About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.


  1. 1
    The Tim says:

    In case it’s not obvious, I really hate split entry homes. A pox upon whoever thought those up.

  2. 2

    They do tend to sell for less, so there’s that advantage. What amazes me is how many of them there are that are not somehow the result of the slope of the lot.

  3. 3
    Anon says:

    On the other hand, the *tri*level is a very practical floorplan that I wish would come back in a more modern form.

    I would really like to see some way to convert a split-entry home into something attractive. I haven’t seen one decent conversion yet. People try all sorts of things to mask the ugliness but it doesn’t work well.

  4. 4

    Agreed. Not my favorite configuration either and most of my clients over 50 have no interest in viewing them. Its like…you open the front door…step in…but you’re not quite home just yet!

  5. 5

    Agreed. Not my favorite configuration either and most of my clients over 50 have no interest in seeing them. You open the front door…step inside the house…but you’re still not fully home just yet.

  6. 6

    Not all split entry homes are the same. The ones with the small ” landing pad” when you first walk in make me want to run away fast. Some of them are just designed a little nicer, but for the most part, they sure as heck weren’t built in the ” golden age of architecture.”

  7. 7
    ChrisM says:

    Eh. I grew up in one. They’re not *that* bad.

    Perhaps the more interesting question is, what discount would you demand for one?

    Also, lifestyle question: split level vs. small/large lot (where small/large is left as an exercise for the reader)?

  8. 8
    Pegasus says:

    Split-level, tri-level, rambler…they are all cracker boxes. Unless you spend $750,000 plus you get a box house that could have been built by monkeys and probably was. The American public is being criticised for buying all that plastic junk from China when all they have to do is buy an American-built home to accomplish the same goal…trash!

  9. 9

    RE: Pegasus @ 8 – You can avoid much of that concern by buying an older house. As I’ve mentioned before, when we were looking we avoided even looking at most stuff built this century. About the only thing that is better now than in the past is the electrical and the insulation, and you can often do a lot to improve the latter.

    In addition though, you can typically also get a much better lot at a given price by going with an older house. In the lower price ranges the lots on new construction tend to be fairly small.

  10. 10
    ray pepper says:

    dont like em..rather sleep in a basement with a gimp…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvG3xShmNIE&feature=related

  11. 11
    ARDELL says:

    Split entry homes are pretty good sellers in the lower price range because you get so much “extra” square footage on the lower level. If you like ramblers, they are simply a “raised rambler” with a bonus lower level. They are a rambler with a basement, but the basement is usually only partially underground. Great for hobbyists whose hobby takes a lot of interior space.

    For those not familiar with them, here are two of the most common floor plans of split entries and what they are called in different parts of the Country. NY calls them Splanches (Split Ranches) NJ calles them Raised Ranches. Here we call them Split Entry known elsewhere as Split Foyer. The most common builder term for them is a “bi-level”.


    The best way to value them is based on the main floor footprint though. You have to be careful not to overpay for how the lower level is configured. There is also a max you should pay for one, and you should not attribute the same price per square foot of the top floor to the bottom level. I wrote a post on how to not overpay for one a week or two ago that shows you how to lay out the value portions.


    Most anyone prefers a new 2 story home with the bedrooms up. But not everyone can afford them. Also, better to have the main floor footprint raised up over a lower level as the split entry does, when there is a view. Pushes that view up to the main living areas.

    Large mid-century modern homes built with Lake Sammamish views, like the ones you see in Lochmoor in Bellevue, were built as ramblers with basements. The split entry or not is only about whether the lot is flat or slopes down toward the back. . A rambler with a basement (one story with basement) and a split entry are really the same house.

    For some reason a lot of people like them better when the front portion of the basement is entirely underground. Seems silly as that is only better for the curb appeal, and extra light in the basement from windows in the front lives better.

  12. 12

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 6:

    Not all split entry homes are the same.

    You’re right there. Some are not merely rectangular boxes with a door in the middle of the front side.

    I just did a quick search of house types in my neighborhood, and the mean sold price of tri-levels was 85% of one and two story houses. The mean price of split entries was 82% of the one and two story houses. But if I only looked that the traditional ugly style of split level the mean was all the way down to 71%.

