pros/cons of first floor master

hairmetal4everFebruary 21, 2012

I've looked at several newish (1990s or newer) homes for sale, and so many have a first floor master bedroom. To me, this seems very family-unfriendly for parents of little ones (we have a 7 month old and 3 year old).


1. Am I right to worry, or, does it turn out to not be a big deal having the kids upstairs at a young age?

2. Why do so many houses have this layout now?

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My six siblings and I had 2nd floor bedrooms, & my parents had a 1st floor master bedroom. Worked fine! As parents ourselves, we had a 3rd floor (loft) master suite, with the boys on the 2nd floor. I cannot see why everyone needs to be on the same floor.

However, if you worry because of their age, and there's a spare bedroom on the 2nd floor, maybe sleep there till the kids are a bit older.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:32AM
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When my youngest two children were babies/toddlers we lived in a tri-level home with the master all alone on the top level and all the kids' bedrooms on the lowest level. With a baby monitor it was never really an issue. In fact, many times I would start down the stairs when I heard one of them crying on the baby monitor, and by the time that I got to their room they would have settled themselves down and back to sleep.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 12:01PM
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When my son was an infant and we had a first floor master for the first several months we had his crib in our room. After that he had a room upstairs but we had baby monitor.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 12:05PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Many houses are built like this with aging in mind. There is a segment of the population that prefers to have the master bedroom downstairs. My IL do not even want to stay at our house as the MB is upstairs (which is the room they would stay in for visits).

With my kids, I found that distance is not the biggest obstacle in the middle of the night. The biggest obstacle was raising my exhausted self out of the bed. Once I had done that, stairs would be nothing. Thus, my exhausted self kept the youngest ones in my room. To me, the biggest con of a master bedroom downstairs would be what is over said bedroom upstairs. It is amazing the noise the kids make jumping around. The kids will grow very, very quickly so upstairs or down is really on somewhat of a short term consideration. They do not stay babies for long.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 3:04PM
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I always thought first floor master was more desireable.

Like you, I don't want my kids to be elsewhere in the house. My last two houses have had the master next to the kids rooms on the first floor.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 5:44PM
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Why not just ask your agent to filter out the listings with masters on the main floor? There is more inventory in the market now than ever before in our lifetimes... take advantage of it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 6:58PM
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DD bought a house with the kids' rooms on the 1st floor and theirs on the 2nd floor. They weren't too happy about that with an infant, but with the intercom that they have, it works fine.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 7:43PM
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I'm not a fan of master bedrooms on a different floor from the kids because I worry about emergencies like fires. Currently, we have the master and two kids' bedrooms upstairs, and a guest room downstairs. I like that arrangement.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Pre-kids and with very little ones (like yours), I wanted the master to be near the kids' bedrooms.

When we were looking last time, we had 3 teenagers--we looked for a first floor master. We have 3 bedrooms upstairs and one in the lower level. That wouldn't have worked with the little ones, but worked fine at older ages.

Even the same people may want different things at different stages of their lives.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:45PM
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In our area it is common to have only 2 bedrooms upstairs in a lot of Capes, or all bedrooms upstairs in a Colonial. We're undertaking a big reno project and will have the MBR on the 2nd floor (with 2 other bedrooms), but we're keeping a first floor guest room as well.

In an ideal world you'd have the option for sleeping on the first floor (with a full bath) in case you ever broke your leg/foot and didn't want to deal with stairs, and you'd be able to sleep near small kids upstairs as well. In terms of resale value I think it makes sense to look at what kind of buyers that area normally attracts - is it FTHB who are planning (or have) kids? Or is it a "move-up" neighborhood where most people have older kids (and are happy to have them on a different floor - if not a different planet some days).

Our neighborhood is a mixture of both. However, this is house #4 for us and I plan to live here until I die, so we wanted a first floor bedroom as an option when we're octogenarians :)

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 7:22AM
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The other day I went past one of the few new subdivisions that is still selling new construction, and noticed that the sign at the entrance highlights that they have first floor master BRs.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 9:32AM
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It all depends on your stage of life:

I my own self wouldn't pick a 2-story at all because I have very old knees.

