents.  Dependant on the quality of the structure, and the neighbors, these could lead to some uncomfortably close "noise" situations.   Yards are normally very small and can often be crammed with neighbors stuff.  Without a tight Housing Association Covenant, you may have some unsightly yards around you.  Townhomes will normally sell slower in a down market, as buyers try to reach up to anxious sellers. 

If the townhome is part of an association, the fees can include snow/lawn care, trash removal, outside maintenance and hazard insurance, and some include water/sewer


Condominiums have long been popular with first-time home buyers. In this form of ownership, you own the inside of your unit and have a percentage ownership of the land and common areas of the development. You do not own or have the right to change the exterior of the unit. Every condo project has its own homeowner’s association (HOA) that is responsible for maintenance of common areas and enforcement of HOA policies and restrictions.

Condos are most often one level housing in a multi-level building that share entry and hallways.  Multi story condo units will usually have an elevator.  A benefit to condo is that they usually have a security system, sometimes with onsite security guard and/or caretaker.  They may have heated underground parking, parking in detached garages, assigned or unassigned open parking stalls or on-street parking only.  Most have a party room, and may also have shared amenities such as pool, exercise room, and tennis courts.

Condo association fees include heat, water/sewer, trash removal, snow/lawn care, outside maintenance and hazard insurance.   Some also include electric.  Laundry more often shared, but may also be in unit.   Usually there is a central heating/ air-conditioning plant that is maintained and owned by the Association.

As with Townhome ownership, you need to consider sharing multiple common walls and common areas with your neighbors.  Privacy and noise can be an issue or an easy compromise in light of the lower cost of owning a condo.

Another option multi unit option to consider is an apartment.  What’s the difference between an apartment and a condo?  Click here for more information.