What Is a Ranch-Style House?

Depending on where you go in the United States, you'll notice different home architectural styles. On the East Coast, you find more colonial houses, while on the West Coast, you may see more Craftsman and bungalow-type homes. However, one design transcends region or socioeconomic status—the ranch. 


Despite the name, ranch-style homes are not just found on the open plains of the Midwest or Southeast. Instead, these flat, one-story buildings can be found from California (where they originated) to Ohio. 


Most experts agree the first official ranch-style house was built in 1931 by architect Clifford May. At the time, boxy, two-story houses were all the rage, but May went in the opposite direction, creating something that connected the homeowner to nature and offered a breezier, more casual style of living. 


Considering that relaxed and casual are two apt descriptors of the American experience, it's no wonder that ranch-style homes caught on. Today, they're still quite popular and often more affordable than their contemporary counterparts. 


Keep reading to discover this beloved home’s history and top characteristics to help determine if it’s the right style for you! 


ranch-style house exterior

Characteristics of Ranch-Style Houses 

A ranch-style home is instantly recognizable when you see it. It's a flat, one-story building where the floor follows the ground level. Part of the appeal of a ranch house is that you don't have to go down a staircase or through a patio to reach your backyard. Instead, it's just outside the sliding door, which many of these houses still use. 


The name also stems from the fact that the design got much of its inspiration from cattle ranches. While authentic ranch buildings are usually larger, these homes look as comfortable on the open plains as they do in a quiet neighborhood.


Open-concept layout

Architectural Elements 

Many ranch-style homes have a horizontal L-shape, although some of them have more of a U-shape, highlighting the backyard and giving homeowners a better connection to their natural surroundings. These houses are also marked by low-pitched roofs with extended eaves on either side, providing shade and protection from the elements. 


On the inside, a ranch-style house has a simple, open floor plan (shown above). Typically, rather than sectioning off individual rooms with walls and doors, these homes use partitions and dividers to create more casual living spaces. Also, the walls often have wood paneling instead of wallpaper, giving the interior a more rustic, rural vibe.


Another common feature of ranch-style houses is an attached garage or carport with a breezeway between the two structures. This way, you can go out to your car without having to brave the elements. Also, it allowed for easier access between the front and backyard, again connecting you with nature. 


Finally, sliding glass doors and large windows are hallmarks of a ranch-style house, providing natural light and giving you an unimpeded view of your property.


classic ranch-style home


Since its inception, the ranch-style home has undergone multiple variations over the decades. Some of the more common varieties include: 

  • California Ranch - This is the original shape, and it often has a courtyard in the center of the house and an L-shape with the garage sticking out.
  • Split-Level Ranch - As the name suggests, this style has multiple levels, each accessed by a half-staircase. This design maintains an open layout while giving more flexibility regarding the shape and structure of the home.
  • Raised Ranch - This variation is similar to a split level, but the main house is raised above the ground. Typically, raised ranches have a garage underneath a portion of the home, such as the kitchen or living room.
  • Suburban Ranch - While traditional ranch-style homes are relatively large, suburban ranches are smaller and much easier to maintain. These buildings are also slightly raised on concrete blocks, so you may have to walk up a step or two to get inside. 

Ranch vs. Rambler-Style Homes 

In many cases, the terms "ranch" and "rambler" are interchangeable when discussing residential architecture. The term "rambler" refers to the openness of the layout and the horizontal design. Basically, it allows a "ramblin'" man to wander from one side of the house to the other without having to go up any stairs or go through any entryways. 


One crucial distinction between a rambler and a ranch-style home is that a ranch may have a basement, which can be partially or completely furnished. Ramblers rarely have a basement. However, again, many people use the terms interchangeably, so someone may call a house with a basement a "rambler." 


Potential Advantages of Living in a Ranch-Style House 

Ranch-style homes are still wildly popular, and for good reason. This type of architecture has a few key benefits:



Stairs may not be an issue for many, but they can be a huge hassle for certain demographics. Having the entire home on a single level means it's easier to get from one room to the next. Also, those who plan to own their home for a long time don't have to worry as much about doing renovations to increase accessibility later on.


Easier Maintenance 

Ranches often feature an open layout, meaning that bedrooms and bathrooms are typically the only rooms with a door. Because of this, it's much easier to handle everyday chores like sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping than in a home with more rooms and doors. Plus, if you have a robot vacuum, there's less of a chance of it getting stuck in a particular room or falling down stairs.


Seamless Indoor-Outdoor Living 

One of the main appeals of living in a ranch-style home is the ability to move inside and outside seamlessly. Because you don't have to climb down a deck or porch, you can enjoy the backyard as much as you want. Plus, if you have any little ones or pets living with you, it's easier for them to get in and out. 


Some ranch-style homes may also have a backyard pool on the same level as the floor of the house. So, you can take a dip whenever you feel like it and not have to worry about falling down slippery steps on your way back inside. Plus, during winter, you don't have to worry as much about icy steps, either.


ranch-style home exterior

Ranch-Style Homes Remain a Popular Choice 

In some parts of the country, ranch-style houses are still a primary option for homeowners. For example, in Ohio and North Carolina, these homes make up a majority of the available inventory. Thanks to their simplistic design, affordability, and easy maintenance, ranch homes remain a viable option for people from all walks of life. 


Looking for a ranch-style house that checks all of the boxes? Here at Century Communities, we have several homes in this style across the country. Start your search today and find the ranch-style home you’ve been looking for! 


The statements contained herein discuss general factors and do not constitute professional, investment and/or financial advice.


This is not an offering of property to residents in any jurisdiction that may have restrictions on interstate offerings of real estate, unless the property has been so registered, qualified or exemptions are available. It is the intent of Century to sell its residential homes pursuant to an exemption from the registration requirements the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (15 U.S.C. 1701, et seq.).