A bi-level house, also known as raised ranch, was a popular architectural style in the 1950s and 60s in the Midwest and Northeast United States. Depending on your market, a bi-level home is a likely option when looking for real estate. While they can suit certain buyers or renters incredibly well, these homes are a bit of a niche market, which should be taken into consideration when looking for an investment property. Read on to determine if a bi-level home will work for or against you, whether you're renting or flipping.
What is the difference between a split-level and bi-level house?
A bi-level house plan will have one level partially below ground but elevated enough to allow natural light through windows into the finished basement level, which functions as a family room. Because of this elevation, you will have several steps leading up to the front door and no true ground level. As you enter, there will be a split foyer, where you will have the choice of going down a short flight of stairs to the basement level or up another short flight of stairs to reach the upper level.
Included in the lower floor will be a drive-under garage that connects to the basement area, which usually functions as a living room as well as space for utilities, like the laundry room. The top floor will include the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, master bedroom, and an additional bedroom or two.
A bi-level house is not a split-level house, although they may appear similar initially. Split-level house plans are different in that they will have three or more levels, whereas the bi-level only has a second floor as the main floor. The entry will have a large room that will connect down to another room at a lower level and up to another room at a higher level. They are commonly built on hillsides or in steep terrain, as this design works with landscapes that would otherwise be difficult to build a large home on. They typically afford a little more privacy, as there is a main level with all the common spaces and a different level for bedrooms.
Are bi-level houses popular now?
The bi-level concept became popular in the 1950s but quickly fell out of favor with builders in the 1970s. They can still be found as a custom-home build request to this day, although they are not as common as they once were.
Bi-level homes are a wonderful option for families to this day, due to the fact that children can easily play downstairs without disturbing the main living area above. Think of it as a compromise between ranch style and colonial. The ranch house has one floor, and the colonial has two full floors above ground. They can be cheaper to build than other styles of homes and contain a large square footage of living space with a small footprint.
How does it affect the value of a home?
A bi-level can suit certain buyers, typically families with younger children, quite well but compared to a modern home's open floor plan, they can seem very choppy and broken up, with all the stairs and multiple levels. They can also be difficult to remodel and update due to the inability to change up the split entry, which is the hallmark of a split-level home. This can make them harder to rent or sell, which typically leads to a lower price point.
But that doesn't mean you can't sell them and turn a profit. Highlighting features in a positive light can make a big difference. You can emphasize the separated living spaces as a way to ensure more peace and quiet, the convenience of having an attached garage so the kids can hop out of the car and head straight for the playroom, or perhaps the extra windows on the lower level as an inviting sunroom. Just know who you're marketing to and gear your descriptions toward that.
A bi-level home can be a great option for fitting a larger square-foot home into smaller or steep lots. And these homes are especially nice for families. Use the typically longer days on market to your advantage when making an offer so that the house can easily cash flow for you once rented or flipped.