A house is a building that serves as the primary dwelling of one or more people, either alone or with family. It can also refer to a governmental structure, such as the House of Parliament in England or the United States’ House of Representatives. The term is also used for a collection of objects or artwork, such as a museum. House can also mean a community of people, such as a neighborhood or township, where residents live together in a cluster of houses.

The most basic house is a simple shelter made from grass or sticks, similar to the huts hunter-gatherers still build today. More recently, a house may be a complex of buildings, such as a palace or villa. Houses are shaped by the culture and social practices of the people who use them, whether that’s the style of architecture or decoration, or the ways in which spaces are used.

Many houses can be traced back through the generations by looking at clues like wallpaper, paint and even furniture. Exposed rafters in the attic or bricks in the basement are some of the more obvious indications of a home’s age, but other subtler hints can also be discovered. For example, hand-hewn wood beams suggest a house is older than one built with machine-cut timber. A home’s history can also be discovered by talking to people who have lived there before, such as neighbors, local business owners or even the mailman. These individuals can give a valuable glimpse into how a house was used in the past and help identify previous owners and when specific additions or renovations were made.

When selling a house, focusing on its history can add to its appeal. This can be done by highlighting details about when it was built, architectural styles and notable previous inhabitants or showcasing any historical designations. It’s important to make sure that any information presented is accurate through municipal records, research and expert consultation to avoid damaging the home’s reputation.

A house is often defined by its square footage, which usually reports only the area of living space, not the garage or non-living areas. It can be difficult to determine a house’s exact square footage, as it depends on the definition of “house” and how rooms are measured. In general, smaller homes have lower square footage than larger ones. For example, a small apartment may have less living space than a large house that includes multiple rooms for dining and entertaining. The size of a house can also be influenced by the type of construction, as well as by the number of stories it has. The higher the story count, the more expensive it is to build and maintain.