The ranch house is the quintessential American home. It can reflect the architectural drawings of the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. It could be like the affordable blue-collar tract homes built to meet the demands of the burgeoning post-WW2 middle class.
Making its debut in the 1920s, the ranch house is an icon of America’s most prosperous years. After World War II, the U.S. became a world superpower in military might, political influence, and economic strength. The ranch house and the suburbs it inspired were built in great numbers to meet the demand of a growing middle class with a thickening wallet.
The single-floor, expansive ranch house was a popular choice for Americans for most of the 20th century. In 1973, single story homes made up 67 percent of new homes built. They’d fallen out of favor during the new-construction housing boom of the late 1990s until the housing crash of 2009. In 2006, single story homes made up only 43 percent of new construction. But recently, they’re making a comeback. And there are good reasons why.
Here are 12 reasons why fixing up a ranch house is a great idea:
1. Single-level Construction:
Single level construction is an advantage for several reasons. It’s great for young parents who aren’t keen to chase children up and down the stairs. Keeping the house tidy and the children supervised are so much easier when you only have one floor. With Millennials reaching their 30s and starting families, the one-story ranch house is increasingly attractive. Because of its layout, all areas of the house are easily accessible. Those with split-bedroom floor plans even offer the benefit of a master suite. This means parents get some privacy, too.
It’s also an advantage for aging boomers. Seniors are keen to remain independent as quality of life extends further into old age. The biggest obstacle to staying in their own homes is usually the stairs. And down the line, a ranch home is much easier to convert to ADA accessibility should mobility decrease.
2. Lower Impact on the Environment:
Not too big, not too small. The typical ranch house is just the right size for those who want a smaller carbon footprint. The moderate size means less environmental impact. Many older ranch homes will need energy efficiency upgrades to be really green. But the smaller rooms means reducing impact on the environment. Most ranch homes still have the same number of rooms, so there’s no impact on privacy.
3. Cheaper and Easier to Maintain:
Because of their smaller size, they cost less to maintain. Less of everything. Less heating and air conditioning to keep comfortable. Fewer materials to repair and redecorate. Less money to renovate. Fewer furnishings to fill. Even less energy and time to keep clean. With their compact size, including lower ceilings, a ranch house is much cheaper to fix up and maintain than a big contemporary home or an older period home.
4. Outdoor Access:
Ranch-style homes welcome the outdoors inside. The flat level and sprawling layout invites an indoor-outdoor living style. The design offers easy access to big backyards with the addition of full-wall sliders or French doors. Even with its smaller size, the ranch house feels bigger with its huge plate windows throughout. It encourages kids and parents alike to spend more time in outdoor activity. The addition of extended patios or decks make for great entertaining spaces, too.
5. Open Floor Plan:
Although not quite as open as modern designs, the ranch house already has an open floor plan with free flow. They’re also extremely easy to convert to a fully open plan. The divisions between living and kitchen space are usually more decorative than structural. And some owners have grown tired of the modern open floor plan. They’re looking for separate spaces for entertaining and formal dining areas. They want privacy in kitchens and utility areas. The ranch home can go either way. They’ll give you the separation you need without feeling closed in.
6. Easy Additions:
Ranch homes are easy to add on to. If you’ve ever thought about adding on an extra room or two, the ranch offers many possibilities. Ranch homes generally sit on larger properties than modern homes. Tacking on an extra room is simple. Because the design is simple and spread out, the additional bedroom or bath fits right in.
7. Simple Bones:
Because the ranch house style is so simplistic and clean, updates and upgrades are easy. There’s no historical board to contend with, and modern materials blend easily into the existing spaces. Upgrading a period home can be a nightmare when choosing fixtures that work with the style. Ranch homes are still relatively modern, and current trends work seamlessly into their design.
8. Design Freedom:
Because ranch homes have been favorites for most of the 20th century, you have decades of design choices. You can go all-in mid-century modern, with sleek brushed steel and sophisticated wood veneers. Choose to go modern with futuristic materials and clean lines. For a fresh look, go contemporary, with eclectic choices and trendy textiles. Ranch homes are less restrictive than periods homes that demand period décor.
You don’t have to think period when renovating your ranch home, either. Think cultural. Thanks to the clean design and flexible layout of the ranch house. They can slip on an Asian feel with ease, with a similar sprawling feel as a traditional home in Japan. Add Southwestern flair for a true “ranch” feel. The open floor plan also lends itself to the feel of a Moroccan riad or a Mediterranean courtyard. Let your imagination loose, because a ranch home offers room for it to run.
9. Location, Location, Location:
Ranch homes are usually located in stable neighborhoods that have been desirable for decades. Most have retained their suburban neighborhood appeal, while urban centers have grown upward rather than outward. This means they’ve retained value. Better yet, tan extensive infrastructure has grown around them.
Many new home developments are located in isolated areas. The housing boom of the 2000s meant cheap land grabs in distant suburbs for massive developments. After the housing crash, infrastructure growth stalled. Even as the market has recovered, they still offer nightmare commutes to work and schools. Community amenities like shopping and entertainment are still far in the future. Ranch homes from the 20th century have enjoyed decades of carefully constructed civic works for schools, roads, services, and shopping.
10. Big Yards and Mature Landscaping:
Mature trees and bushes are a valid selling point for a home. The sad, Charlie Brown trees that battle a harsh world with a few sticks and twine are a sorry sight in new housing developments. Ranch homes were designed to make the most of their big yards, with elegant evergreens and dramatic trees that make a statement.
While older homes may offer mature landscaping, many will have trees that have become intrusive and need to be removed. Bigger yards means more room for landscaping, gardens, and play spaces. The larger square acreage of ranch house properties means all sorts of possibilities for outdoor entertaining, including guest houses and swimming pools.
11. Affordable Yet Durable:
The smaller square footage often comes with a lower price tag, but that’s not because of inferior materials. Ranch homes were smaller, but built to last with great craftsmanship and durable materials. You’re not going to find Chinese drywall in an unrenovated ranch home. Finishes may need to be replaced because of wear. Fixtures may need to be replaced because of obsolescence. They may even need to be updated because of changing tastes. But the bones of the house will be sturdy enough to last for another 50 years.
12. All the Modern Amenities:
At least all the space for modern amenities. Although many of the amenities have improved, the ranch house still has enough room to fit them all. You won’t have any trouble replacing appliances, fixtures, or cabinets. Although the rooms are smaller, the scale of design elements hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years. A 2017 range will still fit into a 1960s kitchen. Despite the intervening years, the 20th-century ranch house still ticks all the boxes for modern living.
The American lifestyle hasn’t changed that much, either. The old family room may now be a media room, but families still live in their homes much the same way as they did 50 years ago.
Along with the great bang for your real estate buck, Americans are ready to revive the ranch house and all its benefits. In desirable suburban neighborhoods with great infrastructure, ranch homes are usually a great deal. They’re easy to fix up, cost less to renovate, and offer myriad possibilities for interior design. They’re great for young families and older retirees, keeping them relevant choices for home buyers.