Home Guru: The Pros and Cons of One-Story Vs. Two-Story Living

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera
It’s been almost three years since I gave up two-story living in a colonial single-family house for a one-floor luxury condo. The most noticeable difference during that time is that I’ve gained weight.
For most of my life I’ve lived a two-story existence, having to climb stairs any number of times during the day as a matter of course. The exception was for brief periods when I lived in New York City in an apartment building on one level, 14 stories up, but of course, with an elevator.
Another rental experience on one level, thankfully short, was a five-floor walk-up that was a challenge for visitors who first had to catch their breath before we could embark on any kind of civil discourse.
Other than that, I subscribed to the credo that one of my first customers laid down: to show him only two-story houses where he didn’t eat and sleep on the same floor.
For much of the history of single-family homes in America, the preferred style was the simple one-story, ranch-style home, progressing from there to the Cape Cod with two bedrooms and a bath nestled nicely in the raised roof line of the structure.
But, as families increased in size and we became a wealthier nation, first the split, with half the house rising to two stories, then the colonial, became the preferred style for most of us. One-level ranch houses have remained a good choice for starter homes as well as a preferred choice for seniors who prefer a no-steps option.
Just recently I ran across a checklist online of pros and cons of one- and two-story options. For one-story dwellers, the advantages are:
1. The Lazy Factor. If you’re into fitness, it’s a benefit; but most of us consider it a hassle to go up and down stairs.
2. The Noise Factor. Most homes don’t have noise proofing from above.
3. The Mobility Issue. At some point, many, if not most of us, will not be able to navigate stairs.
4. Renovation Flexibility. Load-bearing walls make knocking down walls a problem. With ranches, it’s easier to create open areas.
5. Easy-to-add Skylights. You simply punch a hole in the roof. This is impossible with a second floor.
6. Easier for Exterior Maintenance. Cleaning gutters 10 feet up is easier than cleaning those that are 20 feet high. The same goes for washing a house, cleaning windows and performing roof maintenance.
7. High cathedral ceilings are easier to add than in a two-story home.
8. More deck or patio potential for more rooms by creating a door.
9. Child safety is an issue with stairs in a two-story house.
10. Easier escape in case of fire.
11. Easier to clean, in terms of not having to lug vacuums up and down stairs.
12. Laundry. No issue of having the laundry delivered up or down one or two flights of stairs.
13. Cheaper to heat. Surprisingly, a one-story home is less expensive to heat and cool.
Advantages of two-story homes are:
1. More Square Footage With Smaller Footprint. In other words, it’s cost-effective.
2. Get a View. Sometimes a lot makes it beneficial to put bedrooms on the lower level and have the living area on top for a better view, especially on a sloping lot.
3. Balcony potential. If you like the idea of a balcony off your master bedroom.
4. Separation Between Bedrooms and Living Space. Probably the biggest reason most people claim.
5. Easier to accommodate on most lots that might not be wide enough or big enough for a large rancher while leaving enough outdoor space.
6. The Aesthetics of Stairs. Many homeowners desire a grander foyer effect.
7. Cheaper to Build. Given the roof and foundation are expensive components of a house to build, a two-story house containing the same square footage as a ranch will generally cost less per square foot.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn here is that while the list of advantages for a ranch-style home may be longer, the two-story house would appear more desirable simply because a second story is more cost effective to build, not to mention a built-in aerobics program at the same time.
Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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