6 Things Real Estate Experts Always Say About Bungalows

published May 22, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Lucy Autrey Wilson/Shuttestock.com

Bungalows are a breath of fresh air on the historic home scene. They’re the cool, casual cousins of old houses that just happen to be over 100 years old. This petite take on a cottage is instantly recognizable with its sloping gables and inviting front porch, and the design took over the nation from roughly 1900 through 1930. From Craftsman-inspired bungalows in California to brick facades in Chicago, cities and suburbs welcomed families into this new 20th-century style en masse. With central living spaces and open-concept layouts, bungalows defined a new era in American architecture. 

Flora Chou, an associate principal, architectural historian, and cultural resources planner with Page & Turnbull, says that there appears to be a growing appreciation for early 20th-century bungalows, particularly compared to 20 or 30 years ago when they were simply “dated.” Now they’re charming and uniquely quirky. 

“Bungalows appeal to people who are looking for a smaller house, but also want the built-ins and charm, and a location that is walkable and close to a small downtown or commercial areas,” says Chou.

Claudia Barnett, a real estate agent with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Sarasota, Florida, adds, “I have seen an increased interest in bungalows in recent years as people seek a more casual living space instead of center hall colonials or even the 20th century industrial pared down architecture.” She explains that the welcoming front porch and emphasis on indoor-outdoor living are appealing to buyers today — which makes perfect sense as more buyers look to entertain outside and at home. 

Finding yourself bungalow-curious? Here are six things real estate experts say you should know before you buy your first bungalow.

You’ll find desirable in-lown locations.

Bungalows were often built right in town, so while you may sacrifice square footage, you’ll gain walkability. These homes, many built based on Sears kits, cropped up in areas like southern California, outside of Chicago, and other parts of the country. “Bungalows tend to be more focused close to towns or more urban areas,” says Charlie Williams, with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty in Charlotte, North Carolina. “When you search on a map for them in our area, you’ll see they focus around Charlotte, then the smaller mill towns that surround Charlotte.”

The house could be on a historic register.

How cool is living in a home that’s officially designated a historic landmark? Very. But know that it comes with a few strings attached. “The buyer should know if the bungalow is on a national or local historic register,” explains Barnett. “Also, is the property within an historic district? This can determine what types of changes can be made to the structure for permitting purposes.”

Credit: Julia Steele

Charm and character are standard.

Charm and character abound when you step foot inside an original bungalow from the early 20th century. Christina Dikas, an associate principal and senior architectural historian with Page & Turnbull, says, “My favorite parts of bungalows are the built-in shelves and cabinets, original hardwood floors, interesting fireplace surrounds, and, often, a nice front porch.” You’re also likely to discover stained glass details.

The “second floor” can be a challenge.

Part of the charm of bungalows are the storybook-inspired gabled eaves — but those can also prove to be a challenge. This space adds a half-story onto the home, but it’s not exactly spacious in terms of head room.

Williams says one of the most unique aspects of modern bungalow renovations is how the owners utilize this second floor to find more space, whether that’s finishing it out to add bedrooms or an office, or removing all walls and vaulting the ceiling. He explains, “Seeing what owners do inside of a historic home already full of history is the best part.”

Credit: Rauluminate/Getty Images

Wood can reveal solid construction… or rot.

Old homes of any style come with their challenges and with the wood on wood on wood look of bungalows, you can expect to find some wood rot hiding both inside and outside the house, as well as uneven floors, termites, windows painted shut, and any of the other surprises that come with multiple owners’ dreams and renovations. A bungalow’s welcoming porch is another wood area that requires maintenance to stay in tip-top shape.

On the flip side, Williams says, “You’ll find solid wood that is far superior than what is used today in a mass-produced house. The house has already made it 100+ years so shouldn’t have an issue lasting another 100+ if properly maintained.”

You’ll become part of a community.

Purchasing any historic home requires a unique buyer, and bungalows tend to attract the type of person who loves quirky details and storytelling. That’s why William says, “Buyers who purchase a bungalow tend to have a passion for restoring and maintaining them which makes it a fun culture to be a part of.” It won’t take long to find neighbors and friends across the country who feel passionately about their bungalows and are happy to lend their expertise as you bring your bungalow baby back to her early 20th-century glory.