Updated July 29th, 2019
Ranches are one of the most popular houses in the United States. They are undeniably American and have remained a staple of U.S. architecture since their creation in the 1920s. Today, homeowners are drawn to them for their open floor plans and ease of access for those with reduced mobility.
If you’re interested in buying a ranch-style house, working with a local real estate agent can help make house hunting and purchasing much easier.
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In this guide, we’ll look at ranch-style houses: what makes them unique, what makes them great, and what makes them not so great.
What is a “ranch-style” house?
A “ranch-style” home is a house that features a close-to-the-ground design, open interior, and long floor plan. The style is definitively American and fosters a casual environment where residents can move easily from room to room.
Ranch-style homes tend to be between 1,500 to 1,700 square ft and often feature an attached garage. Many homes in this style are L- or U-shaped with dramatic eaves and sliding glass doors that open onto patios.
Why is a ranch house called a ranch house? A Brief History
Ranch houses were inspired by the North American Spanish colonial architecture prominent throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The first modern ranch houses were built in the 1920s, but they rose to popularity during the postwar population boom. Their simple construction made them the perfect style to accommodate the millions of soldiers starting families after returning home from overseas.
At the peak of their popularity in the 1950s, 9 out of 10 new homes in the US were built in a ranch style. Each region of the United States put their own spin on the style, with the Midwest and Northeast adding colonial features to spawn the Colonial Ranch. In the Southwest United States, traditional ranches were popular because of their low design and dramatic eaves which helped fend off the heat.
The ranch’s popularity began to wane in the late 1960s but has been experiencing a revival since the late 1990s. Today, they are popular among first-time homeowners for their affordability, great design, and ubiquity across the country. Senior citizens and those with reduced mobility also appreciate their flat layout as it doesn’t require them to go up and down the stairs often, if ever.
The ranch has evolved since its birth in the 1920s. Now, homeowners can choose between many variations like California ranches, split-level ranches, raised ranches, and more.
What are the defining characteristics of a ranch-style home?
Ranch-style homes are defined by:
- Flat and close-to-the-ground design
- L or U shape
- Open interior
- Dramatic eaves
- Backyard and patio
- Sliding glass doors
- Separated bedrooms
- Full basements
Nowadays, there are few variations with their own standout features:
- Suburban ranch: The typical post-WWII ranch. They are smaller than other variants and tend to be built on concrete slabs.
- Raised ranch: These homes have two levels. They are sometimes referred to as split-entry houses because you need to go either upstairs or downstairs as soon as you walk through the door.
- Storybook ranch: These homes are similar to the suburban ranch but feature more ornamentation.
- Split-level ranch: These homes have three levels. On the middle level, there is a kitchen and living space. On either side of this floor, there’s a set of stairs going up to the bedrooms and another set of stairs going down to additional rooms.
- California ranch: The California ranch is similar to its siblings but draws more on Spanish architectural influences.
Buying a Ranch-Style Home
Here are a few advantages and drawbacks to buying a ranch-style home:
- Great for the elderly and those with limited mobility: Ranch-style homes usually only feature a single floor. Senior citizens and those with reduced mobility will have an easier time getting around these homes as they don’t require using the stairs.
- Easy escape: Although it’s unlikely, emergencies do happen. In the case of a fire or other emergency, ranches’ low design makes it easy to jump out the window and escape.
- More space: Stairwells can take up hundreds of square feet in a home. Ranches do away with this problem by keeping everything on a single floor.
- Easier to maintain: With a ranch, you don’t need to worry about how you’re going to clean the second-floor windows or paint the upper part of your home. Everything’s on one level, so it’s easier to maintain the exterior of the house.
- Some renovations are easier: If you want to add a skylight, just cut a hole in the ceiling and you’re good to go. There are also no load-bearing walls, so you can knock down any wall you like.
- Safer for children: Parents with children don’t have to worry about their kids falling down the stairs in a one-story home.
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- Reduced privacy: All rooms in a ranch are street level. This means that unlike a two-story home, anytime you open the curtains, passersby can straight into your home.
- Inefficient property usage: Ranches keep everything on one level, which means they require more square footage. Other styles can double their square footage by adding a second floor, but ranches can only build horizontally, not vertically. To add more square footage, you’d need to buy more property.
- Smaller yards: Because of their large space requirements, ranches also tend to feature smaller yards — the house itself eats into the land that could otherwise be used for a yard.
Ranches are one of the most popular American house styles — and for good reason! They are simple, easy to navigate, and foster interaction between family members because of their open interior design.
If you’re interested in purchasing a ranch-style home, speak with a local real estate agent who can help you find the perfect house for your needs.
Clever connects buyers with top-rated local real estate agents from major brands like Keller Williams, Century 21, and RE/MAX who can help you navigate the complex home buying process. Our Partner Agents will use their years of experience to get you the best deal possible on your new home. What’s more: all Clever Partner Agents have agreed to a pre-negotiated $1,000 Home Buyer Rebate that you can use to help cover your closing costs.
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Top FAQs About Ranch-Style Homes
1. What is the average size of a ranch home?
The average size of a ranch home is approximately 1,500 square feet. However, this can vary based on the specific ranch style. Suburban ranches, for example, tend to be smaller, while raised ranches and split-level homes often have more interior square footage since they have two levels.
2. How much does it cost to build a ranch-style house?
Across the entire United States, the average cost to build a 2,500 square foot ranch-style house is $433,500. Based on this figure, a 1,500 square foot ranch would cost approximately $260,100 to build. This is more expensive than a similarly sized two-story home, which would cost approximately $295,000 for 2,500 square feet and $179,150 for 1,500 square feet.
Keep in mind that building costs will vary depending on your region. A home in your area could cost much more or much less than the national average.
3. Are ranch houses more expensive than two-story homes?
Yes, ranch houses are more expensive than two-story homes. The average cost to build a 2,500 square foot ranch in the US is $433,500, but it’s only $295,000 for a 2,470 square foot two-story house. Ranches are more expensive because they require a bigger foundation and more roofing than a two-story home.
4. What’s the difference between a ranch-style home and a bungalow?
Ranches and bungalows both have only one floor, but ranches tend to have a rectangular or asymmetrical design while bungalows usually have a square design. Bungalows don’t have an attached garage and feature a less open floor plan. However, bungalows often offer more privacy than ranches do.
5. What’s the difference between a “raised ranch” and a “split-level” home?
Raised ranches do not have a middle level, but split-level homes do. When you walk through the front door of a raised ranch, you are immediately presented with a staircase: one side leads up, the other leads down.
When you enter a split-level home, you walk into the middle level, which contains the living room and kitchen. On either side of this level there are a set of stairs that leads up to the bedrooms, and another that leads to additional rooms. In a way, a split-level home is like a raised-ranch and suburban ranch combined.