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The first thing to pay attention to when you’re checking out a house for sale

If you want to buy another house for reasons other than a job move, then you’ve likely outgrown your current home or perhaps you’ve decided the floor plan no longer works.

If that’s the case, you’re going to find a lot of different floor plans when you start house hunting. We thought a basic description of the various layouts might give you some perspective when you go to an open house or look at a home.

First, consider home buying as a series of steps similar to finding a mate — and just as emotional. It starts with the date. Buyers sometimes get emotionally involved when they first see a home. They fall in love with the extras, the finishes to the home. Everything seems perfect. They forget to take a moment to be realistic, to confirm if the floor plan will work for their present or future needs. But nonetheless, they tie the knot and buy the home.

Next is the honeymoon. The hopes and dreams of homeownership start to mesh with the reality of living in this new, not-so-perfect-anymore place. Your family starts to make adjustments and compromises. Finally, when you just can’t deal with the irritants of the floor plan any more, a breakup seems imminent. Again, you look longing for a new house.

So before you fall into the love-at-first-sight trap, let’s look at the design aspects of the common floor plans found in Anchorage homes.

Ranch — This floor plan works with all buyer profiles, and is most desired by the senior population. One level convenience is evident. Yet the ranch home is the least built in Anchorage. The larger footprint is the most expensive to build when compared to other designs of similar square footage.

Also, many of Anchorage’s older ranches are more compartmentalized than current tastes, so remodeling is needed to open up and modernize the living spaces.

Two-story — Divide the ranch in half and you have a two-story. Needing only another set of walls and floor, the upper level is less expensive to build than the main level. Since rooms can be placed on both levels, the lot size can be smaller. The two-story design has two variations to fit different lifestyles.

Traditional — In a traditional two-story the bedrooms are upstairs, with the living areas and garage on the main level. This allows groceries to be quickly shifted from the car to the kitchen. Everyday life activities, except for sleeping, have the similar one-level convenience of a ranch. Newer two-story homes may even have a den/office on the main level. There is usually at least a half bath to accommodate guests. Yet the master-sized suite with private bath remains on the top floor.

Reverse — The living area on a reverse two-story is moved to the upper level with bedrooms on the lower floor. Natural light from higher ceilings and larger windows on the upper floor enhances the main living area, and views might be less obstructed by other homes. Having the bedrooms on the lower level helps keep rooms cooler and darker in the summer. However, anticipate running up and down stairs to bring in groceries, get something from the garage, and answer the doorbell. For guests who have difficulty navigating stairs, this could be an issue.

The split entry was the dominant floor plan built in Anchorage in the 1960s-1970s. Imagine a ranch “split” in half, set in a hole half the size of ranch foundation. The windows on the bottom level are just above grade — which is a tell-tale sign from the outside you are looking at a split entry. Stairs usually enter from the midpoint between the two levels with a half flight up and a half flight down. Bedrooms and baths are split between levels, and usually there is a family/play area.

A split entry has a few negatives. One can be a very small front entry with sometimes just enough room to open and close the door. Short of remodeling to expand the entry, this creates a very cramped area for guests to come and go. Depending on the layout, family members may come in through a different garage entrance to the home. Another negative is that groceries will need to come up from the garage on the lower level to the kitchen on the upper level.

Multi-levels are ranches broken into at least three pieces. The proportions can vary, but each piece is stacked and offset, and connected by half flights of stairs — up or down. This creates more stairs to traverse to get between levels, so room sizes may also suffer.

A story-and-a-half is a favorite floor plan of many, but this build is another rare find in Anchorage. It combines the convenience of a ranch with the master suite and laundry on the main level, but shifts the extra bedrooms upstairs. This shift in room location means the lot size doesn’t need to be as large, and the overall cost is less by moving some construction to a less expensive level.

This is the perfect floor plan to age-in-place since parents have continuous one-level living, and kids still have bedrooms when they come home to visit after college. With a little planning, wheelchair accessibility can be built-in with larger door openings and a master with walk-in shower. Consider having an open design on the main level (instead of compartmentalized rooms) to enhance interior spaciousness.

Now when you start your home search, walk through with an eye on how your family will live and use the space before you fall in love with the finishes.


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