A lot of things play into a home’s price tag, from its location to its layout, from its total square footage to the amenities it offers. But there is another important factor that can affect the asking price: its architectural style.
Tons of homes across America utilize classic designs, styles that have stood the test of time. They may not all be to everyone’s taste, but they are almost always in demand. As a result, you have to make a serious top dollar offer if you want to move in.
These are some of the most valuable types of residential properties you might find on the market – the ones featured in the most ritzy real estate listings – and how much it costs to buy them. The prices, national averages, are derived from a recent survey, “The Most Popular and Valuable House Styles in the US,” and various recent real estate listings. The period reflects when the style originated, or—with more historic designs—when it first began to flourish in the United States
- Average price: $1.3 million
- Period: 1920s-1940s
Properties: Influenced by Italian, Spanish, and Middle Eastern architecture, Mediterranean homes became popular in the southern coastal regions of the United States, especially those in California and Florida, in the early 20th century. Their open design and use of terraces and loggias—a side of the home that is intentionally left open—made them ideal for climates where the weather is good almost year-round. The style also features arches to create more spacious openings, high vaulted ceilings, exterior stucco and beautiful tile roofing.
Why it’s expensive: Mediterranean houses are great for warm, sunny climates, but if it gets cold, winterizing requires a lot of effort. Because they use large windows to let in the sun, maintaining and replacing that glass can be expensive—especially if you want more energy-efficient options. Stucco can crack and terracotta roof tiles can be expensive to replace, adding to additional maintenance costs. In addition, these residences are often located near or overlooking the sea, always a prime package of real estate (see Beach House below).
- Average price: $1.2 million
- Period: 1940, 1970
Properties: Location, location, location: That’s the defining feature of the beach house that you can find on the shores of virtually any body of water—be it a lake or an ocean. Beach houses can take on a variety of styles, but floor-to-ceiling windows, high ceilings, flat roofs and tight corners without a curve in sight are typical. A modern cottage style bungalow is often most associated with these structures.
Why it’s expensive: The characteristic that defines the beach house is also the one that raises the price so much. There is only so much oceanfront available in any locality. While living next to sand and a body of water is beautiful, it comes with a cost. Salt water can be corrosive to the exterior. Then there’s the exposure to the elements that create unique risks for beach houses — and higher expenses in the form of homeowner’s insurance premiums and sometimes mandated flood insurance.
- Average price: $1.4 million
- Period: 1920s-1930s
Properties: It’s not called “storybook” for nothing: these homes look like they came straight out of a fairy tale (in fact, they’re also known as “Hansel and Gretel” homes). Borrowing elements from Tudor and Gothic styles, as well as taking plenty of inspiration from 18th-century French and English cottages, the storybook home is defined by its uneven, asymmetrical frame and mismatched elements. Gables and peaked roofs contrast with tall, rounded windows and doors, and the picturesque construction makes these homes whimsical eye-catchers.
Why it’s expensive: Storybook homes are often custom built and are quite rare (the style flourished mainly in California). Their curved walls and large, sloping ceilings create a unique look, but can also see more structural damage and require more maintenance. High ceilings and large windows can also increase heating costs and make it more challenging to winterize and upgrade to more energy-efficient options, as standard sizes are unlikely to fit.
- Average price: $1.1 million
- Period: 18th century
Properties: A product of England, the Georgian style was one that dominated America before the Revolutionary War and can still be seen up and down the East Coast. It places particular emphasis on symmetry and balance. Everything has its place in Georgian architecture, which is why the style forgoes open floor plans for the more compartmentalized style of many small rooms. Almost everything is also square or rectangular. It includes the building material itself, which is traditionally brick.
Why it’s expensive: One of the main reasons why authentic Georgian homes can be expensive is the simple fact that they are quite old, and with age comes lots of extra maintenance: the ground can shift, foundations can crack, chimneys can crumble, etc. These heirlooms can also be difficult to retrofit with modern plumbing and HVAC systems. Of course, this style has never gone out of style, and its enduring popularity has also made reproduction Georgian homes expensive.
- Average price: $960,000
- Period: 1870s-1900s
Properties: Associated with the coasts of New England (although it is found throughout the country), the Shingle style home is one of the most traditional styles of residential architecture. Utilizing English influences, along with some inspiration from early colonial American architecture, these homes began to appear around the turn of the century with its simple, shingled surfaces and tall, peaked gables. One of the most exciting features of the shingle home is how it ages gracefully, with the wood exterior showing the home’s heritage with each passing year.
