Bi-Level/Split Entry

alisonnMay 3, 2014

I'm speaking of the house type where you walk in the front door and are on a landing, where you either go up or down.

That being said, I'm selling my (ranch) and am looking at comps and I see that the bi-level/split entry type of house is priced much lower than my house, even with comparable square footage.

My question is---are they considered THAT undesirable in this market that they warrant a significantly lower price?

Yes--it goes without saying that I worry about my house being priced too high.

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Here in the northeast there is a definite pecking order for houses.
Split level

In my neighborhood it's about a 25% premium for a colonial over a split. I'm not sure of the difference of ranch over split.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:01PM
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I believe everywhere, most people don't like split level.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Huh. I grew up in a split level and to this day really like that type of house. I don't understand lack o' love....

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 1:19PM
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I wouldn't use a split as a comp for a ranch simply because they're the least desirable type of floor plan.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 2:53PM
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People want a traditional floor plan with the bedrooms upstairs and the living area on the main floor. The split level is always priced lower because it isn't as desirable for the majority of buyers.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 3:22PM
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"I'm speaking of the house type where you walk in the front door and are on a landing, where you either go up or down. "

Around here, this type of house is called a raised ranch. There's a finished basement level and one other story above that. A split level house could have 3 or 4 levels.

Raised ranches are common because they are inexpensive to build, but they are not popular, as they have no basement or attic.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 5:58PM
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In my area, raised ranches and split levels are two totally different types of home. The raised ranch matches your description, but the split is exactly as Alisonn described.
We call the "splits" with multiple levels a tri-level or quad level.

Our last home was a tri-level. Inside the front door was a large entry with the living room, dining room, kitchen, and powder room accessed from it. Off to the far right side of the entry were the stairs leading up to the bedrooms and another set of stairs leading down to the family room, laundry, and door to the garage. In the family room, there was the steps leading down to the basement.

It was a beautiful, spacious home and I'd buy a tri again in a heartbeat, but I'd not buy a split.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 6:39PM
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In our area also, what OP is describing is called a raised ranch.

A split here is what Jewel refers to as a "tri level." The term "tri-level" is not used at all in this area.

It's hard to make judgments about the relative values of different styles of home without knowing what is prevalent and/or desirable in a specific geographic area. Around here, everyone wants a colonial. It's funny to see the listings, as it seems that when people expand/remodel their splits, capes, etc., they all become "colonials" for the prospective buyer.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:02PM
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what are the features of a colonial? just curious.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:45PM
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As a family, the answer is YES, and here is why:

If I am looking for a 2000 sq ft home, I want a home that lives 2000 sq ft. 2000sq ft of single level living is much larger than one that is 1000 up and 1000 down.

When my children were little, they had to be around me (and I around them, for safety). We essentially lived in 840sq ft even though our 1.5 story house was 1400. Why? Because we lived on the 1 level during the day. It was much smaller living than a 1400 sq ft house would have you believe.

Same is true of a 1000sq ft house. Usually the split has a LR, DR, Kitchen, and a couple of bedrooms and bath upstairs, and then a FR, bedroom, bath, and garage down. But, you end up "living" in the single floor (occasionally going downstairs to do a load of laundry or...)


A ranch where the kitchen, LR, DR are all at one end say, and then 3-4 bedrooms and probably at least 2 bathrooms and the laundry are all the same living floor, down a hall. Can my 3 yr old play down the hall (by himself)? yes. downstairs, not so much. Why? (ask the 3 yo).

Splits, the kind you describe, where you have to make a decision upon entering the front door to go up or down, are less valuable than ranches. Esp if they are of equivalent "size" by square footage.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 7:47PM
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The following is my understanding - see diagram below (at least in the Chicago area, but I'm no expert). The split level is basically two 2-story boxes that are offset. The bi, tri or quad designation can be left to imaginative realtors. The basic version has living, kitchen & dining in A, bedrooms in C and D is unfinished basement while B is a slab or crawl space. That might be a bi-level. The tri-level could finish D as a family room. If B is a basement or garage, we could have a quad-level. Typically, however many stairs you may or may not have to climb to get to the entry door, you walk in at the same level of A. Note the roof line is 'split'.

A raised ranch has the two 2-story boxes aligned. The roof line for both boxes is aligned - which is the ranch style - a long single roof line. However, in this case, the entire 'first' floor is raised to get living space below and/or garage. With these, you have to climb some stairs to get to the entry door. When you step through it, you are presented with a flight of stairs up and another down. As you can see in the diagram, the entry door is not at the floor level of either story. In a poor design, the landing will be very small - for one or two people. One can't accompany guests to the door when they leave because there's not enough room on the landing. The host family is forced to stand on the stairs or the top level as their guests leave.

