blue ranch style house with a brown fence

Ranch-Style House: Your Complete Guide

Andrew Dehan4-Minute Read
October 19, 2021

If you’ve ever shopped for homes, you’ve been aware of the variety of popular house styles. If you’re in the market to buy a house, chances are you’ve seen the different styles available in your market. One popular style is the ranch house, known for its simple, open layout.

What Is A Ranch-Style Home?

Ranch-style houses, also known as ramblers, are some of the most popular homes in the U.S. Debuting in the 1930s, ranch-style homes took off in popularity after World War II and were at the height of popularity through the 1970s.

Their popularity coincided with the rise of the middle class in the U.S. in the 1950s and ’60s. Tract housing was also growing at the time due to housing shortage, and the ranch-style house was a simple style and easy to replicate on a large scale.

Characteristics Of Ranch-Style Homes

The characteristics of a ranch style make it easy to spot. There are some variations on the ranch style, such as a modern ranch or a Craftsman ranch. These combine some of the looks of other styles with the features of a ranch house.

Even with variations, all ranch-style homes tend to share the following common characteristics.

Single Story

The biggest element that differentiates ranches from most other styles is its spread out, one-story floorplan. Typically, ranch styles follow an “L”- or “U”-shaped layout with the front entrance slightly off-center.

Open Floor Plan

Ranch floor plans are often open concept in nature, with all the rooms easily accessible from one another. The living room, dining room and kitchen are usually joined, and the main entrance opens straight into the living room. If there are hallways, they’re short and exist only to link smaller rooms like bedrooms, offices and bathrooms.

Sliding Glass Doors

One of the main characteristics of ranch-style homes are the easy transitions from indoors to outdoors. Most ranches feature sliding glass doors that increase the open feeling of the ranch style.

These doors open to a back patio or deck, straight into the backyard. When paired with large windows, the open floor plan is flooded with natural light. With pleasant weather, these doors can open, along with the front windows or the front door, allowing a nice cross breeze.

Low-Pitched Roofline

The roofs on ranch houses tend to have low-pitched lines with wide-hanging eaves. Paired with the single-floor layout, this lends the ranch its low-profile look.

These low-pitched roofs have improved heating and cooling over steeper roofs due to having less attic space to fill with air. Low-pitched roofs are also easier to build and maintain, and they’re compatible with solar panels.

The wide-hanging eaves help shade windows, keeping the home cool in the summer.

Additional Characteristics

There are a few other common characteristics of ranch houses. Ranches usually have an attached garage, forming one side of the “L”- or “U”-shaped layout.

Porches are another feature you see on many ranches. These porches may be much smaller than what you may see on a colonial or Victorian home. Unlike large wooden porches, the porches on ranch homes are typically concrete and may only fit one or two chairs.

Raised Ranches

Popular in the northern U.S.A., raised ranches are different from typical ranch homes due to their finished basements. In colder climates, where the foundation must sit deeper because of frost, basements make complete sense.

Throw a ranch layout on top of the basement, with an open stairway, and you have a two-floor ranch. These homes are built on small hills, where the basement isn’t usually evident from the roadway.

Raised ranches can feature a walk-out basement with a second sliding door, often directly underneath the door on the main floor.

Benefits Of Living In A Ranch-Style Home

There are many benefits to living in a ranch-style home. The exterior is easier to maintain due to it only being one level. The low-sloped roof is easy to work on. If you need to paint the home, you may not need to use a ladder.

The lack of stairs in a traditional ranch home is appealing as well. You won’t have to haul laundry or groceries up and down stairs like you would in other homes. If you or your family members have difficulties with mobility, the lack of stairs is a plus. For a family with young children, not having stairs is one less thing to worry about.

Where To Find Ranch-Style Homes

Ranch style homes are common in most of the United States, though they’re most common in California, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Unless you live in the Northeast, chances are there’s one on the market near you.

From sprawling ranch mansions to smaller, cozier options, there’s a ranch-style house for every budget. Older ranches tend to be the smaller ones, ranging between 1,000 – 1,500 square feet, excluding any basement. Newer ranches are being built bigger, some upward of 3,000 square feet.

For assistance in finding the perfect ranch house for you, contact a Rocket HomesSM Real Estate Agent.

The Bottom Line

Ranches make for great homes, whether you’re looking for a starter house or a forever home. Their name harkens to the wide-open-spaces feel of their layouts and their incredible natural lighting. Out of all the popular American home styles, ranches prioritize the outdoors the most, making the shift from inside to outside living seamless.

Their low-profile roof cuts back on utility bills and their wide-hanging eaves provide shade in the summer heat. The ranch’s large windows and sliding glass door encourage natural light and airflow.

One of the major pluses of a ranch-style home is its lack of stairs. Even raised ranches, which have a finished basement, have essentials like the laundry room, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms on the main level. Having everything on the main level makes life easier for everyone, but especially those with mobility challenges.

Ranch styles peaked in popularity in the 1960s, but there are still new ones being built. While the style originated in California, it’s spread through much of the United States, becoming popular in much of the South and Midwest.

Want to learn more about home styles and home buying? Check out more home buying articles on the Rocket Homes blog.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.