Why it’s expensive: The primary area of maintenance for a shingle house is also what gives it its distinctive look and style: shingles. They are often made of wood and look great as they age, but they are also quite expensive, require a lot of maintenance and don’t last as long as other expensive roofs. Wood also tends to be less weather resistant than other building materials, especially in damp or humid climates, which can result in more maintenance.
- Average price: $860,000
- Period: 1850-1900
Properties: If you think of the classic townhouses of New York City, you probably conjure up the image of a brownstone. Their main feature is the material that gives this architectural style its name: the brown bricks or blocks of limestone that make up its exterior (or at least its front facade). But that’s not the only characteristic that makes the rut stand out. They often have hexagonal, ornate carved facades, the result of the material being malleable and easy to cut. So ubiquitous did brownstones become in fashionable 19th-century neighborhoods that author Edith Wharton said they “coated New York like a cold chocolate sauce.”
Why it’s expensive: Buildings in brownstone are expensive for a number of reasons, but the first is the fact that the material is not really used anymore. The brown limestone that has come to define these buildings is rarely quarried now, so any repair requires the use of a cement substitute. And repairs will be necessary, because brownstone does not last well over time: the soft stone is quite vulnerable to weather damage. Aside from that, there’s their location: Brownstones are generally located in the most expensive, most prestigious residential neighborhoods in New York and several other East Coast cities.
- Average price: $840,000
- Period: 1900-1930s
Properties: Spanish style (sometimes known as Spanish Colonial) incorporates elements of architecture in North and South American regions originally settled by Spain. Overlapping somewhat with the Mediterranean style – although generally plainer and with sharper lines – it has stucco walls and a clay tiled roof, along with exposed wooden beams, a courtyard and small windows. No matter where these simple, low-slung houses are built (the style is centralized in the Southwest and Florida, but has made its way across the country), these elements are almost always present.
Why it’s expensive: Most Spanish-style homes use adobe as their primary material, and it can face challenges when tasked with weathering bad weather—especially the cold. The characteristically flat roofs tend to perform better, but can sometimes be prone to leaks and other problems that require the expensive tiles to be replaced. Any Spanish-style home located outside of a hot, dry climate is likely to run afoul of the weather.
- Average price: $800,000
- Period: 1970s
Properties: Contemporary homes are rooted in the here and now – or at least the “now” when they were built. American Modern style may vary from region to region, but the basic characteristics reflect “a continuing trend toward modern minimalism of compound volumes, overhangs, and rectilinear forms accented with color or natural materials or both,” according to Antonio Argibay, AIA, managing principal at Meridian Design Associates, a New York City firm. They generally have large, wide open floor plans inside and are built from natural, environmentally friendly materials.
Why it’s expensive: Although it uses an environmentally friendly approach, modern architecture also does not limit itself to a specific box, which can create different parts that require more control. Because contemporary homes also often aim to maximize space, they may require more building materials and more complicated frames and foundations. The style also favors exposed baseboards, moldings, and other features that require maintenance and may need to be replaced from exposure to the elements and wear and tear.
- Average price: $780,000
- Period: 1910s-1920s
Properties: French country architecture is often associated with nature. The style tries to capitalize on natural beauty at every turn – with the slightly less natural symmetry added for visual appeal. It includes natural stone facades on the outside and wooden floors and wooden plank ceilings inside the home. Many French-style homes also have a double chimney, one on each side of the house. Between them are high, sloping roofs, typically tiled.
Why it’s expensive: While the natural materials used to build the French country home give it some of its most defining characteristics, it is also the part that adds a significant amount of upkeep and maintenance. The effort required to maintain stone and wood over time can create significant costs. Many of these hostels have large rooms and high ceilings, which can add up to utility bills.
- Average price: $650,000
- Period: 1880s-1900
Properties: Another import from England, the Queen Anne style is what many people think of as “Victorian architecture”: tall, pointed, irregularly shaped structures with polygonal turrets and towers, bay windows, and wraparound porches. The asymmetrical facade is decorated with lace gingerbread spindle-work and shingles, Dutch half-timbered gables and elaborate brickwork. A Queen Anne home will almost certainly have large vertical windows, multiple balconies, and a steeply pitched roof. Inside, it’s dark, with high ceilings and full of nooks and crannies.
Why it’s expensive: Queen Anne homes, aka gingerbread homes, are often not simple in style or design, and this can lead to additional costs in keeping the home in shape. The roof can be difficult to replace or repair because of its slope and the many crooked angles and overhangs it creates. Chimney maintenance is also an annual task, and porches can begin to sag or sag over time. Any replacements, installations or window treatments must be custom-made tasks. The thick walls and multi-story layout can make Wi-Fi connections and heating difficult.