    Note though, even though the sample size was small, I didn’t try to account for condition of property, size of property, etc., and I would guess less was done to remodel the traditional split entry houses.

  13. 13
    One Eyed Man says:

    jumbo shrimp
    military intelligence
    luxury apartment
    rambler one flight up

  14. 14
    Sara says:

    I have never lived in one but it seems they would be nice for teenagers. You can send them down stairs and they have access to the backyard so they aren’t running through the middle of the house all the time.

  15. 15

    By Sara @ 14:

    I have never lived in one but it seems they would be nice for teenagers. You can send them down stairs and they have access to the backyard so they aren’t running through the middle of the house all the time.

    In post 2 above I noted that a lot of them were built where it was not a requirement of the lot. I can see why they’re built when the backside of the house is at the second floor level due to the slope of the lot. If it’s just a flat lot, I don’t see why they wouldn’t just build a traditional two story house.

  16. 16
    JJ says:

    I live in a split level and have not had any major problems with it. It reminds me of the brady bunch style, and has been great for familys, I can send the kids downstairs or go down there to get away from them. I also turned the bottom into a home office and the back slider has woods/mountain views so its very peacefull. It also can be remodeled fairly easily and the front doorway can be built out if its a major problem. If anyone is interested, here is a good resource to remodel splittys. http://www.dakotacda.org/pdf/splitvisions.pdf … Overall I love it !

  17. 17
    BillE says:

    I HATE HATE HATE split entries. I have a few reasons, but number 1 is the issue of entering the house when you have “stuff.” It can turn into a science project going in or out with something large like skis or even a large backpack. Even maneuvering in and out with an excited dog on a leash takes practice. The door and banister just get in the way. When the door’s open it cuts off half of the already small entry area.

  18. 18

    By BillE @ 17:

    I HATE HATE HATE split entries. I have a few reasons, but number 1 is the issue of entering the house when you have “stuff.” It can turn into a science project going in or out with something large like skis or even a large backpack. Even maneuvering in and out with an excited dog on a leash takes practice. .

    This can all be solved very easily. Just throw all the crap away that you have in the garage so that you can park your car inside the garage, and then you are entering into the bottom floor of the house just like a normal 2 story. ;-)

    The bigger issue is most split entries have kitchens on the top floor, so you have to carry all the stuff upstairs. I’ve seen a few where the kitchen was on the lower level.

  19. 19
    Scotsman says:

    I’ve seen a few that work well when they fit the lot and solve a slope problem. I’ve never lived in one and probably never will, but they have their place. It’s interesting that the market and pricing are so hard on them given the advantages in space utilization.

    I once lived in a large rambler that had the kitchen on one end with the master bd/family room on the other and almost 80′ between them. We logged a lot of miles in that home. Up and down may have been easier.

  20. 20

    By Scotsman @ 19:

    I’ve seen a few that work well when they fit the lot and solve a slope problem. I’ve never lived in one and probably never will, but they have their place. It’s interesting that the market and pricing are so hard on them given the advantages in space utilization.

    I don’t agree with Ardell (big surprise) on the space utilization issue. They are no more efficient than a two story house that has the entry on either the upper or lower level, with the only difference being a two story where the stairs didn’t switchback might be slightly more efficient. But that’s maybe 40 square feet of space–not a big deal.

  21. 21
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 20

    Cost effective. Most total square feet for the money, all else being equal.

  22. 22

    RE: ARDELL @ 21 – That I would agree with. In reading post 19 I mistakenly thought that you had taken the position that they were more efficient. Sorry.

  23. 23
    Timmcb says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 9

    I would also add plumbing to the list. Cast iron, while great corrodes over time and gives you that nice iron taste with a splash of grit. I’d take copper over it any day.

  24. 24

    RE: Timmcb @ 23 – I’d agree, but I’d take either over plastic or that hose crap. So that is an area where newer is not necessarily better.

    As I’ve mentioned before, another concern with cast iron is it has a lot more mass, and so you waste a lot of energy just heating the hot water pipes between the heater and the faucet.

  25. 25
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 22

    No problem. My fault not yours.

