The Humble Ranch Style Home Is Named Quintessentially American Housing Style

Ranch style home

Photo: Realtor.com

What is the quintessential American home? That’s a question that can creates a hot debate. Is it the Colonial beauties on the East Coast, or the classic traditional? How about a Cape Cod?

A recent Realtor.com study points to another style that is the most popular in 29 of the 50 states: the ranch style home.

“The ranch style signals a lifestyle change of that age. Front porches went away, and people are more into backyard living and protecting privacy,” said Tim Cannan, president of PreservationDirectory.com.

This isn’t a big surprise, because ranch houses can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively. They’re also highly customizable for buyers and regional preferences. Their low-slung style may be inspired by the Old West, but it quickly spread from that coast across the nation with the rise of automobile culture in the 1960s. Their design naturally accommodated one or even two cars and became popular in newly built suburbs.

But what about other styles of homes?

ranch style homes

According to Realtor.com, the second most popular architectural style is the “traditional,” a somewhat vague classification. It generally encompasses a variety of classic designs, defined by simple rooflines and symmetrical windows, formal living and dining rooms, a welcoming front porch, and cozy fireplaces. Its popularity will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited the South, where it reigns supreme.

In the Northeast, Colonial homes are popular and common, an influence from the days when British colonists originally settled there. The rectangular or box-shaped homes typically have a decorative crown above the front door.

“They were easy to construct,” said Stephen Glasheen, architectural project manager at Polhemus Savery DaSilva, in East Harwich, Mass. “That’s why they’re so common on the East Coast. It’s where they started, and it has [continued] through the generations.”

On the East Coast and into the Midwest, Victorian-style homes feature a wealth of architectural detail, with intricate moldings and ornate shapes carved into beams above, says Glasheen. The style originated when Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire, from the mid- to late 19th century, and made its way over here. They combine elements of Gothic architecture with French, Italian, Tudor and even Egyptian details.

“It has an iconic feel to it,” Glasheen said of the homes, best known for their signature pitched roofs, textured shingles, and long front porches. “It’s recognizable no matter where you are.”

Cape Cod homes first became popular and are named for the hook-shaped peninsula of Massachusetts. You’ll find this charmed style as far west as the Mississippi River, but their presence remains strongest on their home turf of New England. They draw from Colonial designs and feature a low, broad, frame building, generally a story-and-a-half high, with a moderately steep, pitched roof with a big, central chimney that’s the heart of the home (have to keep out those cold Cape winters).

In recent years, the Mediterranean or Tuscan style home has become the favored style among luxury builders. The median size of Mediterranean homes built today is 3,325 square feet, with a median price of $749,900 in the U.S.

Modern homes are seeing a surge in popularity around the country, appreciating in value 37 percent since 2012, the most of any home style.

“Modern homes are built to be more energy-efficient, and modern-looking,” said Cannan. “It’s easier to heat and cool them, and they’re cheaper to repair as opposed to Mediterranean or Spanish style—those red clay roofs could wind up costing much more. So it’s really the size and scope that determines what people can afford.”

And at the other end of the price spectrum, affordable bungalows are looking good, as the lack of inventory drives up home prices nationwide. The median price of $134,000 represents a 28 percent increase since 2012.

“Bungalows typically have very large roof overhangs…which provides a whimsical aesthetic,” architect Glasheen said. They resonated with buyers because they were one of the first styles that allowed owners “to have their own unique style of home.”