New respect for the ranch house?

Post-World War II single-story homes are gaining favor among those who find them convenient. As they hit 50, some even make the National Register of Historic Places.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Aug 23, 2011 1:56PM

My parents still live in the 1950s ranch house where I grew up. Surprisingly, except for small bathrooms, it still seems a practical floor plan more than 50 years after it was built.

 

The fact that it was on one level, something my mother wanted when she was carrying babies around, made it an easy house in which to grow old.

These days, the humble ranch gets little respect. Homebuyers want two-story entryways, living rooms with cathedral ceilings and massive master bathrooms.

 

But in some quarters, the ranch house is gaining ground. As more of the homes reach 50, the age at which they're eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, more people are seeing something worth preserving.

 

"It's just kind of a plain house — well, that was the point," Richard Cloues, who is leading a campaign to protect ranch houses in his position with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, told The Wall Street Journal.

 

There are those who have long appreciated the modest ranch homes, built from around World War II until the early 1970s, when builders embraced the two-story home as a way to fit more house on less land.


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Among those who celebrate the joy of the modest ranch is Pam Kueber, who writes the blog Retro Renovation and has created an online community that shares advice on renovating while staying true to the ranch's roots. Her "Mid-Century Modest Manifesto" includes this section:

THERE IS MUCH TO APPRECIATE in our Mid-Century Modest homes.
And certainly nothing to apologize for.
GRANITE countertops? Who needs ‘em, especially when they come with
a home equity loan that stresses our family finances beyond our limits.
What silliness. What Insanity.
SHHHH! Don’t tell anyone, but our Mid-Century Modest homes,
because they are so unpretentious by today’s standards,
can be much more affordable to buy and to renovate.

She has links to more than 50 other blogs that celebrate midcentury modern or ranch-style homes. The magazine Atomic Ranch also includes the modest ranch-style home in its coverage.

 

Can the ranch house gain new respect?

"People just don't want them," Atlanta real-estate agent Cindi Sokol lamented to The WSJ, though she says she loves her ranch-style home.

 

Bill Adams, 62, another Atlanta real-estate agent, was a reluctant convert. He bought "an ugly ranch house" 15 years ago because he liked the neighborhood. His older clients appreciate that ranch homes have no stairs.

 

He likes that his ranch is easy to maintain and has lower energy costs. Plus, he told The WSJ: "Its ugliness has grown on me."

Be honest: Would you buy a ranch-style home?

 
50Comments
Jul 18, 2013 2:16AM
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I have a ranch that I have been trying to sell. I have lowered the price by 20,000 in the last few weeks. I now have it for Best reasonable offer. I don't know why it's not selling. I'm in a popular location in Maine, private road, cheap to heat. Easy to clean. I need this house gone ! I'm trying to relocate with my husband. I've done just about everything I can do except put a second floor on ! I am the lowest price house now. Any pointers ??
Mar 14, 2013 7:51AM
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My next home will be a ranch.  The reason:  So much easier to control the heating and cooling in them.  No stairs is nice but I do not mind stairs.. I HATE that it is so HOT upstairs in my townhouse in the summer. (old bad insulation I know) 
Mar 9, 2013 10:00AM
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We bought (and remodeled) a ranch house 9 years ago.  The main reason was that it has a spectacular view.  But as we grow older, we have grown to appreciate that we won't struggle with staircases.  Also, we like that the bedrooms are at one end of the house, and the living areas are at the other, allowing me to use the kitchen in the morning without waking those still sleeping.  We have family living in a house that is so "open" in it's floor plan that any sound echos through the entire house.

 

I love that we have visitors with more architecturally spectacular homes who tell us they'd live in our ranch house in a New York minute if they had our view.

Mar 9, 2013 7:29AM
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We bought a ranch-style (or rambler) as we call them in the Northwest 9 years ago, and have loved it!  We love that there are no stairs...so we can stay here forever (we are in our early 40's).  We love the large chunk of yard it came with (all our peers are living with tiny yards for their kids).  We love the simplicity of it.  And we love that we are paying off our debts living in it.

 

Mar 9, 2013 4:55AM
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I just moved out of my 3,400 sq ft two story into my1960's, 1900 sq ft ranch. Not only is it easier to heat and cool, it's easier for me (57) to maintain. Of course my insurance and taxes dropped, too. Under those carpets were hardwood floors, too! I love it!
Mar 9, 2013 4:41AM
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We had a two story house in our previous city but when a relocation occurred we choose to purchase a ranch. My husband and I are in our early 50's and decided this was a great opportunity to downsize from a 2800 sq. ft. 2 story to an 1800 sq. ft. ranch that we can retire in.

