Ranch-style houses, also known as ramblers, are a classic American style of home.
What makes it a ranch-style house?
- Single -story
- Open interior
- Long, low-pitch lines
- Large windows
- Larger living spaces compared with backyard
Shopping for a ranch-style house is relatively easy — they’re common throughout the U.S. and the most popular style of home in 34 states.
Ranch-style houses may be more expensive than other styles because of the amount of land they require to build. They typically cost $200,000–600,000 to build, with the average 1,700 square-foot ranch home going for $340,000.
Common features of ranch-style houses
Despite there being various types of ranch-style houses, they have some key similarities:
- Asymmetrical, rectangular layout
- L-shaped or U-shaped design
- Emphasis on indoor living spaces
- Smaller backyards
|Exterior features||Interior features|
|Large windows throughout||Single-story living space|
|Mixed exterior materials, including brick and wood siding||Open concept floor plan|
|Deep overhanging roof edges||Separated bedrooms, typically on opposite sides of house|
|Low-pitch roofline||Functional basement as a living space|
|Sliding doors that extend to a back patio||Vaulted ceilings|
|Attached basement or garage|
|Cross-gabled*, side-gabled, or hip roof|
|*Gabled roofs are those whose two sides meet at a point to form a ridge or triangle.|
Different styles of ranch houses
Ranch-style homes soared in popularity post-WWII with the expansion of the American middle class and the allure of “wide open spaces” for growing families. In turn, the different types of ranch-style houses arose based on the regional cultures where they developed.
Ranch-style homes are still considered versatile and easy to build upon so that buyers can incorporate personal tastes into their homes.
Suburban ranch home
Suburban ranch houses are considered the “typical” ranch style because of their simpler exteriors. They feature a wide, one-story layout as well as simple brick or panel sidings.
You’ll often see suburban ranches with attached garages. They are built on concrete slabs and feature open floor concepts.
👍 Good for: Buyers who enjoy the traditional ranch aesthetic and want a house they can age in
California ranch home
California-style ranches are designed for easy indoor–outdoor transitions and for natural light to travel throughout the home. They commonly have stucco siding and clay-tiled roofs.
Compared with suburban ranches, California-style ranches take influence from Spanish architecture, have flatter roofs, and have more detailed exteriors.
👍 Good for: Buyers in coastal areas (since the style suits the scenery) or those looking for a more distinctive exterior design
Storybook ranch home
An offshoot of the California style, storybook ranches feature ornamental details — like embellishments on window frames, doors, and roofs. You’ll also often see diamond-shaped window panes or taller, narrower windows.
Many storybook ranches also feature decorative chimneys amid steep gabled roofs covered in thatched shingles. Like suburban ranches, they usually incorporate brick or stone in their exteriors.
👍 Good for: Buyers who like the cozy, rustic feel of cottage-style homes but want more space
Raised ranches have two equally distributed floors, rather than the standard single floor. They’re much like your typical two-story house — but wider, with large windows, and with long low-pitch lines.
In raised ranches, staircases lead to two levels:
- Main living areas on the upper-level
- Lower story at ground level or partially below level
👍 Good for: Large families who want to maximize on space and buyers who want more privacy in bedrooms
Split-level ranch home
Split-level ranches set themselves apart from other varieties by featuring staggered levels — each section of the house has a different number of stories.
Split-levels typically feature three levels of living or more:
- Level 1: Living room and kitchen, sometimes bedrooms or garage
- Level 2: Den, basement, sometimes a garage
- Levels 3+: Bedrooms
👍 Good for: Large families and buyers in regions where basements are common and those looking for more privacy with bedrooms, shared spaces, and a garage
Pros and cons of ranch-style houses
While many buyers on the market love ranch-style houses, they aren’t for everyone.
|Ranch-style benefits||Ranch-style downsides|
|Simpler to design than two-story homes||Larger property lot|
|Larger, more-open living spaces||Smaller yards|
|Safer to navigate (no stairs)||Privacy concerns (street-level windows)|
|Easier to evacuate||More expensive to build and add on to|
|Better forever homes (as you age, stairs can become hassles)||Typically have to build additions up versus out|
If the cons of ranch-style houses outweigh the pros, some alternative design styles could better suit your needs:
- Want something smaller? Try cottage style »
- Prefer taller vs. wider homes? Try Victorian or Tudor houses »
- Looking for something less traditional? Try modern or contemporary styles »
Cottages are “petite” houses with limited living space — but open floor plans with a more rustic exterior design. They emphasize their front yards and typically feature gardens.
Cottage houses typically cost $175,000–350,000.
Victorian or Tudor houses
They are both traditionally multistory houses with more ornamental and embellished exteriors. Tudor houses are the less dramatic of the two but still borrow heavily from traditional English architecture.
Victorian and Tudor houses typically cost $250,000–600,000.
Modern or contemporary styles
Since many ranch-style houses were built decades ago, their exterior design can be pretty dated. Modern- and contemporary-style houses both feature geometric lines and often focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. However, they can stick out like a sore thumb in older neighborhoods.
Modern houses typically cost $260,000–700,000 to build.
FAQs about ranch-style houses
What makes a house a ranch style?
Traditional ranch-style homes are single-story houses commonly built with an open-concept layout and a devoted patio space.
What are the different types of ranch houses?
There are five different types of ranch-style houses: California, suburban, split-level, storybook, and raised.
What is the difference between a rambler and a ranch-style house?
"Rambler" and "ranch style" are different names for the same style of house. Read more
What is the difference between a bungalow and a ranch-style house?
Ranch-style homes are more rectangular and better suited for families.
Bungalows have a more square layout, provide more privacy from the front yard, and are ideal for singles, couples without children, and retirees. They can be an affordable alternative to ranch-style houses.