One feature that distinguishes Norway and Northern Scandinavia from the rest of Europe is the rights of property ownership. Property in Medieval Europe was mostly owned by the monarch, the nobility and the church, but in Norway the allodial system was practiced. This meant that the land was not subject to tenurial rights of an overlord and could be passed down through the family. People who rented property were also legally secure in their position. At the end of the 1600s, many of these tenant farmers began buying the farms they rented.
The population increased steadily through the 1600s and 1700s. As a result of this, a large number of farms were divided. The quality of soil could vary greatly within the same farm, and this was a factor when the farm was divided. For the sake of fairness each piece of land was divided, often leading to a complicated system of strips. New buildings belonging to a newly established holding were placed in the existing farmyard.
The farm buildings were positioned with great care, on a dry parcel of land not suitable for tillage, and near drinking water. Farm buildings were often placed up on a hillside where there was less danger of frost than in the bottom of a valley.
The Norwegian word for farmstead is tun. The word is related to the English word "town". Within the tun there is usually a separation of the innhus - the dwelling house(s), food storage buildings and sleeping quarters - and the uthus - the barns, sheds and other buildings for animals. The placement of these buildings in relation to each other followed regional patterns.