People who have teens love 2-story homes with a downstairs master because it's more private, & when they "downsize" or move for whatever reason, they often choose a 1-story because their knees are getting older, too.

but there's a whole generation of young families who like 2-story homes, & there are enough of them that some builders cater to them, putting all the bedrooms upstairs so the parents will be close to the children.

(I've always thought it was bizarre to put a baby or toddler as far away from you as you possibly can & then put in a baby monitor so you'll hear if something goes wrong.)

As for re-sale, well, you can only sell the house to one buyer/family, so you need only one family who likes your neighborhood & who needs a home like yours.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 4:27PM
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The biggest con for us with a first floor master is that the master suite gets squeezed. If you are talking a certain size lot that limits space, when you put a master downstairs, the closets and bathroom tend to get smaller.

I live in a neighborhood of 4000 sqft houses on 100 ft wide lots. First floor masters tend to be smaller and the living space tends to be smaller. Now we aren't talking big issues in large houses but it does make a difference. We looked at several homes (before we built) and the second floor master plans were more grand and had much larger suites.

With a typical 2 story plan built in the last 20 years or so (around here), there is usually a kitchen, living room, dining room, and possibly study/family room on the 1st floor. Then bedrooms on the second. For a 4 bedroom house, this works out with equal size floors and maximum use of available space. When you put a bedroom down, you throw off that symmetry and so many plans have a larger 1st floor. This is more expensive to build and requires a larger lot for the same size house. Now delete a dining room and that helps but the usual size for a master suite is much larger than a dining room (at least around here).

If money is no object and land size not an issue, then this isn't an issue....

It is something we didn't notice right away but my wife particularly liked the 2nd floor master plans even though we started looking at 1st floor masters. And it isn't only about huge master closets, the kitchen was always smaller in the first floor master plans. So we built master up and have an obscene kitchen (only house in neighborhood with 2 islands) and an equally obscene master bath and closet.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 6:44AM
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IMO, pros: for older folks or people with limited mobility, the first floor master is easier to get to. For empty nesters, if you have zoned heating you can turn down the heat on the 2nd floor unless/until you have guests in those rooms.

IMO, cons: I like having all our bedrooms / home offices on the 2nd floor, and 'public' rooms on the first floor. When the kids were young I liked being close to their rooms; now that they're teens and often stay up later than me, I like being able to close the MB door upstairs and not hear the downstairs TV or have the nearby lights on.

Some of this depends on the neighborhood, too. We live in an older, 'walkable' town with sidewalks (people walk to town, train, schools) and the lots are smaller than what you'd find in more rural areas. So a 1st floor master could potentially feel more exposed to me.

Of course it also depends on layout. If a first floor master takes up valuable corner space and eliminates windows from, say, the kitchen, I wouldn't like that. If it shares a wall with a FR with a TV, that's not great either if sound travels. OTOH if a 2nd floor master shares a wall with a kid's bedroom, that noise traveling might be awkward too. (Ours is set up so my office and our WIC are buffers to the adjacent room.)

Hmmm... sorry I guess this is a long way to say 'it depends' and I think it's personal preference, too.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Connie K

I think I'm the only one on the planet who thinks this way, but I "need" the master to be on the second floor, kids or no kids, because when I retire for the evening, I like to be on a different level than the public rooms. I was so thrilled to finally be able to afford a 2 story home 21 years ago, after living in a 2 story as a child, but only affording one floor living for 14 years, that I am not ready to give it up, even if we start having trouble navigating the stairs.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 6:31PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

DITD, you are not the only one. When we were building our house, we read that there were 2 camps. There is one camp who insists on having a MBR downstairs as they age for ease. There is another camp that wants their bedroom upstairs as they age, forcing themselves to have to walk up the stairs. DH and I decided we wanted to be in the second camp as well. My grandmother was 80 when she passed away. She had a little apartment with a sitting area and kitchen downstairs, bedroom and bathroom upstairs. She did not go up the stairs fast but she could make it up and I figure if she could do it, so could I. I also like the notion of the public areas downstairs and the private areas upstairs. It does help me transition.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Our original next door neighbors bought their house because their daughter's rooms would be over the garage. They had learned in their various moves that they never wanted to be on the floor immediately under a teen ager's radio, tv, stereo, etc.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 7:59PM
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DITD, when I & my knees were much younger, we lived next door to a beautiful old house, built in the 1920's;
the owner was a very elderly widow who kept using her upstairs bedroom even though it meant climbing stairs.