  26. 26
    ARDELL says:

    “I don’t agree with Ardell (big surprise) on the space utilization issue.”

    As to “space utilization” my Mom and Sister own one of these and they treat it like a Duplex with my sister and her children up and my Mom and handicapped sister down. Space utilization is most effective when people need to house ground level parents or handicapped persons who can’t do steps, and need a separate living space for themselves.

    Lower level can make a great “mother in law” unit as well.

  27. 27
    SG says:

    I don’t understand the hatred either – but hey! everyone’s entitled to their taste and opinion. We live in a split entry and enjoy every bit of the design. However, our lot did require it as it slopes down towards the front, so the house has two levels in the front with only the top level above grond at the back. The much maligned entry/foyer has ample space with double doors to bring in the largest objects. The one-and-a-half times ceiling height at the foyers looks dramatic. So we have an ‘elevated’ living room providing a nice view of our frontyard and neighborhood (we live in a wooded area) through the extra large windows. The french door between the kitchen and dining area opens to the level backyard. All bedrooms are on the “top” level, with the main towards the backyard. The lower level has the media room (smaller windows), office (full size windows), laundry room (no windows) and my workshop(no windows). There is even a door in the lower level leading out towards the side of the house. In general, I think split entries are a pretty good design – but hey I hate ramblers, so there you go.

  28. 28
    ARDELL says:

    One of my favorite split-level home styles is the “California Split”. Large sprawling homes. You don’t see them often in our area. The last time I saw one was in Redmond back in 2008.


  29. 29
    The Kid says:

    I think I’m going to be the lone dissenting voice here, but I actually LIKE split levels. I prefer them. I think the design creates a nice division of space. Guess I’m just weird like that. Stairs never bothered me.

  30. 30
    BillE says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 18:

    This can all be solved very easily. Just throw all the crap away that you have in the garage so that you can park your car inside the garage, and then you are entering into the bottom floor of the house just like a normal 2 story. ;-)

    The split that I grew up in didn’t have a door from the garage to the house. The lower floor was below ground level, the garage was at ground level.

  31. 31
    The Tim says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 28 – Split-levels I have no problem with. It’s split-entry homes that I despise.

    RE: The Kid @ 29 – Personally, stairs aren’t what I have a problem with. It’s putting the front door right in the middle of the stairwell for no good reason that is annoying.

  32. 32
    LA Relo says:

    I refuse to vote because as soon as I vote “TRUE” I’ll find a split entry home I actually like.

  33. 33
    kelly says:

    I LOATHE split entry homes! The tiny, cramped entryway, the usually tiny bedrooms, wasted dark gloomy space downstairs, and they are just plain ugly!

  34. 34
    mid says:

    We saw a number of them during our very long search for a house. A couple of them we actually liked – it made a big difference how the stairs were angled at the entry. The ones that had the lower stairs straight to the side as you entered made me feel like there was potential for a lot of accidents while juggling groceries or excited, clumsy mutts. The best one had the upwards stairs ahead and to the left, and the downward stairs to the left as well, with a wider landing – so, not the immediate sensation of possibly falling down the stairs, and having a moment to pause upon entering the house before being forced up.

    The moment of pause that an entry allows. That’s what most split levels are missing.

    Though we ended up with a 70 ft long daylight rambler – not ideal either.

  35. 35
    Barb says:

    Loads of split entry’s were build here in Boise, ID. Strange thing is people don’t like them in the lower price range areas of Boise and I have buyers tell me they don’t like them because poor people live in them. But put one up in the highlands area in Boise and they would like them then. Strictly a status thing around here. It shows in the price on our bench area they are practically given away then the northend as they call it they get spendy.
    Hud built a lot of these here in the 70’s for low income so the stigma remains and probably the same in other parts of the country. I live in one and family comes from back east and thinks we are living pretty high because back there they are raised ranches. All in a name perhaps.

