split level house with long driveway

Buying A Split-Level House: What To Know

Hanna Kielar6-Minute Read
September 21, 2021

If you're looking to buy or build a house, chances are you might have a particular architectural style on your mind. One type of house style that’s making a comeback might intrigue home buyers looking for a classic look to their home: the split-level house.

This article will describe what makes a split-level house what it is, and the pros and cons of this architectural style.

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What Is A Split-Level House?

A split-level house is different from a traditional home layout because it has multiple floors that are connected by short flights of stairs.

Common features of split-level homes are low-pitched roofs, integrated garages, large living areas, multiple attics with space for storage, double-hung windows with a large picture window and the use of minimal decorations and natural materials.

What Is A Tri-Level House?

Tri-level home is another name for a split-level house, as they tend to have at least three levels connected by stairs.

What Is A Split-Level Ranch?

A split-level ranch house, on the other hand, is a one-story ranch house with two additional levels added to it. Typically, a half-flight of stairs leads up from the entry to the living room, kitchen and bedrooms. Another half-flight of stairs leads down from the entry to a family or rec room, and maybe another bedroom or two.

Different Types Of Split-Level Homes

Split-level homes can come in a variety of designs. The following are some of the most popular types.

Side Split

If you're looking for a house that separates bedrooms from the living space without needing a full flight of stairs, you might consider looking for a side-split-style home. This type of split-level home has multiple levels that are visible from the front of the home.

Typically, the house is divided with the garage on one side of the house with the bedrooms above the garage, and the main living area on the side of the house. A side-split-style house is one of the most common types of split-level homes, a famous example being the family home in the TV series "The Brady Bunch."

Back Split

Similar to a side-split, the back-split-style home is divided into multiple levels, but it looks different from the outside. Unlike a side-split house, the split levels of a back-split house can be viewed only from the side, and only one story is visible from the front, while two stories are visible from the back.

Standard Split

A standard split-level home is known for having a front door or entrance at ground level and then short sets of stairs leading to other levels. Typically, the bottom level has the garage, playroom or den, the middle level has the kitchen, dining room and living room and the top level has all of the bedrooms and bathrooms.

Stacked Split

The stacked split-level-style house is known for having four or five floors and as many flights of stairs. Similar to the standard split-level style, there is an entrance at ground level in between the bottom- and middle-level floors. The stacked split is also structured to have a basement or informal living area, then a kitchen and dining room, then bedrooms stacked on top.

Split-Level Vs. Bi-Level House

Though many people mistake split-level homes and bi-level homes as the same thing, there are some major distinctions between the two. As a recap, split-level homes have three different levels that are separated by short flights of stairs. Conversely, bi-level houses have two levels that can be reached by an entrance between the two floors. This style of home is also known as a raised ranch, and the top floor more or less lies directly on top of the bottom floor.

Typically, the lower level is half underground but has windows. This floor has bedrooms on it and sometimes a laundry room or bathroom, while the upper level has a family room, living, dining and kitchen area on one side and a master suite or more bedrooms and bathrooms on the other side.

Are Split-Level Homes Hard To Sell?

Buying a house doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be your forever home, and you’ll want to know you could sell the property if you had to. While split-level houses are preferred by some homeowners, they can be unattractive to others, making them harder to sell.

Some of the features that might make a split-level house hard to sell are having too many stairs, limited natural light, a floor plan that feels choppy or lack of curb appeal. They also can feel outdated to some.

Tips for Selling A Split-Level House

While split-level houses may not be for everyone, it doesn't mean they can't be sold. If you're trying to sell a split-level house, the key to selling is in your marketing strategies. Try the following strategies to make selling your house an easier task.

  • Focus on the positives. Market your split-level house by focusing on features that a buyer might see as a problem, and framing them in a positive way that would make it something desirable. For example, instead of worrying about an unorganized floor plan, encourage buyers to think about how much privacy split-level homes allow for.
  • Make home improvements. Make minor updates to address other problems in the home to increase the home's value and appeal. For example, boost your split-level home's curb appeal by investing in better landscaping or replacing the garage door.
  • Stage the home properly. Make sure you’re staging your home to show off its best assets.

If you follow these three tips, you're more likely to attract more interest in your split-level house.

How To Remodel A Split-Level House

If you're thinking of remodeling or updating your split-level house, it's important to know what options you have. First, let's talk about some exterior updates you can make. To increase the curb appeal of your house, you can replace the siding or add windows or other elements to visually balance the exterior.

For making interior changes, you can update the house by taking out walls to create an open floor plan or repainting the walls to make the space look bigger. If you want to make a space look bigger, stick to bright paint colors or soft tones of white, blue and green.

Pros And Cons Of Split-Level Homes

Before you decide that a split-level house is your ideal home, weigh all of the pros and cons of this architectural style.

Pros

  • Split-level homes are typically more affordable than most single-family homes.
  • Most split-level homes have open floor plans, providing more space and privacy for family members.
  • Multiple levels can mean more outdoor space on the property.

Cons

  • Split-level homes can be difficult to sell, as explained above.
  • The amount of stairs in a split-level house can be a challenge for people with mobility issues.
  • Remodeling can be difficult with split-level homes because of their layouts or the locations of staircases.

Split-Level House FAQs

Why did they build split-level homes?

Split-level homes gained popularity in the 1960s because they were budget-friendly, trendy and perfect for small, sloped plots of land that were very common in suburbs. This type of home is beneficial because it allows for a lot of space with limited land, it's not expensive to maintain and it allows for optimal privacy and separation of space in the house.

Do split-level homes have basements and garages?

Yes, split-level homes do have basements and garages. Upon entering a split-level home, you'll usually see one staircase leading up to bedroom levels, and another staircase leading down to the basement level.

The basement floor is level with the driveway, and often features a laundry room or living area. Typically, the garage in a split-level home is connected to the rest of the house and can even be located on the basement level.

How many stories is a split-level home?

A split-level home may have three or four different levels, but can still be considered to be two stories because it connects a two-story section to a single-story section, with the single-story section halfway between the two floors. Therefore, the vertical distance between any two levels of the home is not a full flight, but a half-flight of stairs.

Are split-level homes expensive?

No, split-level homes don't tend to be expensive because there are a large number of them and less demand for them in some markets. So, if you're a buyer looking for an affordable home, you might want to consider purchasing a split-level house.

The Bottom Line

If classical architecture is your preferred style, then a split-level house may be a good home option for you. There are pros and cons to this style, and various design options, but if you know what you’re looking for, it could be your dream home.

If you’re considering other home options, learn about the most popular house styles and more at the Rocket Homes℠ blog.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.