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Glossary of Real Estate Terms: Architectural Design Terms

Dependent upon where you reside, the terminology for various rooms and home amenities may vary. For instance, in Florida, outdoor living space is typically called a patio, while in Hawaii it is referred to as a lanai. Other design definitions can be ambiguous and generically popularized, and not necessarily regional in nature.

Keeping Room -A keeping room is an area adjacent to the kitchen. Keeping rooms date back to Colonial times when families would sleep in that area when the rest of the house was cold. Since the area could be heated by the kitchen stove it often provided the only heated place in the house. Today, a keeping room may be considered an extension of the kitchen and called by other names including family room, den, and hearth room which, as the name implies, would more than likely contain a fireplace. Generally speaking, the keeping room is largely designed as flexible gathering space, an area to be used by the entire family in accordance with a household's specific needs.

Mudroom - This area is generally located next to the kitchen and often provides access to the outdoors or the garage. In this regard, the mudroom is built to act as a barrier between the indoors and outdoors, particularly in wet, and often muddy, northern locales. As the name implies, it is the place where one leaves their muddy shoes and wet clothing and is a useful design addition as it helps to keep the house clean. The mudroom constitutes a clear boundary between indoors and out, and can be useful as a staging area for animals and other exuberant members of the household, as well as for storage. The mudroom entry is not the primary entrance to the home as they tend to be informal and are typically located on the side or back of the home. The mudroom often does double-duty as the laundry room, which may include a deep sink/washtub in addition to the washer and dryer.

Great Room - The great room harkens back to the great halls and chambers common in medieval castles that contained one large central living area. The concept denotes an open "living" space, a centralized area of the house that combines the specific functions of several of the more traditional rooms such as the living room, family room, study, and dining room. Developers started building high-end houses with great rooms in the 1970s and 1980s, but the concept became ubiquitous in the 1990s and 2000s as developers of mid-level suburban homes tried to rid floor plans of the dreaded unused living room. In many newer homes, the great room will also adjoin the kitchen, often separated by a counter, bar or half-wall. While many great rooms have high, pitched ceilings in an effort to provide a spacious feel in support of the moniker, not all great rooms have this feature.

Porticos and Loggias - A portico is a ground-level porch typically leading to the main entrance of a building. Comprising a roof covering a walkway supported by columns or enclosed walls, the structure was initially utilized for public buildings. Porticos are often confused with loggias. The main difference between the two is that the portico allows access to the inside from the outside, i.e. an entrance, while the loggia is accessed only from inside, making it a dedicated living space. In this regard, the loggia has had more of a residential connotation. As private residences became increasingly large and grand, particularly in Europe and the US, porticos became the entrance of choice for mid- and upscale developers while loggias are typically reserved for mansions. The concept first appeared in Ancient Greece and has influenced many cultures. Bologna, Italy is famous for its porticos with some 38 located in the city center alone. In Russia, a loggia is a recessed balcony within blocks of apartments, more or less a common area.

Lanai - Not to be confused with the island in Hawaii, the lanai is a roofed outdoor living space, also known as a patio or a veranda - or even a porch. While a patio can often be nothing more than a concrete slab connected to the back of the house, the lanai is intended to be a more defined outdoor living space, often screened, but not necessarily. While the term lanai has its roots in the Aloha State, "veranda" or "verandah" is Hindi in origin. The term patio is from Spanish, meaning "back garden" or "backyard". In many parts of the country-Virginia, for instance-a screened porch or sunroom is often called a lanai. In any case, developers use the terms interchangeably in an effort to "jazz up" the product, which can sometimes lead to disappointment when one finds that the lanai is nothing more than a concrete slab.

Casita - "Casita" in Spanish, means "small house." One definition describes a "small crude dwelling forming part of a shantytown inhabited by laborers in the southwestern U.S." while another addresses the term's more contemporary use defining it as "a luxurious bungalow servicing as private guest accommodations at a resort hotel, esp. in the southwestern U.S. or Mexico." Developers have picked up on the international recognition of the term and also use it to describe a guest accommodation in a residential setting. The casita can be attached to the main residence or be a detached, freestanding unit. In either case the casita has its own entrance. Casitas typically have a one-bedroom/one bath suite configuration, and may have limited kitchen facilities.

