Greater Boston is bursting at its seams with incredible examples of some of the most iconic architectural styles in history. In fact, people often travel to Boston simply to take in its many well-preserved buildings. For those who are house-hunting in Boston, however, it pays to consider as many different types of homes as possible. As nice as it would be to own a lovingly preserved historic home, the reality is that most people need something that's a bit more practical. Split-level homes are a prime example. Boston City Properties is here to bring you up to speed regarding split-level homes, so read on below to learn more.
Anyone who has ever lived in or visited a suburban area is already familiar with split-level homes. Featuring staggered floors, these homes skyrocketed to prominence during the 1950s and 1960s. Also known as tri-level homes, they usually boast two sets of stairs--one that brings you to the upper floor and one that brings you to the lower floor. In fact, upon walking in to such a home, you often must either go up or down; there is usually not much of a "main floor" to speak of.
Based on that basic description, it is easy to assume that split-level homes are quite small. In reality, however, they can be positively massive. The question, however, is why did this design come into being in the first place? Mostly, it was developed as a compromise between ranch style homes and colonial homes. The former sprawl out across a single story while the latter typically consists of a main floor and an upper floor, where the bedrooms are usually located. Heating and cooling a two-story home can be expensive, and many people dislike dealing with long sets of stairs. In a split-level home, you get a nice compromise.
The "main level" in the typical split-level home is actually located partially below ground. Indeed, in most homes of this style, you must descend the stairs near the entrance in order to get to the main living area, where you will find the living room, family room and even the kitchen. However, in some homes of this kind, the kitchen is located on the actual main floor. Sometimes, it is the only area on the main floor.
There are some advantages to having the main living area partially below ground. Most notably, this is advantageous in warmer climates, as lower levels tend to stay cooler more easily. Obviously, this isn't much of an issue in Massachusetts, where winters can get downright frigid. Many people also like the cozy feel of hanging out in a lower level of the home.
Getting around a split-level home is easy due to its layout. Unlike in a colonial, where you must climb up and down long flights of stairs to cover every inch of the place, you only need to climb up and down short sets of stairs in a split level. As a result, cleaning a split-level home tends to be a lot easier. Not surprisingly, elderly folks often prefer split-level homes over colonials because there are fewer stairs to deal with.
A few additional characteristics of a typical split-level home include:
• Deep-set eaves - Sections of the roof on a split-level home typically extend beyond the outside walls. This creates deep-set eaves that add a distinctive look to these homes.
• Low-pitch roof - Roofs on these homes are typically low-pitched, which isn't ideal for a cold climate like Boston's, where ice and snow can easily accumulate. Despite this, split-level homes are quite popular in suburban areas around the state.
• Integrated garages - Because split-level homes rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, when cars had been dominating the landscape for some time, they almost always include attached, or integrated, garages. This is very advantageous in a place like Massachusetts, as it means that you can get into your car without having to brave the elements. Automatic garage door openers sweeten the deal even more, and they are pretty standard in homes like these nowadays.
• Finished basements - Because the upper and lower levels of split-level homes tend to be fairly compact, homeowners almost always go ahead and finish the basement. Since these homes have been around for many years in most areas, the vast majority of them have finished basements that can serve as playrooms, workout rooms or to serve other purposes.
You don't have to be vastly knowledgeable about Boston to know that split-level homes aren't really a thing in the city. This is due to the nature of urban planning, which requires homes that accommodate areas of dense population. Therefore, if you want to live in the actual city, you can forget about living in a split level. However, if you are searching for homes in outlying communities and suburbs, it should be fairly easy for you to find what you need.
Modern single-family home design has largely moved away from the split-level model. As a result, it isn't easy to find new homes that are based on this design. The majority of homes like these were built between 1950 and 1980. If you want to live in a split level, then, seek neighborhoods that were built during this period. Because these tend to be older homes, it is especially important to have them thoroughly inspected before closing.
Many variations of the split level exist. For example, some split level homes have exterior staircases that allow you to access different levels of the home from outside. This style tends to be more popular in warm climates, however, so you are unlikely to find it in Massachusetts. Some homes like these have main floors as well as upper and lower floors. In others, the "main floor" area is basically just the foyer. You must go either upstairs or downstairs to access other parts of the home.
There aren't really any famous examples of split-level homes in greater Boston. This is mostly because these types of homes are practical and economical rather than architecturally interesting. That's not to say that split-level homes are inferior to others. It just means that they are typically built for more utilitarian reasons. It is perfectly possible to find an elegantly appointed split-level home. Many older split levels have been extensively renovated, remodeled and modernized, so it is pretty easy to find a gorgeous split level that is every bit as charming as newer, flashier homes in the area.
Are you interested in purchasing a split-level home somewhere in Massachusetts? Let Boston City Properties lend a hand. Sign up to get immediate, free access to our continually updated database of Massachusetts real estate listings. Select the neighborhood, town or city of your choice from the list to limit your search to the area. Use search filters to dictate your preferences for size, total beds and baths and price. Search suburban and rural areas to more easily find split-level houses. Later, call us to be put in touch with a real estate professional in the area of your choice. They can help you find great split-level homes and otherwise assist you with your search. For more info, call Boston City Properties today.