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Love Them Or Leave Them, Ranch Homes Are Still In High Demand

Ursula Page
Ranch homes made up 41% of the homes sold in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties July 2018-July 2019, according to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

Ranch homes — people either love them or don’t ever want to live in one. Still, despite their association with shag carpet and wood paneling, these single-story homes remain in high demand today.

According to the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors, ranch homes made up 41% of the homes sold in a four-county area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties) from July 2018-July 2019. This has to do, in part, with older homeowners looking to downsize and millennials looking for their starter home. This dynamic has created fierce competition in the housing market. 

Ranch homes were first built in the 1930s in California. Then they became popular across the country after World War II with the help of the GI Bill and FHA affordable housing, according to Sara Jo Dederich, a Milwaukee-area real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

Most traditional ranch homes were built from the 1940s-1980s, according to Louis Weiher, owner and president of Carmel Builders. The classic layout includes:

  • 1,000-2,200 square feet
  • a low pitched roof with large overhangs
  • tall windows
  • full basements

Weiher finds that when people are against buying ranch houses, they generally dislike the '70s style decoration and layouts that's associated with them.
"They say, 'Oh, I hate ranches,' because they think of maybe their grandparent’s ranch house,” he says. “But the truth is you don’t have to have that style and you can absolutely remodel a ranch home easier than a two story.”

Dederich admits she used to be adamantly against ranch homes, but her perspective has changed.

“I grew up in a ranch home and said I’m never going to live in a ranch home. I lived in every type of home other than a ranch, and then I ended up having children. Those children happen to be twins and I was going up and down three flights of stairs — my home now is a ranch and I love it,” she explains.

Weiher says that ranch homes allow for easier future expansion. You can remodel ranch homes in stages, limiting major disruptions to your daily life. Dederich notes that many new homeowners are bringing most ranches up to modern, minimalist standards.

Today’s housing market also sees a different trend of not buying bigger and having different priorities, according to Weiher.

"We kept building bigger and bigger and bigger and people just kind of felt like, 'Well, that’s what I should be getting.' I think what you’ve got here is a younger generation that’s coming into it and they’re kind of shaking it up and saying, 'Why?' " he says.

So, whether people are looking to age in place or buy a home with easier maintenance, Wieher and Dederich don’t expect the appeal of ranch homes to go away any time soon.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.