Why Are Split Level Houses Hard To Sell?


Clever Real Estate


November 25th, 2020


Updated August 28th, 2019

Are split-level homes hard to sell? The answer is usually yes, but it doesn't have to be. Like all homes, the difficulty of selling a home is subjective. Things like your local market and the real estate agent you use can significantly impact the process, which is why it's prudent to partner with a top-rated agent who knows your local market inside and out.

If you're ready to sell your split-level home for top dollar, contact a top real estate agent who can provide expert guidance in selling this specific type of home and prepare you for the challenges along the way.

In the meantime, read on to learn more about what makes selling a split-level home a unique process and the potential obstacles you may encounter:

What is a split-level home?

By definition, a split-level home has a design where some rooms are on the same level of the front entryway, such as the kitchen and dining room, and other rooms are either half a level higher or lower.

When the design first emerged in the 1950s, home buyers went crazy. It was a fresh and exciting idea, plus provided a cost-effective option for building a large house on a small lot.

Key Features of a Split-Level Home

Typically, when you walk through the front door of a split-level home, you're immediately greeted by stairs leading up and down to the other levels.

In split-level homes, the front door sits in the middle of the house. To one side, there are stairs leading up and down to the upper and lower levels of the home. The other side is a middle level that's even with the front entryway.

Other key features include:

  • Asymmetrical facade
  • Low-pitched roof
  • L-shaped or horizontal configuration
  • Multiple attics
  • Large family room (typically on the lower level)
  • Partial crawl space
  • Minimalist exterior
  • Attached garage

Common Problems When Selling a Split-Level Home — and Solutions

If you've heard that split-level homes are hard to sell, the quick and easy answer is this: they can be. There are a lot of common problems that sellers run into that other homeowners don't.

Quick Tip: There are real estate agents who specialize in split-level homes.

Truth is, it’s not harder to sell a split-level home.
You just have to know how to sell it. Not all real estate agents have that specific training or experience.

At Clever, we offer a free service to connect you with the right kind of agent — with your choice of top-rated, full-service agents in your area. And since we bring these agents more customers that match their expertise, they even agree to lower their fees.

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Problem: Too Many Stairs

If you think you spend a lot of time treading stairs, you're probably not imagining things. Because the main living spaces are often on different levels, you'll be traveling up and down stairs more than if you had a traditional two-level home.

Solution: You Just Have to Frame it The Right Way

Don't think of lots of stairs as a problem. Instead, try to reframe it to your advantage. A typical staircase has about 13 or 14 steps, while split-level home staircases have about half as many. Because of the split design, the steps are shorter and easier to walk. Everything is more accessible this way, and you don't have to take a full flight of stairs all at once.

Problem: The Floor Plan Seems Choppy

Stairs separate many of the main living spaces, which can make the floor plan seem choppy. For example, the kitchen and living room may be on different levels of the home, which could make your split-level home harder to sell.

Solution: Emphasize Privacy

Like the stair situation, you just have to sell it right. One major benefit of a split-up floor plan is more privacy. People in the home can enjoy different things at the same time without interfering with each other. Mom can cook in peace and quiet while the kids watch TV, and neither one will feel overcrowded by the other.

Problem: Split-Level Homes Can Feel Dated

When many people hear the term “split-level home,” they conjure up images of The Brady Bunch and times gone by. This also brings up the notion of linoleum floors, wood paneling, and mid-century modern furniture, all of which can create a dated presentation of a home.

Solution: Updates Are Easy

Just because a home is split level doesn't mean you can't bring it into the 21st century. In fact, it may have already undergone extensive upgrades that make it just as appealing and modern as new homes.

This is where quality real estate photography comes in handy. Professional real estate photos can accent your home's best features and combat the idea that split-level homes are old-fashioned. If you partner with a good real estate agent, he or she can ensure your home looks great to buyers and make them want to see it in person!

Problem: Split-Level Homes Have Little to No Curb Appeal

Big garage doors, porch-less front entryways, and domineering rooflines don't offer much in the way of aesthetics. They just don't have the charm or allure of modern homes, and many buyers are at a loss for how they can add curb appeal.

Solution: It is Easy to Remodel a Split-Level

One of the best parts about a drab split-level design is having a blank canvas to remodel and make it yours. If you're not in love with the roofline, adding a few dormers can help to break up the appearance. Updating the siding can also give it new life.

If you want to make the home pop, make the front door easier to find. Add a small portico, canopy, or an enclosed foyer that's easy to see from the road.

Problem: Limited Natural Light

This is arguably one of the biggest design flaws of a split-level home. Most designers focused on adding windows to the front and back of the home, but not the sides. This lack of natural light can make end-side rooms feel dark and dreary.

Solution: Add Some Windows!

Just as you can add doors and walls to your home, you can also add new windows! It's a bit of an investment given the construction involved, but bringing in more natural light can create a cheery atmosphere to uplift your buyers. Windows can also make a room feel larger, so it feels like more space without having to incur the cost of adding square footage.

Top FAQs About Selling Split-Level Homes

Why did they build split-level homes?

The staggered floor plan of split-level homes gained steamed in the 1970s for many reasons. Home builders realized they could better utilize their lot with the tri-level because of its smaller footprint and maximum space. It was also a lot more affordable than other designs, which contributed to its popularity.

Do split-levels have basements?

Most split-level homes only have half a basement, although it's possible to have a full basement. Typically, the half-basement is under the middle level and raised slightly above ground level.

Is a split-level home considered two stories?

Though a split-level home consists of three levels, the home itself is considered two stories. The front entryway is placed between the levels.

Are split-level homes more expensive?

During their heyday, split-level homes cost less to build, which helped to lead to their popularity. They provided spacious square footage like larger homes, but occupied a smaller footprint. Today, split-level homes tend to be harder to sell, which could make them priced a little lower in the right market.

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