Helpful Buyer Info

What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

When showing homes to first-time home buyers we often end up in Splits and Raised-Ranches as they tend to be smaller in square footage and in the lower price points for their town/marketplace.

Whichever house style we enter first, the buyers often ask me “what’s the difference between this one and the other one”. So I figured that there are lots of folks who are asking the same question and why not share my answer with you all.

 

Raised Ranch House Style

Raised Raraised ranch style homench style houses were built in the Boston area from the mid-40’s to the 70’s and are occasionally still built today as individual custom homes.

They are typically built in this area on lots with high water tables, lots with stone ledge very close to the surface, or lots on a hillside.

Imagine building a single story ranch style home with a full basement and instead of sticking it in the ground up to the top of the foundation,  you set it on a flat spot carved into the ground anywhere from one to four feet deep.This gives you two stories of living space mostly above grade with full-height windows in the basement to give you air flow and sunlight.

Because of the foundation location, you enter the front door directly at the same grade as the driveway on the basement level and have to go upstairs to the main living level (see sketch).raised ranch schematic

You will enter on the level with a family room, utility/mechanical room, laundry/bath, possibly a bedroom, and if there is one, the garage. There will be a full set of stairs to the side of the front door that takes you up to the main living level where you will find the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms and one or two full baths or a bath and a half.

In many towns they are found along rural roads or what were rural roads at the time in clusters of several homes that were built at the same time.

As these homes are anywhere from forty to seventy years old, their heating/cooling systems, wiring, plumbing, windows, doors, and other systems have probably been replaced or updated. If they haven’t been, they are easy to do and a great way for first time buyers to generate some sweat-equity.

When available, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, generally low prices, and great use of space. So if you’re looking for all those things, a raised ranch might just be your perfect home.

Split-Level House Style

split-level style houseSplit-Level houses are a variation on the raised ranch style and are also called Splits, Split-Foyer and Bi-Level houses. Splits are built with the foundation sunken deeper than Raised Ranches, usually four to six feet into the ground, and the driveway is excavated level with the bottom of the foundation. Unlike a raised ranch which has full-height windows, the lower level tends to have short windows.

In Splits, you always have to go up a half-flight or more via exterior stairs or a sloping walkway from the driveway level and enter the door to a landing or a small foyer.The doorway is often recessed and sometimes the main level of the house is cantilevered out over the basement level, creating a natural indentation and very clear way-finding to the front door.

Once inside you immediately have to make a decision to go up a half-flight of stairs or down a half-flight of stairs, hence the name split-level (see sketch).split-level house scematic

As with a Raised Ranch, upstairs you will find the kitchen, formal dining and living rooms and the bedrooms/baths. In many of these homes the owners have opened up the original walls between the kitchen and dining/living rooms giving them a wonderful flow and nicely supporting the behaviors of today’s lifestyles.

Also like the Raised Ranch, downstairs you will often find a family room, utility room, possibly some miscellaneous finished space, and the garage (which is usually located under the bedrooms).

Splits were designed to be inexpensive homes giving two stories of living space while minimizing foundation and roof costs.

While most of them have full-height basement levels, there are many that have basement levels that were shortened to cut building costs. So if you’re tall you might want to find one with forced hot water heating systems that don’t require big duct work.

In Metrowest developers built them mostly in large developments (by New England Standards) that have evolved into wonderful family neighborhoods of thirty to forty similar homes. Depending on the original price point, they can have a variety of finishes and architectural details on their fronts, such as faux stone, brick, awnings, and bay/bow windows. They will hardly ever have front porches, and are often fitted with screened-porches or raised decks off the back of the dining rooms with stairs down to grade.

Splits don’t tend to handle additions well, so many folks buy them as starter homes and then sell/move when they find they have outgrown them.  Because of this and the fact that so many of these homes were built, they are almost always available for sale in all local marketplaces.

