Carolina Loaiza and Steve Ramirez weren’t looking for a one-story place when they went house-hunting. But when they walked into a Montvale, N.J., ranch, they knew they were home.
“It was beautiful; it was perfect,” said Loaiza, a 28-year-old nurse. “I grew up in a split-level home, and I remember my mother carrying the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs. When I saw this house, I really loved the floor plan, with everything on one floor.”
One of the nation’s most common home styles, ranches sprouted up by the millions across America’s new suburban landscape after World War II to feed an insatiable hunger for middle-class housing.
The ranch is a real love-it-or-hate-it style. While many consider them outdated and too small, others say ranches could be just the ticket for baby boomers whose aging knees are tired of stairs.
The ranches of the 1950s and 1960s, with their long, low profiles, can trace their roots to 19th-century working cattle ranches of the American West, cross-bred with the horizontal Midwestern Prairie style of Frank Lloyd Wright.
After a long drought in home construction during the Depression and World War II, developers produced ranches by the millions, along with other styles, including Cape Cods, starting in the late 1940s.
The houses were built at different price points and sizes. For many working- and middle-class families, they were the first step into affordable homeownership.
By the 1970s, however, tastes were changing, and few ranches were being built.
And in expensive regions, builders find it more cost-effective to make the most of a property by putting up two-story homes.
“Ranches are a bit stodgy,” said Kate Conover, a Re/Max agent in Saddle River, N.J.
Some older ranches have bedrooms so small that they can barely accommodate the queen- and king-size beds many people now prefer.
But owners of ranch homes say they love living without stairs in an open floor plan. Rick and Darlene Bandazian downsized from a big colonial in Wyckoff, N.J., to a smaller ranch about eight years ago, after their sons left home.
“The population is getting older, and the need for this type of home is obvious,” said Rick Bandazian, 59, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Franklin Lakes, N.J. “Ranches will be a hot commodity in the next decade or two.”