I love not hauling things up and down the stairs. My knees thank me.
Mar 9, 2013 4:25AM
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We bought a 1965 ranch, reluctantly from my perspective.  My husband grew up in one but I thought them dull until meeting this one.  The sellers had remodeled the kitchen, master bath and also professionally finished the basement.  The b'ment was key as it added 1800 sq ft to the 1800 main level, including a 4th bedroom/office.  With the baby boomers looking to downsize in the future we're thinking the ranch is a style that will sell fairly easily if we ever have to move.  Can't speak highly enough now of ranch style living! 
Mar 9, 2013 4:20AM
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I'd buy one because it's just easier to get around on one level when you have creaky bones.

However, what do I live in?  A 3 level townhome with a creek and woods that I love.  So I made it into one level by installing $6000 worth of battery/electric stair lift chairs on both stairways.  Now, I glide my 70 year old self up and down with laundry, books, trays, etc., with no strain on my hip or back, and no danger of a fall.   Stairlifts are cheaper than moving. 

Mar 9, 2013 3:07AM
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MY 96 YEAR OLD MOTHER STILL LIVES IN ONE ..GREAT WHEN YOU CANT WALK

AND GO UP AND DOWN STAIRS EVERYTHING ON ONE FLOOR.. SHE THOUGHT OF THAT WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG ,, SOMETHING TO CONSIDER.

Mar 8, 2013 11:26PM
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I've lived in both two story and ranch homes. There are good and bad points to both, but I much prefer my one-story ranch built in the early 90's.

We built this home when we were in our early 40's. We wanted something we could be empty nesters in, and something we could comfortably navigate when we got older. I am glad we did.

I've seen my mother-in-law go through torture with arthritic knees trying to negotiate the nightmare layout of a tri-level home. I swore I'd never have one of those beasts as long as I lived.

It may not be the trendiest style out there, but I love the layout, three bedrooms with two baths. A little on the smallish side, but perfect for the two of us now.

Jan 26, 2013 7:32PM
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When I thought about putting an inground pool in at our rancher, the home my wife and I bought when we first got married and raised our kids in, I thought it might not be smart $ wise. But, 1 floor, low maintenance, paid for. I can honestly say that I'm now glad I stayed simple.
Jan 26, 2013 7:09PM
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and loving it.  I grew up in ranch style homes in LA, WV and OH.  The best one was the OH home with an eat in kitchen that had huge cupboards and an attached laundry room, a huge living/dining room combo, three large bedrooms (one with double closets) and one small bathroom.  While I would have appreciated another bath, it was fine for our family of four.

 

After 25 years in a raised ranch, we intentionally bought a 2000 sq. ft. ranch and are remodeling it.

It has 3 small bathrooms, 4 bedrooms (2 small and 2 large), a family room, laundry room, living room, and a huge kitchen/dining room at the front entrance of the house.  Since we find ourselves doing most of our living in the kitchen, this is an ideal layout for us.  I can't wait to move in.

Jan 13, 2013 10:17AM
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Is the best type of home I ever owned. Consider that: 1- the stairs, to the 2nd floor, takes away from the useable surface of the second floor, 2 - the corridor, between the upstairs bedrooms, takes away from the useable surface of the 2nd  floor, 3 - The 2nd floor bathroom reduces the same floor space even more. That leaves the bedrooms to size of match-boxes, wherein you just have enough room for a bed and night table and one-foot space left to the surrounding walls. I am sick and tired that the home has "four bedrooms", in fact "cubicles with ceiling" and a jacked up price by $30K to $40K for a "fourth bedroom" In addition, the roof is very high and if you are do it yourself, like me, makes it more dangerous and more difficult, or more expensive to hire, to clean your gutters and inspect the roof whenever you want it or need it. My home is also on a slab which eliminated the many troubles with basement infiltration of water, with problems in uniform heating/AC temperature between floors. And if you are over 50s problems with up/down the stairs all day, etc. The home builder has saved money for "himself", not for you because the house has a smaller foundation and a smaller roof surface, and the bathrooms smaller appliances!

Up-keep your Ranch Style home and you could be just as much a proud home owner. Do what is good for yourself first, and if your friends laugh at you, find new friends... Live your life as you see fit not as your friends want you to!

Jan 13, 2013 9:13AM
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Yes I would...the first house we owned was a 5 room ranch with one bathroom...and 4 kids w/two adults in it. We did add on a t.v. room off the kitchen, but no cathedral ceilings, just normal height ceiling. After losing my first husband to a stroke..and remarrying in later years...we NOW live in a 9 room colonial...the rooms are spacious, we have 5 bdrms and 2 full baths...PROGRESS SOME WOULD SAY.  I SAY this house is wonderful for storage space, and "get away from each other space" with 2 tv;s...BUT...in later years who needs all  this space TO MAINTAIN AND CLEAN?  I would GLADLY consider a ranch house again...WITH 2 BATHROOMS...and all on one floor. Stairs are a nuisance as you get older, and 3 bdrms would  be most adequate for us now., MAYBE 4 to have a guest room the few times one is needed. The modern concept of LARGE LIVING SPACES, and spectacular Master bathwooms is wonderful...IF you can afford a cleaning lady or crew every couple of weeks. MOST people do not have cleaning personnel coming in...BUT an open floor plan CAN give you the "spacious " look you want without having 2 or 3 stories to maintain. Ranch houses ARE convenient, (with only one floor to take care of) and can be as lavishly set out as larger houses are...you just have to have the "right touch" to make it LOOK luxurious as you want it to, or as family friendly to those coming in.
Jan 16, 2012 8:47AM
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Ranch homes are pretty cool! Just got a 1959 2400 sq ft ranch house on the hillside in Woodland Hills.  We were lucky to get a huge lot with it - 11,000 sq ft. There is so much to appreciate with the single story plan (yes my knees appreciate it) with vaulted ceilings and large rooms. The livingroom / den / dinning room combine into a great-room, all flowing together easily accomodating large groups with indoor & outdoor movement and lots of garden space. Long & broad with quiet space in the bedrooms & office.