Summary

Whether it’s a Split or a Raised Ranch they be a very practical layout, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, they have generally lower asking prices, and they make great use of all available space. So if that’s what you’re looking for, one of these just might be your perfect home.

Closing Checklist … Items You’ll Need at Your Closing

Closing Checklist … Items You’ll Need at Your Closing

Okay, so now you’ve bought/sold a house and the closing is happening soon.

If it’s your first time or your first time in a long while here’s a quick primer.

If you bring the following, you should have everything you need.

  • New Deed drawn up by your attorney. (sellers)
  • Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide certificate of compliance (sellers)
  • Title V certificate of compliance (if serviced by private sewer) (sellers)
  • Final water/sewer bill, stamped paid in full (if municipal service not serviced by well) (sellers)
  • Keys and garage door openers ( leave duplicates in a drawer in the house) (sellers)
  • Copies of any paid bills or affidavits required for work done after home inspection issues were negotiated. (sellers)
  • Instruction booklets, receipts, builder drawings and anything else you have that the buyer could find very useful after moving in to your home (leave them in a drawer in the house). (sellers)
  • Copy of receipt or statement for fuel oil in the oil tank and/or propane in the propane tank (if applicable) (sellers)
  • Driver’s license or another form of personal identification. (sellers & buyers)
  • Your personal checkbook for miscellaneous items and/or adjustments. (sellers & buyers)
  • Certified check or cashier’s check drawn in Buyer’s name or whatever the conveying attorney specifies for the difference between the sale price of the property and the amount of the mortgage less any deposit already made. The final amount will be spelled-out in detail on the form known as the HUD1. (buyers)
  • At the closing, the bank may require 2-3 months tax payment (to be held in Escrow by the Bank); PMI when applicable will be collected for the first year. The exact amount can be obtained from the mortgaging bank prior to the closing; it will be spelled-out in detail on the  HUD1. (buyers)
  • Additional fees can be paid with cash or personal checks. The exact amount can be obtained from the bank’s attorney prior to or at the closing. (buyers)
  • Personal property of the sellers can be paid with cash or personal checks. (buyers)
  • Remaining fuel oil in the oil tank (if applicable) can be paid with cash or personal checks. (buyers)
  • Paid insurance policy or binder for the new property (whichever the conveying attorney specifies) in an amount equal to the amount of the mortgage. Ask your insurance agent for advice on this matter. (buyers)
Mortgage Rates Today and A Historic Perspective

Mortgage Rates Today and A Historic Perspective

Interest rates today have gone up a bit but are still at historic lows and they’re still very favorable for buyers. I’ve put together this simple chart to illustrate how historically low they really are.

  • Today……………………………….4.625 %
  • 2013………………………………………….4.125 %
  • 2004 & 2005……………………………..5.71 %
  • 2003………………………………………….5.92 %
  • 1998………………………………………….6.79 %
  • 1990’s (average)………………………….9.80%
  • 1979 – 1989 (double digits)………….10+ %
  • 1987 drop…………………………………..9.2 %
  • 1980’s (average)…………………………12.62 %
  • 1973-1980 (average)……………………9.43%
  • 1973-1982 (range)………………………7.44 – 17.49%

 

Note: these rates are for 30 year conventional fixed notes with grade A credit scores on single family homes, your experience may vary. Data courtesy of Keith Munsell at Leader Bank.

When I bought my first home, in the late ’80s, I remember paying an extra point to lock in the interest rate at 14.5%, and thought I had gotten such a fabulous deal as the rates were going up weekly Sure enough when we closed they had gone up to 15.75%.

Interesting aside, as of today the rate for a 30 year fixed JUMBO mortgage is lower (4.25%) than it has been in a long while. Great news for buyers looking to upsize.

Experts are predicting that all the rates will continue to stay low at least for the next year, so if you’re thinking of selling or buying, now is a really good time to call a realtor (shameless plug for me). I hope you found this interesting.

%d bloggers like this: