A Des Moines Custom Home Builder Blog

Deciding on a Home Design: Ranch or Multi-Story

Posted by Don Brill on May 24, 2016

If you’re thinking about building a home of your own, one of the first decisions you get to make is whether you would prefer a single or multi-story home. There are pros and cons to each style. You should choose the layout that most suits your lifestyle, your budget, and your personal taste. Thinking about a few key issues can help you make the best decision for you and your family.




This article belongs to the Construction Process Series 

Who is going to live in your home?

When making the decision between a single-story “ranch” home or a multi-story plan, the first thing to consider is who is going to live in your home. If you have (or plan to have) small children in your home, stairs can be dangerous, and you may prefer to have all your family’s bedrooms on one level for convenience and safety. If you have teenagers, on the other hand, having multiple levels can give everyone more privacy.

If you or anyone else living with you has limited mobility, or if you plan to stay in your home through your retirement and later years, you may want to choose a single-story plan. Modern amenities and open floor plans can make ranch models more stylish. A split-level home with a main-floor master bedroom can give you a lot of the convenience and long-term utility of a multi-level home with some extra space to entertain guests. Certain features can make a two-story home more livable for a wide variety of ages and preferences, including second-floor laundry rooms and bedrooms and full baths on each level.


How are you going to use your home?

Another consideration that should influence the layout you choose is how you use your home.A split-level house with a walk-out entertainment space can be perfect for hosting guests. If you work from home, a multi-level layout can help keep your work space separate and private. Multi-level houses can be noisier than ranch models, however, especially if you have younger children; kids playing upstairs can cause a lot of noise on the lower levels. If it’s important that some rooms be very quiet, you may want to consider a more spread-out ranch model.


What is your property like?

The size and layout of your property will factor into your choice, too. If your property is small, a multi-story home can allow you to get more square footage and usable space by building upwards. Even if your lot is large, you can preserve more space for outdoor landscaping, gardens, water features, or other natural areas by building a multi-story home with a smaller footprint rather than a sprawling one-story model.

If your property is not level, you might consider building a split-level or multi-story home with a walk-out lower level. This will allow you to take advantage of the topography and reduce your costs to re-grade the land.


What is your neighborhood like?

In population-dense areas, multi-level houses allow the bedrooms to be above street level, which can improve the security of your home. Your home’s resale value is also influenced by your neighborhood, including where it is located. Realtors report that multi-level houses sell better in the Northeast and on the East Coast, while homebuyers in the South, Midwest and West favor ranch models. Your surrounding neighborhood matters, too. If your community is full of young families or senior citizens, ranch models may be more popular, while communities with a lot of young professionals or families with teenagers may favor multi-story homes. If the resale value of your home is a significant factor for you, build a home that is similar to the majority of homes in your neighborhood.


What is your budget?

Building a multi-story home with a smaller footprint is usually more cost effective because the foundation and the roof are normally the two largest construction expenses as well as the costliest to maintain, repair, and replace. Plus, a smaller footprint allows you to build on a smaller lot, saving you money on land or allowing your dollar to stretch further in an area with more expensive property.

Multi-level homes can also be more easily designed for improved energy efficiency, which can lower your heating and cooling bills. One easy way is to include independent-level temperature controls or dual furnace/cooling systems; another is to incorporate the orientation and layout of your home to take advantage of natural sunlight and shade patterns.


What is your style?

Trends in home design change, especially as the population demographics shift. Currently, according to the National Association of Home Builders, 35 percent of American homebuyers of all ages prefer a multi-story home, while 52 percent prefer one-story housing, and 13 percent prefer split-level homes. Older Americans and young families prefer one-story homes even more strongly.

A well-considered layout and floor plan can make your home enduringly appealing to a wide variety of buyers, whether it is a ranch, multi-story, or split-level design. Homes by Brill will help you design and build the perfect custom home for your family in the greater Des Moines area. From finding land and arranging financing to helping you pick out a layout, fixtures, and finishes, we can help you create the perfect home for your family.


Contact us to talk about how to get started on your own custom home, and check out our online gallery for inspiration!

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Topics: Design, Home Construction Process