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What's The Real Story Behind One vs. Two Story Homes

September 25, 2018  //  BY Team DataTree

Millennial or boomer, kids or no kids, big baskets of laundry vs just a small pile - these are just some of the considerations when it comes to one vs. two-story homes.   This is one of the most historic building characteristics that impact home buyers, homeowners as well as appraisers and even mortgage lenders. While the decision between living in a one story or two story home is largely a matter of personal preference, these personal preferences along with objective factors can significantly affect the value of both single and multi-level homes. So whether you are performing an appraisal, making a mortgage lending decision or are looking for a new home here are some factors to consider between one and two story homes. 

No Stairs...Once The American Dream

During the post-war boom, one-story ranch style homes represented the attainability of the American dream. The population of one-story homes continued into the 1970s, and in 1973 single story homes made up 67 percent of new home construction, according to figures generated by the U.S. Census Bureau and quoted by the National Association of Home Builders.

The popularity of single story homes declined in the early 21st century, sinking to 43 percent in 2006. However, there is some indication that one story homes are again finding favor the percentage of single story new build residential construction rose to 46 percent, in 2011.

There are several reasons for the enduring popularity of one story homes. Maintenance is easier painting, window cleaning and other exterior chores can often be accomplished without a ladder. Families with small children also frequently favor single story homes. Increasingly, Boomers are opting to age in place rather than move to assisted living facilities, a goal that is easier to accomplish in a single story home. And in the unfortunate instance of an emergency, every large window in a single story home represents a potential escape route. 

No Stairs...But More Land

However, single story homes also have significant disadvantages. Single story homes require more land than multi-level homes with equal square footage, which translates to a higher construction cost per foot. Outdoor living space is often at a premium, and additions to the home are often very costly. Single story homes are also more vulnerable to unlawful entry by burglars or people intent on doing harm to a home’ residents than multi-story homes. It is also not advisable to purchase a one-story home in a neighborhood dominated by multi-story construction, as such homes may fare poorly in resale value in comparison to their neighbors.

Upward Climb: Advantages of Two-Story Homes

Two story homes gained appeal after the 1970s. There are several reasons. One of the most significant is that they allow for larger square footage than a single story home on the same lot. This particular characteristic of multi-story homes gained special prominence during the 1980s and 1990s when so-called McMansions and “teardowns” sprang up in urban and suburban locations throughout the country. These homes often crowded their lots but allowed homeowners to obtain homes with the square footage they wanted in desirable neighborhoods with comparatively small lots.

Aside from McMansions, multi-story homes often include more outdoor space than one-story homes and frequently provide more design options, as opposed to one story homes that can have a cookie-cutter appearance. Multi-story homes often provide better views of desirable neighborhood aspects, such as beautiful mountain or waterfront scenery. Two story homes also provide greater security and privacy. Because bedrooms are often on upper floors, they are more difficult to access by burglars and others with malevolent intent.

Disadvantages of Two Story Homes 

Cold air tends to sink, while warm air rises. As a result, many multi-story homes are stifling upstairs and chilly downstairs. In addition, many two-story homes were not built with energy efficiency in mind. The result is that occupants are left sweltering upstairs, especially during the hot summer months and shivering in downstairs rooms all winter long. This makes maintaining indoor comfort in a multi-level home more difficult and significantly more expensive than in single story homes. In fact, heating and cooling this type of home can have double the costs of a one story home with the same square footage.

Multi-story homes are also frequently noisier than single story homes. The experience is often similar to living in a multi-story apartment building and listening to upstairs neighbors walk around their apartments. Attempting to watch TV downstairs while someone is walking around on squeaky floors in an upstairs bedroom or running a bath or shower in an upstairs bathroom can be very distracting.

The stairs in multi-story homes also impose drawbacks and safety hazards. Carrying laundry up and down stairs in a multi-story home can be both tiring and taxing on the back and leg muscles. There is also the danger of sustaining serious injuries from falls on stairs in multi-story homes, especially for small children or the elderly.

Get The Facts On All The Building Characteristics That Matter

When it comes to understanding all the building characteristics, including whether a property includes a single or two story home,  advanced property search will help you discover the right properties based on over 60 attributes.  Advanced search is used by appraisers, mortgage lenders, investors, solar companies and real estate agents to both find properties and make insight-driven decisions. 


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