  36. 36
    Ginny says:

    Yes ! They did build a lot of the split entry, bland, inexpensive HUD houses in Idaho. We inherited one in a small community ( that I love), but the house was NOT DESIGNED BY A WOMAN ( operation manager of the home). These have a hideously thoughtless layout/ traffic pattern. To complain about the small unsafe entry area & the style deprived front elevation is obviously redundant, but who wants the first view at the top ( or the bottom) of the stairs to be of the commode?? Who builds mini- galley kitchens w/ 2 running feet of countertop on each side of the kitchen sink & the stove, in a 4 bdrm family home ? Hey dude, you could cook popcorn in there, but hardly a family meal. Just opening a cupboard door at the same time as the oven or fridge brings on total gridlock. Plumbing is not efficiently grouped into a central core, but split into 2 or 3 diverse areas. And there are no doors OR windows on either ‘end’ of this structure .

    My fantasy is to (1) relocate the kitchen to address that utility core issue & make it an open “U” or island layout with a greatroom function, (2) make the 2 upstairs bedrooms into a single master suite, (3)modify the bathroom access doors to camouflage the ‘in your face’ view, (4) update, enlarge & add windows/ french doors, & (5) bump out (& forward )a welcoming porch/foyer that adds a more functional & safe entry into the home. .. or maybe, just bulldoze the poor thing & start from scratch.

    This is a dismal, pathetic example of exceedingly poor design.

    e stove sink

  37. 37
    Ann says:

    I invite you to come and see my split entry it has been remodeled and has an incredible view….I bet I can change your mind. 860-5756

  38. 38
    Shawn says:

    Would you post a few pics of exterior & interior upstairs especially. We love the NW home look and are drastically in need of facelifting/changing upstairs & entry floor plan for our split here in Colorado.

  39. 39
    Debra Ruffing says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 18 – I am trying to make a split entry into a ranch home. My reason is for health for my husband. If I can raise the door, I can put a porch on the front to make it accessible. I have a relative contractor and need to know if anyone else has ever done this and where to start. Again this house did not need to be a split…yard was not on a hill until house was built and they filled it in. I am going to leave garage and basement and make a new staircase down to the basement. Thanks for any help.

  40. 40
    Debra Ruffing says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2
    Can I add a door at the top floor level and get rid of the stairs and entry? I have a contractor who is a relative working for free…but he wants a design and I can’t find one on the internet.

  41. 41
    Weasel says:

    RE: The Tim @ 1 – Interesting. I’m about to buy a 2 owner 1980 split level, far better deal than all the boring old renoflips out there for the same price.

  42. 42
    Matt p says:


    I have seen some interesting splits that actually turned my views on split entry homes.

    This model is similar to a tri level or it could be called a “California” split.

    The entry is to a large living room with high ceilings, and foyer? area for shoes and a coat rack. Then the split entry is has been essentially pushed back. The kitchen and 2 bedrooms remain upstairs and the lower 3rd level has another living room/fireplace with two more bedrooms and bathroom. The garage also enters there.

    Kind of interesting – has 3 levels of living space, and an open concept feel with all the levels as they blend into each other.

  43. 43
    jenna says:

    I agree that split entry homes are horrendous. The entry looks odd and uninviting from the outside. You walk into an uncomfortable, uninviting space that doesn’t feel like you’re home. The bedrooms are in the basement (which just feels terrible, no matter how good the view is).


    Most split levels have a huge, ugly deck stuck onto the back of them to make up for the fact that you can’t walk out the back door into your yard. They’re an eye sore from the yard below and getting to your yard is a hassle.

    Plus, decks have pretty short lives. They look new for a year. Then, they enter the ‘going to need to be replaced soon’ stage for several years. Eventually, you find yourself hoping you don’t fall through every time you walk out onto it. For some, there’s an additional stage here where you just avoid using it because you’re hesitant or unable to cough up the cash for the final step, which requires thousands of dollars to replace the old, ugly deck with a new, ugly deck.

  44. 44
    Dennis says:

    I love the split level home , lived in one for 12 years raising two kids move to a new larger colonial home built in 1997 big an spacious but was falling apart after three years, lived in it for 19 years had to replace every thing from the kitchen to the roof the heat an ac distribution though out the house was uneven , bed room over the garage cold in the winter , high an vaulted sielings bad idear heat vents in the ceiling on the upper floors bad idear (heat rises) also too long of a run to bring heat from the basement to the top floor, most of these homes today have to have two and three heat zones, that’s crazy.
    Moving back into a four level split all brick two fireplace hard wood floors built in 1964, can’t Waite , in my opinion the sixties/seventies were when homes were built with pride.