For me, I like splits, even though they are not as popular as they were in the 60's, 70's and 80's. I do not like raised ranches mainly because the front door does not lead into a room or foyer but a landing.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sat, May 3, 14 at 20:13

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:07PM
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What kirkhall said, but also for older people who don't climb stairs easily

Does your ranch have a basement? I could imagine that a basement with a rec room would be highly desirable once the children are older (teens).

If it doesn't, some people may like the split because it offers some privacy for teens, in-laws, nanny.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 8:22PM
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In my area, split levels are the most popular (technically, they are what some of you are calling a raised ranch). I wouldn't want one for anything. It's so annoying to compete with them.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 9:57PM
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It is interesting, your diagrams.

What we know from this board, is that "split level" MUST be defined when we are discussing it, because it means something different in many geographic areas.

What the OP describes--a foyer at midlevel and that is it--must go up or down 1/2 stair to a full floor--is what is called a split level in my area too--PNW.

What you draw would be quad levels here, or something we don't even really see... We see more "tri-levels" which are also called split levels in some areas of the country. But in our "tri-levels", you enter onto a main floor that has usually a foyer, LR, kitchen, then 1/2 stairs up to a bedroom level, and 1/2 stairs down to a FR level.

So, in short, splits must always be defined.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:17AM
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LOL - exactly why I started my post with a description of the type of house I mean--because what some folks call a split level, other call a bilevel, etc.

In case anyone cares, here in Jersey, we call the house I described a bilevel. The three-part, staggered home, with six stairs up to the bedrooms and six stairs down to the family room level is called a split level and a raised ranch is a house in which the entrance is on the lower level and the bedrooms/living area is on the second floor.

My only beef with the bilevel is that feeling that you are nowhere when you walk in and are standing on the landing. Otherwise, I think it's nice having the lower level family room area.

Thanks for the feedback--I feel a little better about my price (well, not really, since we haven't sold it......).

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 12:34AM
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Around here bi-levels are almost all exactly alike. They go for at least $20k less than any other style of home with the same square footage. HOWEVER, the last 10yrs or so some builders are changing up the "upstairs" to have a different layout and those homes are going for the same prices as traditional 2 stories if the sq ft is equal.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 5:54PM
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I have lived in a "bi level" where the front door is in the center of the 2 floors. You go inside, and either go up, or down.

I have owned a "split level" where you go inside, and you're at ground level and the "family room" is there. You go up 6 stairs to the living room, dining room, and kitchen level. You go up six more stairs to the bedrooms level which is over the family room/garage.

I had a next door neighbor with a "raised ranch" style home. You walked into the home at ground level, and went up 12 stairs to the living area where the living room, kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms were. He loved the house... for about 6 months. Then he hated lugging groceries up a flight of stairs every week.

Until he made a dumbwaiter.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:06AM
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robo (z6a)

My definitions correspond mostly to christopherh and to this wikipedia entry.

Side split: Walk in to living, dining, kitchen on one side of house. Walk sideways up six steps to bedrooms or down six steps to family room. There is often a fourth level subbasement below the living dining kitchen (completely underground)

Back split: same as side split but you walk up toward the back of the house instead of at the side.

Raised ranch -- Walk in to basement. Walk up 12 steps to upstairs (living, dining, kitchen and bedrooms all upstairs. See the picture window indicating living room on the second floor of this house:

(but when I did a google image for raised ranch, I got lots of split entries)

Split entry: Walk in to a landing. Go up six steps to main floor or down six steps to basement.

I like side splits the best, but my husband dislikes them as they're hard to add on to. Unless they were built with spacious bedrooms upstairs you're very limited for adding a master suite.

Split entries are the least desirable for whatever reason. Lots of people love them. You get a daylight basement out of them, which is nice. But there's something about being confronted with stairs as soon as you walk in a home that seems to turn buyers off.

I live in Canada, so basements are almost mandatory, but I also live in the land of granite bedrock, so basements are very expensive. So split entries are SUPER COMMON here as a way to avoid blasting out a deep basement.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Mon, May 5, 14 at 9:39

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 9:38AM
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That's a good summary, robotropolis. In our local listings, people tend to conflate raised ranches, bi-levels and another variation-- houses like the described raised ranch but you walk in on the upper floor instead of the lower- and call them all raised ranches.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:36AM
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What robotropolis showed as a side split are pretty common around here EXCEPT there is another level above the main kitchen/dining/living area which houses the master suite. So it's up half a flight to the kids rooms, a turn in the stairs and another half flight up to the master suite. There is also a full basement underneath the kitchen/dining/living area. We call these homes multi-levels.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:50AM
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Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em. They're very common here in the Northeast. I used to live in one. Do I need to tell you I hated it?

And ... in my opinion ... a ranch is simply the top part of a split. Pretty much exactly the same except that the split has a finished basement and the entry is as described ... walk in on a landing and have to choose going up some stairs or down some stairs.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 7:04PM
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