Navigating the Real Estate Market in Canada

What Type of Home Should You Buy or Rent?

Cathedral entry, split-level, townhouse, rancher, condo, manufactured – these are just a few of the house types you might come across when searching for real estate in Canada, and, if you’ve never heard these terms before you’re probably wondering what they all mean. Here’s a brief guide to some of the major house types.

Homes with Basements

A large majority of homes in Canada are built with basements and these are often converted into valuable additional living space, providing a recreational (rec) room, perhaps bedrooms and a bathroom, and sometimes part or full kitchens. There’s a reason why there are so many homes with basements in Canada and it’s because of the frost line. This is the depth at which groundwater in soil is expected to freeze and it varies across Canada depending on how cold the climate is. Foundations must be built below the frost line to prevent damage, and rather than have an empty void below a house these are usually developed into a basement space.

Not all homes in Canada have a basement. Ranch or Rancher homes are usually built on one level and may or may not have a basement. Often they will be referred to as a True Rancher when there is not a basement. Manufactured and Mobile Homes can also come with or without a basement and can sit on a foundation slab, or in the case of true mobile homes they are designed to be transportable to different locations.

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Different Architectural Styles of Homes in Canada

Once you’ve decided if you want to rent or buy a home with a basement you can narrow down your choices further by finding out what architectural style you like. There are variations across the country, as often homes will be built to suit the environment they are located in, and styles will very much depend on the age of a neighbourhood too.

You’re going to find more historic homes closer to the heart of cities such as Toronto and Vancouver so Victorian homes are quite typical in these older neighbourhoods. As you head out to pre- and post-second world war neighbourhoods the lots become larger and many homes from this period will be single family detached homes in that they are not connected to a neighbour. Bungalows are common here – a bungalow is a home where all the main living areas and bedrooms are all on one floor, though it will likely have a basement.

In the more modern suburbs there’s a greater choice of architecture. Cathedral entry homes are ones where the main door into the house enters halfway between the basement and the main floor, giving a double-height ceiling space, hence the name. Then there are two-storey homes where you will enter the home on the main floor and there will be a floor above where the bedrooms are. Again though, these do have basements so strictly speaking could be called 3-storey homes! Split levels are another kind. Here the home is split over 3 or more levels with just a short staircase separating each level from the other.

Townhouses or townhomes are gaining in popularity for their affordability because although they offer good internal space they are attached to other homes all in a row.

So there are just some of the main types of homes and architectural styles in Canada. There are more, and if you are working with a real estate agent they will be happy to tell you what each one is as you come across them.

Claire Bolgil
Claire is a professional freelance travel and real estate writer with a Bachelor of Arts who has been writing since 2007. She is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance and the Federation of BC Writers. She was born and raised in England and immigrated in 2007 to British Columbia in Canada. She has contributed articles in several North American magazines.

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