Split Vs. Bi-Level House: Pros, Cons & Average Costs

Chad Kilpatrick
by Chad Kilpatrick

Choosing the right type of house comes down to personal taste, space needs, and availability. The market is flooded with every type of home you could imagine, but split-level and bi-level houses are among the most common. So, what is the difference between split-level and bi-level houses?

Split-level houses have 2-3 levels or more that are separated by a staircase and are built on hills or slopes. Bi-level houses feature 2 stacked levels that are connected by a middle room in between them on the ground level. Both types of houses can feature lower levels, but bi-level houses always feature an underground level with windows.

Both types of homes offer plenty of space and are ideal for families. However, it can be difficult to sell both bi-level and split-level houses at the moment because they aren’t as popular as they used to be. Follow along as we explore and compare split-level and bi-level houses.

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Split-Level House

Split level houses have 2-3 levels or more and each level is connected at a different grade or height. The average split-level house has a room such as a foyer that is set at one grade where the front door is. This room connects to a room below and above it that are each at different grades but serves as the base level for the home.

You can generally find split-level homes on hills or large downgrades where you cannot make each level even. There are several types of split-level houses, such as:

  • Side Split
  • Back Split
  • Stacked Split Level

The side split is a classic split level design, that has two-three rooms at different grades attached by a small staircase. Back split homes look like one level from the front, but the side and backyard reveal a lower and upper level. Stacked split homes are classic and feature one room with another room stacked directly above it.


  • Accommodates multiple residents
  • Spacious
  • Perfect for hillsides and slopes
  • Visually appealing


  • Requires lots of leveling
  • You have to use a different staircase for each level
  • Some split-level homes have an exterior staircase to reach the entrance

Bi-Level House

Bi-level houses feature 2 stacked levels that are connected by a room. You can access each of the levels via a staircase that can take you to the basement or upper level. Bi-level homes typically have a finished basement as the bottom level.

These homes will sometimes have a garage that either connect to the lower level or ground level. The entry level can be a foyer, a living area, a kitchen, or a front door area with a garage. Many bi-level homes will have just a doorway, leading to an upper, and lower level.

This is usually a small area, containing the staircases only. Bi-level homes are ideal for families because they can have multiple bedrooms. Family. They make great starter homes.


  • Affordable
  • Ideal for families
  • Often feature finished basements
  • Plenty of space


  • Easy to outgrow
  • Often sit on the market for a long time
  • The stairs can be tiresome


There are many options when it comes to designing, or redesigning one of these types of houses. They are sometimes considered outdated, however, you can spruce them up with just a few design changes.

Design options for split and bi-level homes:

  • Adding a skylight to the upper level. A skylight can change the whole tone and feel in a room by adding a little bit of light.
  • You can add recessed lights. This is another great way to make the home more modern while giving it a better lighting arrangement.
  • Basements in bi-level homes can be finished rooms. The basement part of a bi-level home is often finished out. Adding some charm can make it feel like home.
  • Split level homes, look good with multiple colors. In some cases, when each level is painted with a different color scheme, it makes the split level look unique.

Raised ceilings, in foyers, look great with a chandelier hanging, or recessed lighting. Having lots of windows, on the first level/connecting room, can give the room a great ambiance.

Hillsides and Underground Rooms

Split and bi-level homes can be built on hillsides or with underground basements, and levels. These levels are accessed by staircases. With a split level home, the bottom level could be a basement, completely underground, or just built down at a lower grade.

Bi-level homes will often have a fully finished basement, an upper level, and a small level, connecting the two with staircases.

Split levels often take advantage of hillsides or sloped properties. One level is built at a lower grade, on the hillside, usually in the back of the house. These look awesome when they have a stacked room or level above the bottom.

They can also be built without being underground. The ground can be dug down to different grades, for the different levels. For bi-level homes, the basement can be halfway in the ground, and halfway out, with small windows in the upper half of the basement.

Split and Bi-Level Home Popularity

Both of these styles of homes were most popular, in the 1970s and 80s. Recently they have made a comeback. The bi-level home is a great starter home for a family who wants to raise a child, or two, and then move to a larger home at a later time.

Split level homes have many design types that are sought after by people who love split level architecture. Some people may not like the designs of either of these styles. For that reason, buyers tend to be those, who want to have multiple occupancies.

Plus, they are affordable homes. It turns out that millennials are pretty good with money. They are buying smaller homes, like bi-level homes, renting out rooms, and making good financial decisions.

Split Level Homes With Bi-Levels

Some split level homes have a bi-level attached. These are homes, with levels set at different grades. One of the levels will have a stacked level. This is often done on the lower grade level, which connects to hillsides. Having stacked levels in the back of the home looks good.

Split levels can have bi-levels, going up and down, with a third level offset, from the bi-level design. These types of houses have many rooms and more space than your average smaller split level home.

When you look at these from the front, they may look like they are one level, but when you look from the side, you can see a lower level in the back. Split levels, can have more than one stacked level, with 2-3 more levels. These levels are connected by stairs, that lead up to the upper levels.

The price can vary, between the bi-level, and split level homes. The bi-level home will often be the cheaper of the two since they tend to have less square footage.

Average Cost

The price of real estate is different by location and availability. There are many things to consider when coming up with an average price. Bi-level homes are cheaper than houses with three stories. Bi-level homes are a great option for a first-time homeowner.

Both split-level, and bi-level homes, tend to sit on the market a little longer than more popular designs. This is good for the one who is buying, as the price may be reduced after an amount of time.

They are both cheaper to build than multi-story homes. Some of them are older homes since the styles were more popular in the 70s-80s. This makes them more affordable, for people who do not have a huge budget for remodeling, or purchasing.

Expect to pay from $115,000 to $200,000, for a bi-level, or split-level home. The price depends on the condition of the home, the location, and more. If you are planning on building one of these styles, then you can expect to pay less for multiple reasons.

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Chad Kilpatrick
Chad Kilpatrick

I'm a writer that is passionate about home improvements, remodeling, and renovating. I enjoy learning new skills and techniques and sharing them with others.

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