November 14, 2018 by George Black

No issue in the history of American real estate has been more hotly debated than that of the ranch-style home vs. a two-story home. Besides the obvious curb appeal, there are a variety of factors that can influence the home style a person prefers. Selecting the right home for your family and lifestyle may involve digging into the pros and cons a bit further.

For discussion purposes:

  • A two-story home is a split-level floor plan that clearly separates living and sleeping areas. Typically, the living area is on the ground floor and the sleeping area is on the upper level, with the two being connected by a staircase. This style gained popularity after World War II, when the economy had recovered from the Great Depression and the suburbs began to expand.
  • A ranch style house, or rancher, is a single floor-plan home that originated in the United States. Ranchers are typically known for their long, open floor plans that accommodate both living and sleeping areas in one wide arrangement. Although a ranch-style home is typically built on a slab, it is more common for a rancher in the Midwest to be built with a basement. Having a basement that can double as a tornado shelter in this area is a hot commodity, at best – if not a must-have.

When you begin the process of home shopping (or home building) it is important to evaluate your priorities and expectations for comfortable living. The floorplan of a home may not be a deal-breaker on its own, but it is important to think about how the layout might factor into your living experience before you make an offer. You will also want to consider how the home’s style may or may not impact your wallet, in terms of living expenses and long-term value.

The age-old adage “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” definitely applies here. Let’s get started!

A Closer Look at the Two-Story Home

With towering staircases and expansive, tree-height views, there is just something about the two-story home that feels grandiose. These homes tend to appeal to families, who may be looking for extra privacy and living space to share between kids and parents. If you are looking at two-story homes for your family, a few points worth mentioning are:

Consideration #1: Two-story homes might have less roof area to maintain.

For home buyers everywhere, the quality and condition of the roof is always an important consideration. The roof on an average Midwestern home (i.e., not metal) should be replaced every ~15-25 years, depending on the roof’s material and weather exposure. With the national average roof replacement ringing in at a $7,500 price tag, this is a significant investment that deserves mention.For two homes of the same square footage, a rancher would have twice the roof area of a two-story home – because the levels of a two-story home are stacked on top of each other, sharing the same roof – whereas a rancher would be spread out across a lot.When it comes time to replace the roof of a two-story home, the potential savings in square footage could create a savings on your total bill. But, there are a few other maintenance expenses that could help even the score, including…

Consideration #2: Two-story home exteriors are difficult to clean.

For homeowners, keeping a house clean means more than just dusting and vacuuming the interior. To maintain your two-story home’s curb appeal, you will need to do regular upkeep on the brick, siding, windows, soffits and gutters. Spring cleaning, anyone?You may be able to clean the exterior of a ranch home from the ground, or with the aid of a ladder or step stool. And while power or pressure washing is no walk in the park, it is a DIY job that can be done with the right equipment. When you add another level of siding and windows at a higher elevation, the job is probably best for a professional.

Consideration #3: Two-story homes may require a second HVAC unit for ideal temperatures.

It can be challenging to keep temperature consistent on both levels of a two-story home: heat rises in the winter, and it requires more energy to cool in the summer. To run the entire house, you will need either two separate units to create zone cooling, or one large unit.Adding a second unit for zone cooling adds an obvious one-time expense, but may pay off in the long run with energy savings. In a worst-case scenario where one of the units fails (in areas with very warm summers) you may also have the unexpected benefit of having a “backup” system to keep part of the house cool while you wait for repairmen!

A Closer Look at the Ranch-Style Home

Ranch style homes feel quintessentially American – and with their typically lower price point, they help make the American Dream a reality for homeowners nationwide. With ease of accessibility and sprawling layouts, these homes are well-suited for larger plots of land. If you have got your eye on a ranch home, you should know that:

Consideration #1: Ranch-style homes may offer more living space.

There is one big thing in a two-story home that you will not find in a rancher, and that is a staircase. As insignificant as it may sound, a staircase can take up as much as 100 square feet between the two levels it connects. For comparison’s sake, that is more space than two small (5×8’) full bathrooms.Staircases eat into your square footage, and there is not much getting around that. In a ranch-style home, you are able to maximize the amount of living space per square foot of foundation by avoiding the need for a staircase altogether (unless your rancher has a basement, as we noted earlier.) If you are counting on the basement’s additional living space to increase the value of the home, you should remember that “below-grade” spaces typically do not count towards a home’s total square footage.

Consideration #2: Ranch-style homes allow you to “age in place.”

Ranch-style homes lend themselves to the concept of “aging in place,” or in other words, being able to maintain quality of life in your home well into your golden years. If new aches, pains, and crutches or orthopedic devices make it difficult (or even impossible) to go up and down stairs – well, the good news is that you will not have any!A two-story house with a main floor master suite may be an ideal compromise for some. For others, it may be worthwhile to invest in a ranch-style home, knowing that they will not have to worry about moving for the indefinite future.We have been pretty tough on them so far, and in defense of innocent staircases everywhere, it is worth nothing their benefits when it comes to entertaining. It is unlikely that guests in a two-story home would have any reason to wander off of the main floor living area, and in turn, you may enjoy the benefit of a smaller footprint to worry about for pre-party cleaning and primping. Entertainers in a ranch home may feel they need to do a literal “full sweep” of the house.

Consideration #3: Ranch-style homes are less popular among builders (and thus, a little older).

In many ways, it seems that two-story homes are still in their heyday because of their popularity among home builders and construction companies. The reason? They require less foundation, less roof area and less ductwork – all of which can be squeezed onto a smaller lot than would be required for a ranch style home of the same square footage.Newer ranch homes may be harder to come by than their two-story counterparts. But, as Baby Boomers are rapidly approaching retirement age, the demand for ranchers is expected to boom. Seventy-five (75) percent of Boomers want to buy a single-story home. In turn, this could translate into an increase in demand for new ranch homes.

Ranch vs. Two-Story: Which Is Better?

If you are still trying to decide which home style is better, the answer is that there is no answer! Both styles offer a variety of benefits and drawbacks, and can create very different living experiences. For your family and your investment wallet, there might be one clear winner.

One final thought: Remember to be cautious about buying the only ranch house on a street of two-story homes (and vice versa.) This will create major complications when it comes time to calculate the home’s resale value, even if that is far in the future. Plus, the comps of other homes selling in your neighborhood will be unreliable if they cannot be applied to your home. If you are approaching an oddball house, it would be wise to have it appraised before deciding whether or not to move forward.

Our Realtors Can Help Evaluate Your Options

Whether you are looking for a home that is a rancher, two-story, craftsman, colonial, farmhouse or anything in between, the team of realtors at Meyer Real Estate is here to help you find the perfect home for your family in the greater St. Charles area.

Meyer Real Estate has been connecting buyers with their ideal St. Charles homes since 1959. If you are ready to get started looking for your new home, search our homes for sale or contact us today to tell us more about what you are looking for.