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Which Style of Home Sells Best in California
May 15, 2020

Which Style of Home Sells Best in California

by The CE Shop Team

See Which Style of Homes Sell Best In Your Market

A study done by has collected data to show the differences among eight of the most common architectural home styles in the U.S. The study used current single-family home inventory as the base sample. Other key factors analyzed included geographic concentration and prevalence, physical attributes such as living space and year built, and residential home inventory data including median list prices and price appreciation.

The study was careful to point out that while defining and normalizing home style in data is difficult, there were plenty of observable differences in price appreciation on a national and local scale. The first being the style of the home, second the location of the homes, third is the average size of a particular style of home, and last is the average price for a particular style of home.

Definition of California Home Styles

While some might not agree on what defines a particular home style, there are plenty of common characteristics that meet the key attributes used for the study. The definitions of these eight common home styles are provided by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Cape Cod

A 20th-century Cape Cod is square or rectangular with one or one-and-a-half stories and steeply pitched roofs. The original colonial Cape Cod homes are shingle-sided, one-story cottages with no dormers. During the mid-20th century, the small, uncomplicated Cape Cod shape became popular in suburban developments. 

Most of today’s Cape Cods were built after World War II, as they were the first style used in modestly priced housing developments during the postwar housing boom.


When we talk about the Colonial style, we’re referring to a rectangular, symmetrical home with bedrooms on the second floor. Colonial architecture is most often characterized by evenly-spaced shuttered windows.

In the 20th century, Colonial homes saw a resurgence with the Colonial Revival mode. These are slightly different, featuring white clapboard sidings that are trimmed with black or green shutters.


Contemporary-style homes started to emerge between 1950 and 1970. They are with a flat-roof and gables that often show exposed beams. These homes tend to be one story and were designed to incorporate the surrounding landscape into their overall look.

Anybody can spot a Contemporary home based on the tall windows, lack of ornamentation, and unusual mixes of different textures and materials throughout the home.


Modern architecture refers to design inspired by the historical art movement of modernism. Most classic examples of modern architecture are more than 50 years old. Open living spaces, clean geometric lines, and function over form are key elements of the style.

The most common version we see today is mid-century modern, which is constructed out of new ideas, mindsets, and a forward-thinking style. It flourished from 1945 into the 1980s. Characterized by flat planes, large glass windows, and open space, the style focused on simplistic design and seamless integration of nature.


Influenced by the area from which it’s named, Mediterranean style became extremely popular in the U.S. from 1918 to 1940. The homes are modeled after the hacienda style, with red tile roofs, arches, and plaster surfaces. This style is very popular today and features many of the original design elements, including porticos, balconies, and ornamental details such as heavy wooden doors and multi-colored tiles. 


First built in the 1930s, Ranch-style homes were originally modeled after rural Western ranches. This type of architecture bears a slight resemblance to the modern style with its open floor plans and connection to the outdoors. 

Ranch-style homes became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, when automobiles replaced street cars. Families needed the functionality of having a garage, and Ranch homes focused on function over form. 


Traditional home plans often have characteristics of one or more historical architectural styles, so they are not easily classified as a specific particular style. They may be eclectic or modern-day interpretations of historic styles. 

Popular new traditional home plans are usually two-story and have covered entries, with at least one front-facing gable, symmetrically spaced windows, and ornamentation.


Victorian architecture emerged between 1830 and 1910 under the reign of Queen Victoria and include sub-styles such as Gothic revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, stick style, Romanesque style, and shingle style.

Constructed more for beauty than functionality, Victorian homes tend to incorporate more complex ornamentation in design with detailed trim, bright colors, large porches, asymmetrical shape, and multi-faceted rooflines.

Price Influenced by Many Factors

External attributes provide a hint of what the homes look like. However, the price of a home reveals other key differences.

Out of the eight common styles analyzed, Mediterranean homes have the highest price tag, with a median list price of $750,000. This style also shows the broadest range, suggesting different versions and interpretations of the same style.

Home Locations Matter

The environment of these home styles is a reflection of their surrounding landscape, the history behind each home, as well as the cultural trends that influenced a particular architectural style. For example, the majority of Victorian homes were built on the east coast as immigrants began to move to the U.S. to plant roots. For families who had the money to travel west, Victorian homes with German influence can be found throughout the Midwest.

Typical Living Space in Common Home Styles

The third variable used to characterize a style is the size of the home. Naturally, living spaces in each architectural style have their differences. More often than not, home styles reflect the culture and geography, which influence the layout, exterior design, and overall functionality.

Size is also influenced by time, and some architectural styles still give inspiration to homes today. This inspiration can be found in the form of living spaces within these homes. For example, many contemporary and modern homes have elegant hallways that connect one open layout to another. This idea of having long elegant hallways to transition from different spaces is a common characteristic found in many Victorian-style homes.

Home Style Influences Price

A home’s style is dependent on its environment, which will inevitably influence the overall price. Mediterranean-style homes are most popular in markets like Florida, California, and Texas. These markets are also more competitive and have higher home prices on average than the rest of the US. A gorgeous Mediterranean home that sits on the water in Florida is likely to have a higher asking price than a Mediterranean home on the water in Ohio.

Which Styles Sell Best in California?

In California, most residents can make a good guess as to which styles are popular and sell well, but there are some surprising styles you wouldn’t think Californians would find appealing.

Home Style Median Square Feet Median Listing Price
Contemporary 2,492 sq ft $450,000
Mediterranean 3,325 sq ft $750,000
Ranch 1,669 sq ft $262,500
Cape Cod 1,702 sq ft $275,000
Victorian 2,534 sq ft $382,500

The real estate market in California is so diverse, just as the state itself, which lends to many unique architectural styles that are world famous. With beautiful weather year round, builders and architects have the freedom to get funky with designs and not always have to worry about the functionality.

Overall, personal taste of the buyer will determine which home style is purchased. There’s no one architectural style that is better than others - they all have pros and cons that contribute to their unique character.

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