When you’re checking out homes to buy in your area, there’s one architectural style you might skip over. With their staggered levels and retro curb appeal, split-level homes are seen by some homebuyers as outdated, inconvenient, and a little awkward. But these houses also come with plenty of perks, like a lower price tag, less competition, and lots of space and privacy.
Here’s what you need to know about split-level homes:
What is a split-level house?
A split-level home contains at least three levels of living space separated by short flights of stairs. From the main floor, one set of stairs goes up to the bedroom area and another goes down to a basement level.
There’s plenty of storage space, too, as split-level homes tend to come with finished basements, multiple attics, and integrated garages.
These homes share many of the same features, such as:
Double-hung windows and bay windows
Efficient use of space
Minimal exterior design features
Mixed building materials, such as vinyl siding and brick
In recent decades, however, this style has fallen out of favor. Only 2% of homeowners said they prefer the split-style floor plan in a recent construction and remodeling trends report conducted by home remodeling website Fixr.
Types of split-level houses
It’s a good idea to explore all your options if you’re buying a home in an area with multiple split-level houses. While most will follow a basic split-level house plan and come with similar features, there are several architectural styles to choose from:
A back-split home is divided into multiple levels, but you can only see one story when standing outside on the curb. The split levels can only be seen when you walk to the side of the house, while two stories are visible from the back.
When shopping around for your next home — whether it’s a split-level home or not — be sure to shop around and compare mortgage rates. Doing so can potentially save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan. Credible lets you easily compare rates from our partner lenders.
A side-split house, where you can see all levels from the curb, is the most common type of split-level home.
Side-split homes are typically divided into two distinct sides: On one side, the garage is built on the bottom floor with the bedrooms stacked on top to create the middle floor. The kitchen and main living spaces are on the other side of the house, connected by a half-flight of stairs to form the upper floor.
Stacked split homes have multiple floors (typically four or more) with the same number of half-staircases. These are often structured with a basement or informal living area at the bottom level with a kitchen and dining room above, then bedrooms stacked on top. The home entrance is at ground level between the bottom- and middle-level floors.
In a standard-split home, the entrance is at the ground level and a short set of stairs leads to the other levels. The bottom level typically includes a garage, while the middle level has the main living-area rooms such as the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The bedrooms and bathrooms are all located at the top level.
Split-level vs. bi-level house
Some people use the terms bi-level and split-level interchangeably, but they refer to two distinct home-construction styles. Here are the main differences between the two styles:
Has at least three levels separated by half-staircasesHas only two levels separated by a full staircase
Entrance is typically located on the middle floorEntrance to the home is located on the bottom floor
Common living areas are often located on the main level, bedrooms on a level above, and a basement or family room in the area belowLower level may contain the bedrooms and bathrooms, while the upper level has the other main living spaces, such as a family room, dining room, and kitchen
Living areas are distinctly separatedMay have open floor plan
Pros and cons of a split-level house
Better separation between floors: The downstairs and upstairs areas are separated by half-staircases, which helps contain noise and provides more privacy.
Potentially more affordable: Because these homes have been out of demand for a few decades, they may have lower price tags compared to other styles of homes.
More outdoor space: Even if the lot size is rather small, split-level homes stack the living space vertically. The efficient use of space leaves more room in the backyard for recreation.
Difficult to remodel: Because each level of a split-level home is built with a specific purpose in mind — and they’re separated by half-staircases — the layout isn’t conducive to major changes.
Lots of stairs: Split-level homeowners will need to climb staircases every day to get to another part of the house. This might be fine for some families, but it could be more complicated for aging seniors, people with disabilities, or families with small children.
Potentially harder to sell: You can improve your home’s curb appeal, but some buyers may still see split-level homes as outdated or awkward. And because many split-level homes were built in the 1950s, your home may need some updating before putting it on the market.
Should you buy a split-level house?
The answer comes down to the availability of homes in your area and what you’re looking for. You may have noticed that home prices have increased and housing inventory has shrunk within the last year or two. That could leave you with fewer choices when shopping for a home.
But a split-level house may be priced lower than ranch-style homes in your area with a similar square footage. And, because they’re less desirable, you may have fewer buyers to compete against. These factors might make split-level homes more appealing to you.
Keep Reading: How to Know If You Should Buy a House
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