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What Is a Bungalow, and Is It the Right Investment for You?


Apr 02, 2020 by Matt Frankel, CFP

If you're shopping for a home, you may see certain properties advertised as "bungalows." However, what is a bungalow, exactly? How is it different from other types of real estate? And what types of homebuyers should consider a bungalow style house for their next home.

What is a bungalow?

The term "bungalow" actually refers to a relatively broad category of real estate. A bungalow style home is a type of single-family home that is typically a small house with a single story. Bungalows often have verandas, dormer windows, and overhanging eaves, and many cabins or cottages fit into the bungalow category.

Bungalow style homes originated as a way to build affordable and comfortable housing for working-class families. The bungalow architectural style, as well as the term itself, first appeared as early as the 17th century, but American bungalow houses in the modern sense of the word started to be widely produced in the early 1900s, and they remain a popular style of home today.

It's easy to see why bungalow style homes can be appealing. Their smaller, single-story design makes for relatively low maintenance costs when compared with larger homes, and the small square footage is more affordable to heat, cool, and insure.

Common features of bungalows

While not all of these characteristics are true of all bungalows, here are some of the most common attributes:

  • Single-story: Most bungalow style homes have a single story, but it's not uncommon to have a partial second story. Not only do most bungalows have a single story floor plan, but they also have a low profile, meaning that their ceiling heights aren't typically more than eight or nine feet and their roof doesn't slope very high compared to many other styles of homes.
  • Small: Bungalows are typically on the smaller side when it comes to square feet, although there are certainly exceptions. It's possible for a house to have above-average square footage and still be considered a bungalow.
  • Front porch/verandas: One of the most essential features of a bungalow house is a large front porch. Remember, these are smaller homes, and a large front porch adds lots of usable space at a much lower cost than building additional interior square footage.
  • Open floor plans: Bungalows typically have an open floor plan. Not only does this make them feel larger than their actual size, but fewer interior walls mean lower costs to build. Modern homebuilders (and buyers) have embraced the open-concept design, but this wasn't common in the mid-1900s when the bungalow house gained popularity.

One of the most common questions about bungalows is how they differ from ranch houses, which are also single-story types of homes. First, ranch homes tend to be bigger and more rectangular, with long hallways separating living areas from sleeping areas, while bungalows are generally more square with living areas closer to bedrooms. They also tend to have attached garages, which is not a common trait of bungalows. Ranch homes also may not be as low-profile as bungalows, and they often don't have large outdoor living spaces in the front of the home.

Is a bungalow right for you?

Because of their single-story design and relatively low maintenance costs, bungalows are popular options among older or disabled homeowners who can't comfortably get up and down the stairs several times each day.

Bungalows can also make excellent starter homes. Their affordable nature makes them popular among single homeowners and young families, especially those who worry about their kids playing on stairs and having access to second-story windows. They are also relatively easy to expand because of their single-story design. For example, it can be easier and more cost-effective to simply build a second floor on top of a bungalow than to build an addition of the desired size onto a two-story home.

Bungalows are also ideal for homeowners who want privacy. Because all of the windows in a bungalow house are typically close to the ground, it's easy to strategically place trees, bushes, and fences to block the interior of the home from view.

The Millionacres bottom line

In a nutshell, bungalows are very popular in today's real estate market because they appeal to some huge groups of buyers -- particularly millennials and older Americans. However, they aren't the best type of house for everybody. Larger families and those who simply want more space to move around might be better suited for a two-story house, or one with more square footage than most bungalows offer.

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