Architecture & Home Styles in San Diego

The road to San Diego has become more traveled since the pandemic began. It is one of the hottest real estate markets in the nation and offers future residents an unrivaled outdoor lifestyle. The list to describe San Diego’s allure is long, and it’s no secret why it is considered one of the best cities in Southern California. 

Aerial view of homes in La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego

San Diego stands out from other cities in California precisely because of its climate and unique neighborhoods that surround the enormous Balboa Park. Yet, it also shares in the beauty of modern architecture and vibrant home styles seen throughout the city. So, once you’ve decided to move to San Diego and have everything set to purchase your first home, the fun begins in choosing the perfect style for you. 

Below we compiled a list of the most popular home styles in San Diego to help buyers kick off their search.

Home styles in San Diego

  • Victorian
  • Spanish Revival
  • Craftsman Bungalow
  • Mid-Century Modern
  • Ranch
  • Modern Farmhouse
  • Mission


When San Diego began developing into an immense hub, Victorian-style homes were the most common. The architectural style was born during Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901 and flourished under the Industrial Revolution. 

A classical Victorian has all the makings of a fairytale home. The iconic turrets, asymmetrical facades, and colorful decorations have always placed Victorian homes as a popular architectural style in San Diego. The famous Gaslamp District alone in Downtown San Diego features 94 Victorian buildings, most of which are historic landmarks.  

Victorian homes are rare in today’s housing stock, but there are potential savings involved if purchasing one, thanks to the Mills Act. Because most Victorian homes are registered historic landmarks, the state mandates the owners to maintain the property up to standard. The Mills Act can cut property taxes on such homes by up to 70% as an incentive.

With luck, you can find Victorian homes for sale in Hillcrest, Mission Hills, or Coronado, among others.

Spanish Revival 

The stark white walls and red tile roofs of a Spanish Revival home make it one of the most popular types of architecture in San Diego.

In 1915, the Panama-California Exposition took place in Balboa Park, cementing San Diego as a commercial hub. The buildings that adorned the park were designed by the architect Bertram Goodhue, and they were the prime example of the beauty of Spanish style.

Low-pitched roofs covered in red tile, white-washed walls reminiscent of old Mexico, and open-air courtyards blend to create a perfect home style under the San Diego sky.

Homebuyers searching for this style should look in Point Loma or North Park, but Mission Hills will also feature some of the most stunning Spanish Revival homes on the San Diego market. 

Craftsman Bungalow

This American style of architecture was born in Pasadena, California, making it a common sight throughout the Golden State and one of the most popular home styles in San Diego.

Britain’s Industrial Revolution pushed aside the value of the craftsman’s art, which evoked a response in the Arts & Crafts movement. The Craftsman-style home was the result, utilizing manual labor and attention to detail that only the wealthy could afford.

California experienced an Arts & Crafts movement of its own, but the Craftsman architecture gave way to a smaller, “Bungalow” style. The cheaper materials helped make it available to the middle class, and by the early 1900s, it became a standard home type in San Diego. 

The Craftsman style stands out by its appealing symmetrical design. Most will feature a low-pitched roof with a wide eave overhang and usually stand at one or one and a half stories. The wooden exterior might complement a stone porch supported by two columns.

North Park will be the neighborhood of choice for homebuyers who want to call this American classical style their new home, but there are plentiful options in Mission Hills and Hillcrest as well.

Mid-Century Modern

The gleaming modern homes overlooking the pristine beaches of the San Diego Coast are unparalleled in their luxurious appeal. Although the classical home styles of San Diego always enjoyed popularity, the Mid-Century Modern style swept San Diego by storm.

Few home styles adhere so well to the San Diego lifestyle as the Mid-Century Modern. The flat roofs and sprawling open-floor plans allow the outdoors to blend in with the inside, creating an illusion of wide-open space with stunning panoramic views thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. 

Pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early-to-mid 1900s, the modern style sought to harmonize architecture with nature. Thus, many Mid-Century Modern homes are built on hills to take advantage of the views and skyline. 

La Jolla and Point Loma are prime areas to find a Mid-Century Modern. Bankers Hill and Middletown are also significant areas for homebuyers looking to be closer to downtown.


The sprawling, one-story Ranch is a homestyle born in the United States. The Ranch style became one of the top home styles in San Diego as the automobile became readily available. It allowed homeowners to spread out from the city center and is the reason why so many pre-war Ranch homes are situated away from downtown.

Most Ranch homes feature an attached garage, another byproduct of the automobile becoming an essential part of people’s lives. The facade is usually asymmetrical with an off-center entryway, and the roof is low-pitched. Its charming features include an exterior wooden pattern side-by-side with brick or stone. 

Any homebuyers who want a piece of uniquely American architecture should search for pre-war Ranches since the quality of the post-war version could be inferior. The style’s popularity led to large-scale construction, but the quality suffered from cutting on construction costs. 

Homebuyers should look for pre-war Ranches in La Jolla or Mission Hills.

Modern Farmhouse

Homeowners who want a blend of rustic and contemporary should search for the Modern Farmhouse style. Although the charm of wooden interiors and classic farmhouse decor has been in vogue for some time, the Modern Farmhouse has garnered attention only recently.

The Modern Farmhouse is primarily an interior style and features vintage furniture on a modern canvas of neutral color and straight lines. Minimalist rooms that echo a contemporary feel might have charming wooden ceiling beams and wooden tables and chairs that blend into a cozy yet sleek feel.

The exterior of Modern Farmhouse homes can vary, but most feature two stories and an attached garage, with large windows and wooden patterns on the facade. 


Many of San Diego’s neighborhoods, such as Mission Hills and Mission Valley, derive their name from the same source as this iconic home style. 

The unmistakable red-tile roofs and white walls closely resemble the Spanish Revival style, but the Mission style dates back to the arrival of Spanish missionaries in San Diego.

Junipero Serra founded the first mission in California in present-day San Diego back in 1769. The original missions featured the iconic roof curvature and church bells, but the highlights that transferred to today’s homes are the open courtyards and exterior stucco.

It is rare to find a traditional Mission style home on the market since many available now more closely resemble the Spanish Revival style. Yet, the few that might be available will feature the classic red-tile roofs and invoke the old-Spanish feel that established it as a popular home style in San Diego.