One of the first decisions you have to make after you’ve decided to build your own custom home is what the floor plan should be. Choosing between one story (“ranch”) models or multiple-story homes can be difficult, because it depends on a number of additional considerations.

This blog article is part of Castle Brook Builders’ Design and Build Process Series.Compare 4 different models of multi-story homes and ranch homes

Who’s going to live in your home?


The ages, lifestyles, and mobility issues of your home’s current and future residents are some of the biggest considerations when deciding on the basic layout of your home. If you have (or plan to have) small children in the home, stairs can be dangerous. If you have residents with mobility challenges or older residents, stairs can be difficult or impossible to navigate. If you’re planning to stay in your new home through your own retirement and later years, it’s important to consider how your home will adapt to your changing needs and abilities. A 1.5-story built on a hill, with a walk-out lower level, can allow you to have many of the advantages of a multi-story home while addressing some of the mobility issues.


Another consideration in deciding the layout of your home can be how much separation you want between your home’s residents and its various uses. Multi-level homes can allow you to have private bedrooms on one level and public entertaining space on another. In population-dense areas, multi-level houses allow the bedrooms to be above street level, improving both privacy and security.


Multi-level houses may have more separation between rooms, but that can come at a price: kids playing in bedrooms upstairs can cause a lot of noise for those on lower levels, and animals scampering up and down stairs can become irritating quickly. If you want a high level of quiet in some rooms, you may want a more spread-out ranch model.

How much do you want to spend?

Size of Your Footprint

If you’re building a multi-story home, you can put a lot more living space into a smaller square footage of a lot. This means if you have a smaller lot, you can still build a home with plenty of usable space by building upwards. Even if your lot is large, you can reserve more space for outdoor landscaping, gardens, water features, or other natural areas by building a multi-story home with a smaller footprint rather than a more sprawling, one-story model.

Building Costs

Building a home with a smaller footprint and multiple stories also tends to be much more economical because the foundation and the roof are the two largest construction expenses. (They can also be the most expensive to repair, maintain, and replace.) Plus, a smaller footprint allows you to build on a smaller lot, saving you money on land or allowing your dollar to stretch further in an area with pricier lots. 

Operating Costs

Many people report that temperature differences can be noticeable in multi-story homes, which can be to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on the floor plan and your local climate. Strategically planning a multi-level home to improve efficient energy use can lower your bills for heating and cooling, which could be done by installing independent-level temperature controls or dual furnace/cooling systems.

Will you be able to resell your custom home and recoup your investment? 


The model of home with the best resale value can depend on a few factors, including where it is located in the country. Realtors report that multi-level houses tend to be more popular and sell better in the Northeast and on the East Coast; ranch models sell faster in the South, Midwest, and West.


The general age and social climate of your local community can have a big impact, too. If your community is full of young families or senior citizens, ranch models may sell best; communities with a lot of young professionals or families with teenagers may prefer multi-story homes.

Surrounding homes

If most of the houses in your area or on your street are multi-family homes, building a ranch model may not be the safest investment, especially if your home is consequently much smaller than others.


Home trends change quickly, as do the needs of homebuyers. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 35% of American homebuyers of all ages currently prefer a multi-story home, 52% prefer one-story housing, and 13% prefer split-level homes. Older Americans and young families prefer one-story homes even more strongly.

However, a well-thought-out layout and floor plan can make your home enduringly appealing to a wide variety of buyers, no matter which model you choose. Certain features can make a two-story home more livable for a wide variety of ages and preferences, including second-floor laundry rooms, timeless kitchens, and bedrooms and full baths on each level. Modern amenities and open floor plans can also make ranch models more stylish. The key is to evaluate your family’s needs and lifestyle, and work with your design-build team to create the perfect home for you.


Castle Brook Builders will help you design and build the perfect home for your family in the Omaha area, from finding land and arranging financing to picking out the perfect model. Contact us to arrange a tour of our 2-story, 1.5 story, and ranch model homes to help you see your options up close, and check out our online gallery for inspiration.

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 17th, 2016.