Cabana, aka Pool House - The origin of the pool house dates back to the first century B.C. when communal bathing was an opportunity for combining socializing, business and relaxation. Technically, the cabana strictly acts as a changing area. Traditionally, it was designed as a small hut built with a thatched roof most commonly located in tropical climates near bodies of water. The cabana can also be defined as a temporary or permanent freestanding shade structure with curtains and/or solid walls for privacy. In resort environments, it generally reverts to its roots and is a changing area with a bathroom and shower. In contemporary terms, the cabana is a poolside oasis that can be quite elaborate. Often treated as an amenity to an upscale residence, cabana features can include a private guest suite, changing rooms, a bathroom replete with a sauna or hot tub, a sit-down bar and other gathering space, a barbeque grill and supportive kitchen facilities, and electronics including a flat screen TV, computer and sound system.

Stick-Built/Site Built Homes - A home that is stick-built is wholly constructed on the building site, stick-by-stick, so to speak. The term derives from that period of time when homes were mostly constructed of lumber, which remains the case in many parts of the world today. However "stick-built" homes are also constructed of cinderblock, poured concrete or a combination of these elements, ergo the terminology has evolved to the more accurate "site-built." Manufactured and modular homes are not classified as such because they are constructed mostly in a factory and then transported to the home site. Custom homes and production homes, i.e. those built according to stock building plans, are both considered stick- or site-built, provided that they are constructed on the land upon which they will remain.

Manufactured and Modular Housing - Succinctly defined, manufactured or modular housing is factory-built housing that is generally more affordable than site-built homes. The growing popularity of this type of housing is most evident in Sun Belt locations where there may be a high percentage of retirees and/or a middle-income workforce. More than 1.4 million Californians live in nearly 645,000 modular or manufactured homes representing a significant portion of the Golden State's housing stock and about 6% of all new single-family homes sold each year. In 2004, over 61,000 California families purchased a new or existing modular or manufactured home. A recent survey of California modular/manufactured homeowners by Foremost Insurance Company revealed that 94 percent are satisfied with their homes and of these, 85 percent plan to remain in their manufactured homes or purchase another one. For additional information on factory built housing, visit the Manufactured Housing Institute website.

Manufactured Home - A manufactured home is one that is constructed almost entirely in a factory. The house is mounted on a steel chassis and transported to the building site. While the wheels can be removed from the structure, the chassis stays in place. Manufactured homes are now available in many configurations, sizes and architectural designs. In this regard, the home's factory construction may not be obvious. Local building codes do not apply to manufactured homes; instead, these houses are built in accordance with specialized guidelines, (Federal HUD regulations in the US) designed specifically for manufactured housing. Manufactured homes are less expensive to build than site-built homes and are not permitted in some communities. Manufactured homes are also known as pre-fab (pre-fabricated), factory-built, and modular or panelized. Those that are deemed "mobile homes" are not permanently anchored to the foundation and are often found on leased land.

Modular Home - A modular home is constructed of pre-made components such as wall panels, trusses and roofs, and unit modules such as kitchens and baths, that are transported from the factory to the building site. At the building site, the components are lifted onto the foundation where they are permanently anchored, unlike manufactured homes, which rest on a steel chassis. Modular homes must conform to the building codes for the locations where they are erected and in this regard, they can "fit in" far better in an established community. Nevertheless, similar to manufactured homes, some subdivisions prohibit modular homes, as they tend to cost less to construct, effectively providing the perception of lower value in comparison to site-built homes. In this regard, high land values are often not in keeping with modular home construction, as this type of housing may not represent the highest and best use of the property. Nevertheless, the lines are blurring between factory-built and site-built housing with respect to appearance, appointments, and durability, making the option more appealing to a broader audience.

HERS Index - (Home Energy Rating System) is a standard measurement of a homes' energy efficiency. Just as estimated miles per gallon is a way to compare the efficiency of cars across all makes and models, the HERS Index is a way to compare the efficiency of homes of all sizes, ages and in varying climatic conditions. The lower the HERS number, the more efficient the house. A standard new home that's built to code has a default HERS Index of 100. Existing homes default to a HERS Index of 130. Energy Star homes start at a HERS Index of 85 and can go lower. A HERS Index of 60 means that the home is estimated to use 40% less energy than a standard new home. The HERS Index was introduced in 2006 by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) and is recognized by the federal government, states and the mortgage and financial industries as the nation's standard for home efficiency measurement.

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