  45. 45
    The Tim says:

    RE: Dennis @ 44 – Split level is not the same thing as split entry.

  46. 46
    Elizabeth says:

    I own a split and we actually also own a colonial house. Split is super practical with little kids, or parents that stay over (they go in finished basement while we sleep on top floor), they don’t need to be walking around on the same floor to use the bathroom etc., plus at least one room in the house (living room) is screen free. We have been thinking about moving but live in a great and expensive area. While we can afford a ‘two story’ home, we are getting less and less inclined to leave since splits are also practical when you get older… Our design esthetic is contemporary and we don’t accumulate crap. While we still need to make some esthetic tweaks, we mostly are not trying to make look our house like something it is not meant to be from the outside, and the inside is airy and contemporary. It has worked well for us and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they would become more popular again as they really are very practical for all phases of life and are not wasteful.
    The noise level and lack of privacy were overall much higher in the colonial, which we rent out now and which we bought from elderly people who couldn’t handle the house anymore.

  47. 47
    jane says:

    Did you do this remodel?#46? We are thinking of the same thing. Would love to see pictures if you did.RE: Debra Ruffing @ 39

  48. 48
    Christine Scordino says:

    I live in a 4 level split. Walk into the open floor plan living room, dining room, kitchen & an 8 by 12 pantry. Your home…once your fully in the home, go 5 steps down to huge den, separate laundry room, half bath & office that leads outside. Go 8 steps down to fully finished basement with a music room & bedroom. From entry go up 8 steps to 3 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms. We’ve had family stay over on all levels when we had a reunion. Our grandchildren can play video games in den or music in basement. You can’t do all that & keep an “eye” out in a colonial. We’re so brainwashed into what “is in” we can’t even think on our own outside the “in” …

  49. 49
    Nelda says:

    Wow, I must be really out of it. I live in Alberta, Canada. We have lived in a 4 level split for 16 years now and have always loved how the living areas are separated but NOT totally isolated from each other. I also like how our 2nd from the bottom level (family room etc) has nice large windows and in our lowest level we have a window well with a large window so there is a bedroom on that level as well. Our 1973 split is on a 1/3 of an acre lot (unheard of nowadays) and it had a carport on one side (ewww) so we framed in the carport to make a four season insulated sunroom with a porch on the front of it. I think our ‘curb appeal’ is good and we have a huge entrance room and closet.
    When I visit 2 storey houses I find that to go upstairs or down into the basement it is an ‘effort’ to do all those stairs at one time whereas to do 6 steps seems like a non-event that I don’t even notice (but I am probably benefiting from the exercise all the same). At our son’s two storey the kids might be put to bed on the upper level while we want to watch a movie in the family room in the lowest level–not great, a full floor between us. Generally 2 storeys have small (sometimes very small) footprints and therefore, little basements and almost non existent windows and natural light. (Bungalow basements have those same depressing tiny windows–good luck making a legal bedroom down there!) If you wanted to make a basement bedroom in a 2 storey (if you had the square footage and the larger window) for one of your kids, they would still be a disturbingly long ways away (which is one of the reasons our son is looking to move).
    I think that 2 storeys are popular now simply because they have that smaller footprint and around here that is pretty much all the builders want to build. Squish them in there as tight as they can on as many postage stamp sized yards as they can make. No ‘sprawling houses’ being built here anymore. As with most things you can follow the dollar.

  50. 50
    Frank Marcus says:

    I just bought a custom quad level home. Each level is about 900sf. You enter onto a 1000 sf first floor with vaulted ceilings. There are so many huge windows and doors. You cannot compare this house to a typical tri-level you find on a small lot in suburb. It is big, bright and airy. Vaulted ceilings everywhere. It is the most beautiful home I have ever bought, and one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen period. You cannot stereotype all multilevel homes.

  51. 51

    RE: Frank Marcus @ 50RE: Nelda @ 49 – You both need to read post 45.

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