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The Louisville Gaines Real Estate Blog

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch


As someone who sells a number of ranch homes in Louisville, I was interested in a recent article in Realtor® Magazine that discusses the "return of the ranch." This classic American style home may have fallen out of vogue with buyers and builders for time, but ranches have served many families for years. Now they are more sought after than ever before.

The History of The Ranch Home

Ranches, which became popular in the 50s 60s and 70s, took their design clues from American Spanish architecture in the 17th to 19th century. Often characterized by one-story construction with low roofs, wide eaves, interior courtyards, and large front porches, ranches were very common in southwestern states. After World War II, they lost their rustic styling and became the classic tract home - the very "little boxes on the hillside" memorialized in folk music.

The styling of the ranch house changed a bit region to region. In California, ranches accounted for 90% of new homes in the 50s and often reflected latest building trends to give them a modern look. Famous architect such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eckler, and Robert and George Alexander put their touch on the style. In the Midwest and East Coast, the ranch acquired colonial trim to reflect regional tastes.

Characteristics of Ranch Styling

What united most ranch homes in style were certain characteristics:

  • Single-story construction with a long, low roofline
  • Rectangular, L-shaped or U-shaped designs
  • Simple, open floor plans
  • Attached garages
  • Living area separate from the bedrooms
  • Sliding glass doors that open onto a patio
  • Large overhanging eaves, with a cross cabled, side-gabled or hip roof
  • Aluminum windows
  • Stucco, brick, word and glass exterior

The many variations on the ranch included the raised ranch or split-level that added a second story to at least part of the house. Some had basements.

Back In Style Again

Why did they fall from popularity? Buyers want more space and often building up was more feasible on smaller lots than building out. Buyers, who became more affluent in the 70s and beyond, wanted homes of they considered more palatial in appearance. In some areas of the country, where land was at a premium, the design limited building opportunities.

After the passage of a few decades, the pendulum has swung back once again in favor of ranches. And why not? They are perfect for several groups of buyers:

  • Great for Boomers. With the baby boomers now entering retirement, there is increased demand for single-family homes that are smaller with minimal stairs. Even if they don't need one floor living now, they may find it handy for caring for parents were older seniors. 
  • Family-friendly. The one floor styling of ranches is great for young families with young kids, where stairs pose a safety issue, they are often economical to heat and cool. As the Realtor® article points out, many buyers and every lived in a ranch the design seems fresh and new. 
  • Mid-Century Dreams. Some buyers have once again fallen in love with mid-century modern design, so a ranch home is perfect. Some interiors may seem dated, but at that time, it was still common to include solid hardwood floors, fireplaces, casement windows and other stylistic elements. Current remodeling efforts can often restore some elements of the original home at a fraction of the cost of installing new hardwood and other features. 
  • Right Fit For Contemporary Tastes. Many were open floor plan and require minimal remodeling to get them to look more modern by adding a structural beam. If the lot is big enough, they can also be built out from several places to increase the size of rooms or adding an additional bedroom, a porch, or more kitchen space. The homes look great with a wide variety of exterior surfaces. Whether they are built now or are from the past, they can be built on slabs, with basements, or with daylight basements. As one writer put it, ranches are like the "little black dress" of housing as they can be simple and informal or luxurious and sophisticated and dressed up or down.

Great Neighborhood Feel

Newly built ranches are likely to be in the builder stock in areas where land is plentiful, but for those looking for a home now, neighborhoods dominated by ranches tend to be walkable, have mature landscaping, and be near public transportation. Regardless of your age, a ranch could be the perfect home for you to renovate to meet your stylistic preferences. My experience indicates that many sellers who have homes like this often do quite a bit of preparation before putting them on the market, which means that you can have a move-in ready home is just the right amount of space.

Looking to for Louisville real estate? I'm Jessica Gaines Jarboe of Louisville Gaines Real Estate I love to work with ranches, so let me help you buy or sell one!

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