How Property is Defined Around the World

You say apartment, I say flat…

When searching globally for a new home, you’re likely to come across different real estate lingo depending on your location. In the U.S, you might live in an apartment where you cook dinner on a stove, throw your trash in a garbage can, and put your sweater in the closet. In the UK, you probably live in a flat, cook tea on a cooker, throw your rubbish in the bin, and hang your jumper in the cupboard. For real estate agents (UK) or realtors (U.S) operating in a global marketplace, understanding the linguistic differences between property types is crucial when creating listings to attract potential buyers. This blog will provide some insight into how property is defined around the world.

Apartment vs Flat vs Condo

In a physical sense, apartments, flats, and condominiums are structurally the same thing. The term, ‘apartment’ is mostly used in the US. ‘Flat’ is the British equivalent and Canadians prefer ‘condominium’. Regardless of terminology and location, each is defined as a set of rooms on a particular floor that are used as a residence for individuals and families.

A small multi-story building where three or more residences are contained within one structure is referred to as an apartment building or an apartment complex. However, high-rise buildings which occupy hundreds of flats is called a flat complex, a block of flats, tower block or high-rise.


The word ‘maisonette’ is a French word meaning ‘small house’. Collins describes it as a flat that usually has a separate door to the outside from other flats in the same building and many are built across two floors. In America, the definition is a little different. In the US, a small house is listed as just that… A small house. But a maisonette is not a house, it’s a ground floor apartment that has its own street-level entrance. Some have private access from the lobby, as opposed to the street. However, in Europe, whether a maisonette is a house or a flat is a matter of perspective.

‘Maisonette’ is a broad term, further confused by the fact that it can also mean different things depending on where you are in the world. A maisonette would traditionally refer to a self-contained flat with its own front door directly on the street and usually over two floors. This distinguishes it from flats on only level, which are typically accessed via a shared entrance and internal common spaces.

Many examples of maisonettes in the UK are found in two-storey terraced and semi-detached buildings in suburban areas. These maisonettes can be purpose-built, or they can be created when converting a house into flats. In the UK, maisonettes and flats tend to be looked at in the same way. Most people don’t know the real differences between them. Flats are generally a single storey whereas a maisonette is normally built across two.

Single-Family Home vs Detached House

The real estate industry refers to single-family homes that sit on their own lot without sharing any walls with another home or building as detached residences. This means that the building is usually occupied by just one household or family, and consists of just one dwelling unit. This  excludes duplexes, apartments, and town houses.

In the US, you would search for a single-family house with a yard. The British would search for a detached house with a garden. In the UK, the term single-family home is virtually unknown, except through internet exposure to US media. In America, housing is commonly divided into ‘single-family homes’ and ‘apartments’. The British divide property between ‘houses’ and ‘flats’.

Semi-Detached vs Duplex

A semi-detached house is a single home sharing a wall and roof with a neighbour. In Europe and the UK, semi-detached houses are built in pairs with each house being a mirror image of the other. Often referred to as a ‘semi’, the name distinguishes this style of house from detached houses. They have no shared walls while semi-detached houses have a shared wall on one side. Each unit has a separate entrance and there is no interior connection between the two. If there is outdoor space on the lot, the residents of the two units must share or partition it.

A duplex , the American equivalent, is a multi-family home that has two units in the same building. These two units always share a common wall, but the floor plan can vary. Units can be arranged either side by side or stacked on top of each other. Each occupies an entire floor or two of the building.

Terraced House vs Townhouse vs Row Homes

The origins of the word townhouse go back to early England, where the term referred to a dwelling that a royal family kept ‘in town’ when their primary residence was in the country. The word stuck, and today, it’s used to describe a wide variety of primary residences.

A townhouse is a self-contained property, sometimes attached and sometimes freestanding, within a complex of three or more homes. The buyer owns the home but shares ownership of the land and common property with other owners in the complex. They usually have a courtyard for outdoor dining and a garage for parking.

Row houses are groupings of identical or nearly identical low-rise homes, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and sharing both a roofline and one or both side walls. They’re also known as terraced houses in the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere. The primary difference between townhouses and row houses is in how they’re arranged. Row houses are, as the name suggests, lined up all in a row, while townhouses can often be configured differently.

CRM systems can be modified to meet the linguistic needs of different geographies

No matter what type of properties you sell, what you choose to call them or which market you sell them in, we understand that your CRM software needs to give you the ability to manage your real estate agency your way.

Qobrix is built by an international team for a global real estate industry.

Where necessary, the Qobrix CRM system is modified to meet the linguistic needs of different geographies to make it relevant.  The end goal is to account for cultural differences in every country the system is used in.

Whether you add a duplex in the U.S or list a townhouse in the UK, Qobrix software is designed to help you optimize your business in a way that uniquely meets your growing needs.

No matter which side of the Atlantic you are on, Get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you.