She said she felt safer upstairs & she wouldn't get a wink's sleep down there next to the ground.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 8:53PM
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That's all well and good as long as your legs work.

Our house was large and the bedrooms were all upstairs. I fell and broke my ankle and it was a nightmare for 6 weeks. I was afraid to use crutches on the stairs. I had a lot of pain and my only choice was to get downstairs and stay there, or stay upstairs. Going up and down on my butt, like a toddler was the only solution. It wasn't fun.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:29PM
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Connie K

tishtoshnm, you've given me a lot to think about. It's a "which came first, the chicken or the egg" situation. If you stop using the steps as you age, do you contribute to your reduced mobility situation? I don't know, but the concept has merit.

My 87 year old father will be moving into one floor living soon. It's becoming more difficult for him to walk, although my parents live in a two story home with a finished basement that they use frequently, so he is forced to use the steps daily. I am looking forward to him have the comforts of living on one floor, but because he is so active, I'm wondering if we will notice a step curve in his mobility after the move. I don't know, but I suspect we will, especially after reading your comment. Lots to think about.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:07AM
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Sorry, but there are plenty of other factors to consider besides "forcing" yourself to exercise. Joints deteriorate, bones become brittle, people become unsure of their balance.

I live in a 2-story townhouse development in an area with lots of older folks, and there are plenty of things beyond your control that can make it impossible to do stairs, even when you're healthy otherwise. A fair number of my older neighbors who can outwalk me on the beach are selling up because of the stairs.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:32AM
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"Joints deteriorate, bones become brittle, people become unsure of their balance."
Amen, Sistah (Bruthah?)!

I meant to add that the lady next door was very fortunate that she could still get up & down those stairs.

If you haven't experienced physical limitations, or had a family member or friend who has limitations, it's easy to miss the reason behind things.

A local newspaper once published a letter from someone who was lambasting toothpaste tubes that came with a pop-open cap; "are we too lazy to unscrew our own toothpaste tubes???"

The replies noted that arthritic hands sometimes cannot grip hard enough to unscrew the cap but usually can flip a pop-up top...

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:55PM
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I know of three families where the folks lost mobility to climb stairs. In two cases, they installed the stairside lift. In the other, they installed an elevator.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 6:16PM
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We have a first floor master and two bedrooms upstairs for our (older) daughters. I personally love not trudging up the stairs all the time, and I love that their messy rooms aren't seen by visitors.

However... my younger daughter has anxiety problems and in my research in how to help her, I discovered that it's quite common for children to have anxiety over sleeping on a different level of the house than their parents. I was really surprised, but that is exactly how my daughter felt. Even with her sister across the hall, she felt very isolated and alone in her room with her parents downstairs.

We are currently looking for another home and I will make sure that we are all on the same floor this time around. Just something to think about.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:35PM
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Most of my childhood was spent in a house with a first-floor master and the kids' rooms on the second floor. I remember that when my sister was born, they kept her in their room with them for awhile, but when she hit toddler age she was upstairs with the rest of us.

From a young kid's point of view, the only disadvantage was if I had a nightmare that scared me enough to go downstairs to them. I was still scared of the dark at that age, which made the trip seem even longer.

...on the other hand, it occurs to me that from a parent's point of view, that might not be such a bad thing. I did have to weigh whether the fear was big enough to be worth the trip. The fact that we all had to do that probably earned my parents at least a few extra nights of uninterrupted sleep.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 2:42PM
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