May 10, 2021 at 2:10pm | Nick Johnson
Have you started looking for homes, but are overwhelmed by not knowing which type of home is right for you? There are two ways to classify a home - type or style of a home. The type of a home refers to the building structure. The style of a home refers to the architectural design elements.

Knowing the difference will help you make an informed decision on your next home. Below will explain the different types of homes.

A single-family home is a standalone, detached house used as a single dwelling unit, meaning a residence for one family, person, or household. It has its own private entrance and direct street access and is built on its own land, usually with additional yard space.

If a structure includes more than one collection of living spaces with separate entrances and privacy, it’s a multi-family home. The term multi-family home can be applied to any structure with more than one independent dwelling space, from a simple duplex to a sprawling apartment building.

An apartment is a type of housing unit that shares walls with a similar unit where three or more residences are contained within a larger structure. The apartment building usually has one or more levels and oftentimes includes shared spaces like a gym, pool, playground, laundry room, or game room.

Apartments can be found all over the world and are generally located conveniently within more urban areas. They are typically owned by a landlord or property manager and rented out to tenants under agreed-upon terms. The owner may choose to furnish the units or allow the tenant to furnish their own apartment. The size of an apartment can range from a studio with a single living space to units with three or more bedrooms.

An owner-occupied apartment is generally referred to as a condominium or condo. The public common areas are jointly owned and usually managed by a homeowners association (HOA). Residents must pay a fee to the association to maintain the public spaces, while the physical condo unit is owned outright by the resident.

Condo equivalents can be found in many countries. They have become a familiar type of house and a more affordable option for homeowners who don’t want the additional upkeep that comes with a single-family home.

A cooperative, or co-op, is a type of housing that is actually a corporation. A co-op resembles a condominium but the unit owners do not own their unit outright. Each resident owns a share in a corporation that entitles them to live in one of the units under a lease agreement.

Co-ops are generally less expensive than an apartment, making them an attractive option in more expensive urban areas like New York City. However, Homeowners Association (HOA) fees that are paid to the co-op to take care of maintenance, landscaping, and rules may be a bit higher than those paid on a condo.


A duplex is a single structure with two private living spaces that share a wall. While a duplex is considered one property, it may be sold to two separate owners (similar to a twin home). If there are two owners, they must cooperate on decisions regarding the property.

A twin home is sold as two properties on two separate lots. You might share a wall with the person next to you in a twin home; otherwise, the owners are free to treat their side of the structure and their lot as they wish.

A townhome, or townhouse, “shares at least one wall with another home. Mostly found in urban areas, they became popular in the early 19th century due to limited space and the financial benefits for the architect or builder because they could be built quickly on a smaller area of land. They have a “row-house” design; they are typically two stories or more with a traditional layout, side hallways, and minimal lawn space. Unlike row houses, townhomes can be arranged in clusters or lines that aren’t parallel to the road.

A row house specifically refers to attached homes that line up along a street, in a row, and that shares at least one wall with another home.

A manufactured home is ready to be lived in when it leaves the factory. A manufactured home is not a modular home because it can be moved after construction.

A prefabricated home, or a “prefab”, is constructed in pieces that are then assembled on-site.

The term modular home refers to houses that are built off-site and placed on a permanent foundation (and includes prefab). Most modular homes are between 12 feet and 15 feet, 9 inches wide, and up to 60 feet long, which allows for transportation of the pieces via truck. A manufactured home is not a modular home because it can be moved after construction.

A motorhome or RV is a home on wheels that can be easily moved from place to place. The most common size of the motorhome (Class C-25) is 23 to 25 feet long and can sleep a family of five.

A mobile home is less mobile than a motorhome or RV. Mobile homes (also called trailers) are generally placed in one location for permanent living. They come in two standard sizes: single-wide (typically 18 feet wide or less and 90 feet long or less) and doublewide (typically 20 feet wide and 90 feet long or less).

A houseboat is like a motorhome on water; it’s self-propelled and can be driven like a boat.

A floating home is a home on the water that floats on a foundation of logs, Styrofoam, and/or concrete. Floating homes are permanently connected to a dock where they’re hooked up to electrical and sewage.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a small standalone structure that is added to a residential property, usually serving as its own separate living unit. They’re commonly called guesthouses, in-law apartments, and backyard cottages. In most cities, the minimum size for an ADU on a residential property is around 800 square feet. To get around these restrictions, the first tiny home builders constructed their dwellings on wheels, so they could park them on their property like an RV.

A tiny home or tiny house is a standalone structure, typically between 100 and 400 square feet. Most tiny homes are built on wheels, but they aren’t necessarily meant to be mobile. Some say tiny homes and tiny houses are the same things. Others argue a tiny house is any small living space, including RVs, vans, sheds, boats, etc. When in doubt, call the 400-square-foot-or-less structures on wheels tiny homes.

A mansion is a very large house; somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 square feet. The specifics of what qualifies vary based on opinion and location. A mansion in Manhattan might be 3,000 square feet while a house in Atlanta would need to be much bigger to qualify. A mansion is also defined by luxury: tennis courts, large open foyers, grand staircases, crystal chandeliers.

McMansion is generally used to describe a large, recently built, multi-story, often cookie-cutter house with no clear architectural style other than its sheer mass in size. There is no real clear definition. Some refer to a McMansion as an oversized and cheaply built house and others may refer to it as a structure that replaces a smaller-sized house making the home too big for its lot. The term “McMansion” was said to be coined sometime in the early 1980s, and this type of home seemed to fall out of trend sometime around the 2010s.


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