What are Cookie Cutter Houses?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

When working on a housing development with a number of homes, one way to save money on materials is to create homes that are roughly identical. This means that all the parts for each home can be purchased in bulk quantities, which usually results in discount prices on material. Of course, when all of the homes are finished they may offer little variation in appearance, and for this reason, they may be called cookie cutter houses. They look like they were all made the same, with the same cutter.

Cookie cutter houses, which are usually identical, are typically found in suburbs.
Cookie cutter houses, which are usually identical, are typically found in suburbs.

The idea of creating housing in this fashion dates back to the mid-20th century when the first tract houses were built. It’s not hard to still find those neighborhoods, though over the years people living in those homes may have modified them significantly to look less identical. Since the idea of these housing developments meets with some distaste, cookie cutter houses today tend to offer slightly more variety.

There may be several sizes of homes, several ways to position the home, and other differing features to accommodate homebuyers of varying tastes and prices levels. Still, the homes do look related if not fully identical. Such developments are analogous to comparing a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Each may have a slightly different number of chips and circumference, but they’re still all recognizable as the same type of cookie.

Very strong feelings exist about cookie cutter houses. Some people truly dislike them since they may greatly inhibit individual expression. This is particularly true if purchase of such a home means belonging to a homeowner’s association, where any changes to that home, including things like painting, may require approval.

On the other hand, there can be an advantage to purchasing cookie cutter houses. First, they might be less expensive, though there are very wealthy communities where home style is not greatly individualized, too. Second, materials and building may be of a particularly dependable quality, since suppliers and manufacturers are likely to have been the same for all homes. Especially when purchasing older tract homes, the tract tends to have a good or poor reputation for construction and materials, which may apply to all homes.

Cookie cutter house have evolved as a feature of suburbia, and remain a vital approach to building several homes at the same time. These may be attractive to some people because they may be cheaper and bespeak a certain quality. Alternately, the sameness of the homes and neighborhoods that possess them is a turn-off to others. This negative opinion of cookie cutter houses, when held, isn’t necessarily strong enough to prevent people from purchasing tract homes, especially when many neighborhoods are primarily made up of them.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@Chmander - While you do make several good points, just remember that when you own a cookie cutter house, you're not exactly the owner, as it's more like a rental property than anything. That's my main gripe with houses like these.


@RoyalSpyder - I agree with you. On top of that, the cookie cutter houses are built a lot faster. Generally speaking, since they follow the same structure and architecture, much less time is spent planning and mapping. Once you have one house done, you generally have the others finished as well.

I used to live in a cookie cutter house as well. While it had it's disadvantages, I did like how it was cheaper. You'd be surprised at how much money you're saving by buying one of those houses, as some of the brand new (non cookie cutter) houses can be extremely expensive.


I have mixed feelings about cookie cutter houses. While it's true that some people could see them as lazy and cheap cash-ins, they have their benefits as well. As the article stated, the same resources are (possibly) used for all the houses, and because of that, a lot more money is saved. I mean just imagine how much is spent building houses each year, with so many different modifications and types of equipment.

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