I love single story homes for a number of reasons we’ll outline below, even though for my personal home, I tend to be attracted to 2-story properties.
Growing up on the east coast, every home I visited always had stairs. When you live in an area with limited space, builders have no choice but to build up. I have fond memories like most kids of running up and down the stairs, or playing in the basement; even pretending the stairs was some type of indoor slide. Outside of being a kid, stairs provide a number of benefits to adults too. Two-story homes allow for soaring open air living spaces, beautiful balconies in and outside the home, and front elevations that give homes a "grander" curb appeal. But apart from the improved visuals of the home and extra square feet from floors stacked on top of each other, that’s really where the benefits end to having a two-story home.
The Downsides to 2-Story Homes
Heating & Cooling - open air floor plans that go to the second story can waste a lot of heat and AC during the year, even in newer high efficiency homes. Heat rises and you can’t bend the laws of thermodynamics. So the upstairs always tends to be hotter, and the downstairs always tends to be cooler. In a dual zone house this means one unit is always working harder than the other. This is extra maintenance costs for you as the landlord, especially if you have a tenant that tries to get that one bedroom downstairs the same temperature as the rest of the house in the winter. HVAC maintenance kills cash flow.
Settling - If you’re going to buy and hold a property for a long term rental (10+ years) you will have to deal with settling and squeaky floors. While a minor annoyance if it’s someone’s own home, every time you turn the property over and have to show it to a new potential renter, the age of the home will show when people walk the house. If your property is in a area with bad soil, foundation problems often come up. A two-story home with foundation issues is more expensive to fix than a one-story home. You have more weight and potentially more cracks across two floors.
Water, Water Everywhere - If you have a two-story property the water heater will typically be in the attic and not the garage like a one-story home. I’ve lived in two separate homes where the water heater has cracked while we were away for the weekend. Not only is it a pain to fix a water heater in the attic, but the sheet rock damage to two-story ceilings are also expensive to get repaired.
Benefits to 1-Story Homes
Renovation - If you want to update an older kitchen with can lights or drop in a new light fixture, it’s easy with a single story home and attic access. If your kitchen is below a bedroom or second story bathroom in a two-story home, you won’t be able to easily make those updates. From hanging Christmas lights to security cameras, all of this is much easier on a single story home.
Heating & Cooling - A one-story home usually means one AC unit and not two. Less to fix and you typically have a more consistent temperature throughout the home.
Accessibility - People are living longer but knees are not. Single story homes make your property available to more renters who don’t want stairs.
So if you like the prestige of a two-story property, it’s fine; just keep it for your personal home.
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