My kinda floorplan for Southern California living & fun.

Nov 16, 2011 2:27PM
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We grew up in a Cliff May pre fab house on a lot Dad bought in 1950 for $500 within a short walking distance of schools, K-12 plus jr. college two blocks away.  We moved in Jan. '54 and it was great overlooking a huge field and a stand of eucalyptus trees.  May was a 6th generation Californian so he knew about housing, starting in San Diego.  . 
Sep 24, 2011 3:18PM
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Ranch homes rock! Who wants to drag laundry baskets up and down stairs? Everybody is so impressed with the McMansions on tiny lots, with master suites so large I wonder how they can even see the TV from the bed 20 feet away. And huge kitchens for women that can't boil water ;-) A true chef just needs a cutting board and a good knife... Do we really think that the guy in the Mercedes has a bigger *___*? Or that a big diamond ring means she has a better husband or a happier marriage? Most folks like that are just in more debt, but definitely not any happier people... just listen to them try to brag about where they spent their vacation - it's a joke, right?
Sep 24, 2011 7:27AM
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It wouldn't be my first choice. I grew up in a very plain,boxy one and all I ever wanted was a two-story house. I've always liked the idea of the upstairs bedroom area being separate from the public area downstairs, and I just think a two-story is more attractive. That said, now that I'm almost 50, the one floorplan has merit.
Aug 26, 2011 12:22PM
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As a single parent, I bought my 3 br 1 ba ranch in 2001.  No stairs, I could hear my daughter at night; real peace of mind.  And low mortgage payments.  Don't forget those.
Aug 26, 2011 11:59AM
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There are more styles of 1-story home than just the ranch.  We have the last of the bungalows - built in 1947.  What we found is that the ranch is basically a floorplan optimized to mid-century living.  Most homes are similarly optimized to the lifestyles that were common at the time they were created, but the ranch, a product of mass-builder/developer systems, began a trend that persists still today - a perfected floorplan that cannot be easily modified to add more space or updated to meet more modern lifestyles.  What I mean by this is that the ranch, with its living/dining area abutted by the kitchen, separated by the sleeping areas and bathrooms by a long narrow hall, is designed to remain that way and any type of remodeling that adds space or removes walls affects traffic flow or room dimensions in very drastic or negative ways.  Everyone has been in a ranch where the garage was made into a living space, and/or the back porch was walled in to create a "family room" or worse, bedroom.  This all sounds like successful additions, except for one big fault: to get TO these new rooms, you must leave the "private" areas to go through the living/dining area in order to get to the other "private" area: the family room or bedroom addition.  The other option is to dart through the kitchen to get to the back room that was created when the sliding glass door was removed, but the kitchen should NEVER be a through-traffic area!  The more preferred way to update a home is to add extra "private" rooms in the private wing, but a ranch, with a dead-end hallway that is surrounded by bedrooms, doesn't afford this option. Basically, a modified ranch is a traffic-pattern nightmare!  I have put much thought into how to modernize a 4-wall ranch in order to allow it to flow in a way that modern families need it to and have come up with only 3 options: 1. Build another traditional "living room" on the front of the house, making the existing "public" living/dining/kitchen area into the desired combined family room, with the kitchen in its existing corner, but all walls removed, and an island separating it from the common area. 2. build a new kitchen and dining room BEHIND the existing kitchen/dining area, and tearing down the kitchen walls in order to make a large common room out of the space left. or 3. Gut the main bathroom, (or laundry if that home has one btw. the kitchen and main bath) making it a hallway to a new wing behind the house that houses any additional bedrooms, master suites, offices or family rooms.  Each option is a live-in-during-remodel nightmare, as each affects the rooms imperative to maintaining daily routines: the kitchen and bathroom.  Ranch homes are fine if you have no need to expand or change the layout at all, but all too many of them were built with tiny rooms that modern Americans would prefer to be larger.  The spaces are extremey difficult to enlarge or modify, too.  Borrowing from an unused room creates long, narrow "bowling-alley" spaces of the new rooms created.  All in all, they are fine as time machines, but largely impractical for today's family demands.
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