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Is Buying a Ranch Home a Good Idea?

[Updated: Dec 18, 2020] Dec 23, 2019 by Maurie Backman
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If you're thinking of buying a ranch home, there are several factors you'll need to consider. What you gain in the convenience of single-floor living you may lose in square footage and privacy. Here, we'll walk through the pros and cons of buying a ranch home to see if it's a good bet for you.

What is a ranch home?

A ranch-style home is a single-story house whose style originated in the United States. Ranch homes are known for having open floor plans, though you can find single-floor homes without that layout. You might assume that a ranch home will have fewer square feet than a two-story home, but that’s often not the case. Ranch homes don’t necessarily give you less living space; they simply limit that space to a single story. And often, you’ll actually get more interior space with a ranch.

Benefits of a ranch home

There's a reason many buyers actively seek out a one-story home: Ranch houses are easier to maintain. With all your rooms on a single floor, it becomes less expensive, and more efficient, to heat and cool your home (remember, heat rises, so having a single level makes heating easier). And, ranch homes can be much easier to clean -- ask anyone who’s ever had to lug a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs.

Ranch homes are also a good bet for people with mobility issues -- namely seniors but also younger folks who have trouble getting around due to health problems or medical conditions. If a member of your family relies on a wheelchair, for example, having a single floor eliminates the hassle of having to install a stairlift and help the family member in question get in and out of it multiple times a day.

Ranch homes are also a good fit for families with young children. If you have infants or toddlers roaming around, not having a staircase to contend with eliminates a common source of injury. Of course, older kids tend to run around, too, so not having a staircase could be a huge plus with children of any age. And if you're a parent who does laundry frequently, you'll certainly appreciate having your bedrooms and laundry room on the same level.

Furthermore, while not every ranch home features an open floor plan and some two-story homes do, you are generally much more likely to find these plans in ranches. If you prefer a more natural flow from one room to the next and don't enjoy being boxed in with walls, a ranch home could be a great bet.

Finally, because ranch homes don’t contain a staircase, you don’t lose square footage to one. As such, you might find that you get more living space by buying a ranch home.

Drawbacks of a ranch home

Though there are plenty of good reasons to buy a ranch home, there are disadvantages to consider, too. For one thing, having your common areas, like your kitchen and living room, on the same floor as your bedrooms means having less privacy at home.

Imagine you're the type who likes to go to bed early. If your bedroom is only slightly down the hall from your family room, and the rest of your household gathers there nightly for movies and TV, you may have trouble settling in.

Furthermore, if your street sees a lot of traffic, you may find that outside noise becomes a problem with a one-story home. With a two-story home, being raised a level could help mitigate the outside noise factor.

Another thing to consider is that if you ever want to add on to your home, you may have trouble doing so without eating into your yard space. With their square footage divvied up across two floors, two-story homes tend to be more compact. So if you're looking at a ranch and a two-story home with equal square footage on a quarter-acre property, you'll generally have more outdoor space with the two-story.

And that leads to a related point: Unless you happen to score a ranch home on a huge plot of land, you may have to sacrifice some outdoor space for one-story living.

Finally, if you’re hoping to live in a home that you rent out simultaneously, a ranch may not allow for that, as many don’t come with basements. A two-story home, by contrast, may be more likely to have one.

Should you buy a ranch home?

Before you decide whether a ranch is right for you, think about what you're buying it for. Is your goal to live in that home or to use it as a real estate investment? If it's the latter, and you're hoping to rent out that home, you may want to consider the demographics of the neighborhood you're buying in. If there are a lot of seniors in the area, a ranch home could be a smart investment. If the area has lots of families with kids, it could be a mixed bag -- some parents might want the safety features of a one-story home, while others might prefer a two-story home for the privacy factor.

If you're looking to buy a ranch home to live in yourself, think about the home features that are most important to you. If easier mobility is up there, then a ranch could be a good choice.

If you do decide you'd prefer to live in a single-story home, see what the inventory is like in the area you're hoping to settle down in. If ranch homes are limited, it could be that they're not so popular, which could prove problematic when the time comes to sell. And, ranch homes do tend to be older, which could impact your resale value, too. Talk to a local real estate agent and ask what the market for ranch homes is like. It could be that ranches are very desirable but are only available in limited quantities. If that's the case, a ranch could be a great investment.

But if an agent tells you that the majority of his or her clients in the area prefer two-story living, then you'll need to come to terms with the fact that you may have trouble selling your home eventually -- at least for top dollar.

Ultimately, buying a ranch home could work out very well. Or not. Consider the pros and cons carefully and do a bit of homework to arrive at the best decision for you.

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