What is a Ranch Style House? All About the Rambler

As one of the most popular home styles across the country, ranch-style houses are versatile and appeal to a variety of homebuyers. With their minimalist exterior, open-concept interior, and relative affordability, you might just consider bumping a ranch house to the top of your list when house-hunting. Keep reading to learn just what sets ranch homes apart from the rest.

ranch house style exterior with clear blue sky in the early evening

What is a ranch style house?

A ranch style house, also known as a rambler house, is typically a single-story home, with an open layout. This home style is popular amongst  first time homebuyers and experienced homeowners alike. Ranch homes, sometimes called ramblers, are not directly associated with ranchers, but take the name from their open-space concept and ability for one to roam around inside.

History of ranch style homes

The first ranch home can be credited to architect Cliff May. Built in 1932 in San Diego, CA, ranch homes began to gain popularity throughout the 1930s and the post-World War II era. Unlike many of the other home styles at the time, ranch homes embraced a more open concept layout. Additionally, ranch homes were built low-to-the-ground, making it easier to withstand the Southwestern heat and required minimal maintenance.

Where are ranch style houses popular?

You can find ranch style homes in most states and cities across the US, ranging from Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ, to Charlotte, NC, and Columbus, OH. Generally, ranch homes are less popular in Northeastern cities, so it may take a bit more searching to find the rambler home of your dreams on the East Coast.

Ranch style house plans

While there are a few different spins on the ranch style home, several characteristics tie these architectural styles together, creating the basic concept of the rambler home. Let’s take a look at the features that make a ranch style house.

ranch house that is on two levels with a large driveway and modern exterior

Ranch house exterior characteristics

A ranch home’s exterior is known for its U-, L-shape or rectangular layout, low pitched roof, and mixed material outside – often brick, stone, wood, or stucco. Ranch homes also feature wide, overhanging eaves, large windows and sliding glass doors, plenty of outdoor space such as a patio or deck, and an attached garage. Compared to the ornate exteriors of Victorian homes, the Ranch house has a more streamlined exterior with minimal details.

open floor plan inside of a ranch house also called a rambler

Ranch house interior characteristics

The interior floor plan of a rambler house is characterized by its single-story and open concept living room, kitchen, and dining area. Bedrooms in this style of home are separate from the living space and many homes have a basement that functions as another living room. Ranch homes have minimal architectural details, leaving room for owners to put their own stamp on the home’s interior.

6 types of ranch style homes

As with many home styles, ranch houses are not limited to one single “look.” Specifically, there are six types of ranch style homes you may find in your home search. Here’s what they look like and what features you can typically expect.

california ranch style home with a red door and pruned landscape

California ranch house style

The California ranch style, also called a rambling ranch, is the quintessential ranch home. Often built in a U- or L-shape, the California ranch home takes inspiration from Spanish architecture and the Arts and Crafts movement popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. California ranch homes often mix into nature and feature a large front yard and porch, as well as Spanish-style details and a courtyard.

suburban ranch home with plain white exterior and a few columns

Suburban ranch house style

With the rise of suburbia in the post-World War II era, suburban ranch style homes became increasingly popular as many Americans left city life behind. These ranch houses are more simplistic in style as they were easily replicated throughout suburban America. Featuring concrete-slab foundations, suburban ranch homes tend to be smaller, but still have that open-concept layout and U- or L-shaped design.

split level ranch home that's got a dark exterior

Split-level ranch house style

Unlike the typical ranch style home, split-level ranch homes are generally three stories with living space on each floor. Popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, split-level ranches often enter into the kitchen, living, and dining areas with stairs leading to the additional living space below and above the entry-level. While they have an asymmetrical exterior, their design is more minimalist, like suburban ranch homes.

raised ranch home with plain exterior and brick walkway

Raised ranch house style

Often confused with split-level ranches, raised ranches – also called split-entry ranches – are distinctly different. Raised ranch homes open to a stairwell, leading to the two levels in the home. Upstairs typically consists of the standard open-plan kitchen, living room, and dining space, as well as bedrooms and bathrooms. The downstairs features a finished basement and garage.

storybook ranch with blue paint and a cottage looking roof

Storybook ranch house style

Also called Cinderella or fairytale ranches, storybook ranch homes are reminiscent of a fairytale cottage with their ornate exterior details. Instead of the classic low-pitched roof, storybook ranches typically have a steeper gabled roof. Exteriors also have diamond-shaped windows, thatched shingles, and decorative brick or stone chimneys and facades.

modern style ranch house with a dark exterior on one side and light wood on the other

Modern ranch house style

An updated version of a classic California ranch style is the modern ranch home, appearing throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Similar in style to California ranch homes, the modern ranch house uses a variety of materials like wood and stone to blend into nearby nature. However, modern ranches don’t have any Spanish architectural influence, meaning you’ll find more clean lines and updated interiors.

Pros and cons of a ranch house

Even with the most well-known and popular style homes, there are pros and cons to each of them. Before taking the step and buying a ranch house in your area, become familiar with the pros and cons to make sure you’re choosing the right house style for your needs.

Pros of ranch houses

Open floor plan: One of the biggest advantages of owning a ranch house is the open floor plan, which is often a desirable home trend. That means no knocking down walls to create the perfect blend of kitchen, living, and dining room space.

Single story: While some ranch house styles have more than one story, the majority have a single story, meaning it can be much easier for homeowners to get around. No stairs also means more living space on a single floor.

Easier maintenance: As the majority of ranch homes are a single story, exterior maintenance can be much easier. Seasonal maintenance like cleaning gutters and windows is less dangerous as you only have one story to maintain.

Cons of ranch houses

Less privacy: While not immediately obvious, there can be the feeling of less privacy in a ranch house as all of the bedrooms and living spaces are on one floor. Some homeowners may feel more secure with the primary bedroom on the second floor.

Single story: Single stories can be both a pro and a con. As for the cons, all the living spaces and bedrooms are on one floor, meaning noise can travel, especially if you have more people living in the home.

Smaller outdoor space: Depending on the size of the lot, some ranch homes may have less outdoor space, as the lot is taken up by the home itself. And if you’re considering extending the square footage of the home in the future, it can take up even more outdoor space.

How to find ranch homes for sale in your area

If you’re set on looking for a Ranch home style, Redfin can help you find one in your city.

1. Go to Redfin.com and type into the Search Bar either the city’s name or the zip code, for example, San Diego, CA where you’d like to begin looking for a house. Press enter.

san diego ca search bar on redfin

2. Near the top of the next page, on the left side, you will see “More Filters.” Click on that and scroll to the “Keywords” box near the bottom of the page.

san diego search bar with more filters on redfin

3. Type the word “ranch,” “ranch style,” “rambler,” (etc.) into the Keywords box, and press Apply Filters. And there you have it! All Ranch style homes within the city name or zip code you entered will populate the page, and you’ll be able to begin your search.

san diego more filter
san diego ranch house filter

Original Post – Redfin