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One-Story vs. Two-Story Living: What's Best for You?

[Updated: Nov 17, 2020] Jan 21, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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When you're in the market for a new home, you're apt to find yourself faced with choices. Should you buy in an up-and-coming neighborhood? Choose a classic home over new construction? And should you purchase a one-floor ranch, or choose a two-story home instead?

The latter is an issue homeowners find themselves debating frequently. Here's how to decide what's best for you.

The benefits of one-story living

Having a single-story home means never having to drag yourself up and down the stairs in the course of daily life. That's important when you have an infant in tow or when mobility issues make stairclimbing a challenge. Furthermore, if kids are part of the picture, a one-story home could be a safer bet. And while this isn't always the case, one-story homes often lend to a more open layout, which may or may not align with your preferences.

The drawbacks of one-story living

On the other hand, living in a single-story home could result in less privacy. After all, your bedroom will be on the same level as your kitchen and living room. Also, single-story homes can sometimes lend themselves to added noise at night, what with their bedrooms being street-level.

The benefits of two-story living

Two-story homes tend to offer more privacy than single-story properties. You have that built-in separation between common areas and bedrooms, and you don't have to worry about passers-by accidentally peering in through your bedroom windows. And in some cases, you'll have more options to expand your living space with a two-story property. Ranch homes tend to be less compact than two-story homes, so they're harder to add onto, whereas you may be able to more easily build an addition onto a two-story space.

The drawbacks of two-story living

The presence of a staircase in your home could be a hazard by itself. And then there's the hassle factor -- having to constantly climb up and down stairs can be exhausting, especially when you have a laundry room on one floor and your bedroom hampers on another. Two-story homes can also, in some cases, be harder to heat and cool if you don't have a two-zone system -- which many older homes don't.

What's the right choice for you?

Ultimately, your health and family situation will be huge factors in your decision. If you have young kids, you may find that a one-story home makes for a safer environment -- and one that's easier to navigate with children underfoot. And if you're looking for a home to spend your retirement in, you may find that a one-story home is a better choice since aging and mobility problems often go hand in hand.

That said, if your kids are older and your health is great, you may find that a two-story home holds more appeal. That way, you won't risk locking eyes with a random person walking down the street when you pull back your bedroom curtains, and you won't have to worry about your spouse's late-night-snack habit in the kitchen keeping you awake when you're trying to sleep.

From a cost perspective, you won't necessarily spend more money on one type of home than the other (though keep in mind that because ranch homes are less common, it may be harder to find one in the specific neighborhood you're looking at).

And from a resale perspective, two-story homes may have a slight edge because they tend to be more popular, but the opposite might hold true for you -- you might command top dollar for your ranch because it's only one of several in your neighborhood.

A matter of taste

Ultimately, your decision might boil down to gut feelings and personal preferences. Some people opt for two-story living because that mimics the way they grew up. But if you buy your home at the right price and choose cost-effective renovations, either a one-story or two-story home could wind up being a smart investment for you.

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