It isn’t your imagination that a one story house feels a lot more spacious than a two story house, of equal size.
Potential home buyers are often told that they can purchase a “bigger house” for less money, with a two story home. However, staircases, in a two story home waste a significant amount of square footage, according to houzz.com. Risers, landings, and headroom, along with the wall and the hall or the path around the staircase, take a considerable amount of valuable space on both floors. As much as a single-car garage! A second floor bathroom, also, takes space that would be allocated to living areas and storage, in a one story home. Many two story homes have less land than a one story, as building upwards, for a two story home, requires less land than a single story with the same square footage.
One (former) two story homeowner explained, “A large amount of the square footage in a two story home, is simply ‘on paper’ because it is unusable for living or storage. Two–story homes don’t have much attic, which left only our garage for storage. Our two story home , built on a smaller lot, than a one story home, made our yard even more cramped with the tacky outdoor storage building we had to purchase, in order to get the space we believed we were getting by buying a two-story.”
WHY THE POPULARITY OF SINGLE STORY HOMES THAT MAKES A ONE STORY HOME SO DESIRABLE AND, THUS, HARDER TO FIND?
Realtors tell us that there are fewer single story homes available on the market because homes without stairs appeal to a wider range of potential buyers. Many will not consider a two-story home.
The higher demand for a “well taken care of” single story home means one story homes typically have faster resale and usually sell for more money, than a two-story of equal size. The popularity of a single story increases the chance that the home doesn’t languish on the market forcing the seller to keep cutting the price, due to a limited number of potential buyers.
Two story homes tend to have inconsistent temperature zones. A basic law of physics is that heat rises. In winter, heat goes up the stairs leaving the downstairs cold. In summer, the heat in a one story heat rises and escapes to the attic while on a two story, the heat rises to the second level making bedrooms, on the second floor stifling hot and harder to cool.
It takes a decent amount of effort and expense to balance temperature between the two levels so that one level is not too warm while the other is too cool. Zoned air conditioning/heating (two separate HVAC units) may be used but that means more opportunity for breakdowns and costly repairs.
Often when kids leave the nest the second level stores junk they didn’t take or items that one can’t seem to throw away; Mom and Dad rarely go upstairs. However, shutting off the second floor to save money on utilities can create condensation leading to mold, which can be an expensive problem.
Maintenance and Repairs
Soaring stairwells and a two-story exterior usually require scaffolding or a tall ladder for “do-it-yourselfers” who are willing to paint 20 feet in the air since painters and roofers often charge a premium for two story homes. Gutters and chimneys are harder to clean, due to height and often special equipment is required for general repair.
One story homes are easier and faster to clean, without the need to drag the vacuum cleaner and “cleaning supplies“ all the way up the stairs” and then back down to put them away. Cleaning light fixtures and changing bulbs high up in the stairwell can be intimidating. Stairwells must be wide enough to easily accommodate large furniture being lugged up and down stairs. Still, walls are often marred.
Overnight guests can mean numerous trips up and down the stairs transporting fresh linens, dusting and vacuuming before visitors arrive and then afterwards to clean and rewash bedding.
Doing the laundry can mean climbing up and down stairs multiple times, hauling laundry baskets of dirty clothes downstairs, going up and down stairs each time to move clothes from the washer to the dryer, then taking clean clothes back up to the bedrooms.
Clutter at the bottom of the stairs.
Many items, such as suitcases setting at the bottom of the stairs waiting for someone to take them up tend to be ignored and wind up staying there.
PLUMBING NIGHTMARES IN A TWO STORY HOME
An upstairs plumbing leak from a bathtub, toilet, a washer or hot water heater can be a disaster. (A problem in the waste piping can create a horrific stench.) Since water travels along pipes like a highway, one may not notice something has happened until a large wet spot drips from the ceiling of a room other than the one right below the upstairs bathroom. Some reported that repairs often require 2′ holes in ceilings to be left open for weeks, in order to dry out completely to avoid mold. Bathrooms on both levels are often out of commission during repairs. However, damage isn’t just confined to the upstairs flooring. Instead, repairs may necessitate walls and several ceilings downstairs.
HOME BUYERS OF ALL AGES LIKE THE PRACTICALITY AND SIMPLICITY OF A SINGLE STORY
Universal design is associated with the layout of a one story home, which provides an effortless flow, with everything located on the same floor. It is easier to keep an eye on young children playing just down the hall, when rooms are on one level. Many parents of toddlers and small children don’t want kids upstairs alone at night, in case of illness or a fire.
Imagine loved ones awakening to a fire, becoming disoriented and stumbling around in the dark. A sleepy child or overnight guest could easily become disoriented. For someone who wears glasses, trying to find them in a panic is a disaster waiting to happen.
A fire in a room at the bottom of the stairs can be a catastrophe, without a second stairway to escape. Jumping from a second story window is more terrifying than exiting the window of a single story home.
Accidents and health problems happen.
Stairs can be difficult to negotiate, for someone with a broken leg or other health issues, such as emphysema, arthritis, knee, hip or back problems, osteoporosis or COPD. Stairs can be dangerous to navigate for those with diminished eyesight or who require a wheelchair or other mobility aid.
Falls on stairs are the leading cause of injury-related visits to emergency rooms in the US.
Tripping over the family dog or cat, while using stairs is a common occurrence. Victims can be sent tumbling when stocking feet slide on wooden stairs or sneakers catch on stair carpet. An arm or leg catching in the railing spokes, when falling, can break bones, leave goose-size lumps or worse.
Falls and the elderly.
Research shows that falls are the primary etiology of accidental deaths in persons over the age of 65 years and more than 90 percent of hip fractures a result of a fall. One fourth of elderly persons, who sustain a hip fracture, die within six months of the injury.
This year (2015) all Baby Boomers will be at least age 50. Fifteen years from now every single person born in 1965 or earlier will be age 65 or older.
Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers and many are willing to pay a little more to have a one-story home open walls and kitchens, easily accessible baths, less expense of “large lot, large homes would without the risk of falling down stairs.
Many who didn’t plan on being in their two-story home for the rest of their life find that they don’t have the energy to move again, yet by not using the second floor, their home becomes smaller.
Monetary opportunities abound for architects, planners, developers, builders who are willing to develop beautiful one story homes that are convenient to hospitals, restaurants, grocery, retail… and even better…that are within walking distance. Some Baby Boomers have said they are considering a move to a town or city that meets their need, allowing them to remain in their home forever.
A single story home is believed, by many, to be more visually appealing than a two-story home. A one level house appears to be larger on the lot and adds to the perceived and actual value of the home. Majestic entries soaring to up to 16 ft high, ceiling styles can vary from room to room, with no second story above. Skylights and atriums result in lots of natural light make the house look more spacious.
Siding on the second story of a brick or stone home, gives the appearance of the upper story being cobbled on, as an afterthought. Homes with siding on the second level seem to look old within a few short years, making the neighborhood look a bit bedraggled. An all brick, stucco or stone home will keep its curb appeal longer, helping to retain the property value. Builders tell us they have the issue of how to cover the second story making it harder to find a two story, without Hardie Plank or other siding.
The above was compiled from surveys from realtors, builders, appraisers, design engineers and people who have lived in both one story and two story homes.