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What are Row Houses?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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Row houses are a category of urban homes that are located in one area and are consistent, one with the other, in architecture, design, and appearance. The etymology of different real estate terms used to describe homes is difficult to pin down, but for the most part, houses described with this term are multistory units that are at least consistent, if not identical, to all adjoining homes. Similar to townhouses, they are located in older, larger cities, especially those on the eastern coast of the United States.

A 2005 Boston Globe article by James McCown featured an explanation of the differences between townhouses, row houses, and brownstones. The first two terms describe houses that are very similar in structure and design, while the term "brownstone" refers to the color of the exterior façade of either type of home. Townhouses were often constructed with different features than surrounding homes, but row houses were all about consistency.

Row houses are common in areas of the United States from Jersey City, New Jersey, and Boston, Massachusetts, all the way to San Francisco, California. London, England, also features homes that would fit into the category. They are often distinguishable by their protruding windows — either bay window or bow window — and their uniformity.

Besides architectural elements, row houses are often associated with multistory living. The main living area of many can be found on the second floor, not the first. In some cases, depending on renovation results, it may feature two spacious floors for the owner with individual apartments above or below the main living area.

In the real estate market, row houses are often sought because of their history, but also their similarity to apartment living. In many major cities, They sell for amounts well in excess of $1 million US Dollars. Of particular value are those with several units included so that they can be rented out by the owner to generate income.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Perforations — On Aug 18, 2010

@klow - Fortunately, the cities of the East Coast still have many, many row house neighborhoods, some of which date back to the early nineteenth century! Baltimore has a variety of different row house, such as the distinctive flat-faced brick row house and the sunlight day-parlor houses, which prominently feature a closed in sun room in front and bright blue-green roof tiles. They should be easy to find if you're curious as to what they look like.

By klow — On Aug 18, 2010

I've always loved the row houses in San Francisco. They are of a distinct Victorian style reminiscent of the time when the city was just starting to develop. They also have the distinctive feature of often featuring wild color schemes. Because the formal architecture is often consistent between these San Francisco homes, owners often attempt to make their home stand out through color schemes. I've seen Victorian homes in every color from dark purple to glowing orange orange, and turquoise to hot pink.

These particular houses in San Francisco (they are usually found in the older parts of the city on the north side) have many distinctive architectural features, but perhaps my favorite part is their window rooms. In many of these houses, the front corners of the house will be a small space surrounded on several sides by windows. This technique gives the houses a regal look and feel by replacing the sharp corners with shapes that make the house look like it has towers. I'm not too familiar with the types of row houses on the east coast, but I would like to learn more. Thanks for the interesting article.

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