Ranch Redux

As Raleigh residents age,  single-story homes become a hot commodity

Quintessentially American, the single-story ranch is making a comeback. These low-profile homes colonized the suburbs in the post-war 1950s, but fell out of favor with the rise of the McMansion in the late 20th century. Today, homebuyers are seeking out the ranch for its one-level living, larger lots and solid craftsmanship.

“Our population is aging,” says Peggy MacKowski, who heads Quality Design and Construction with her husband Dave. “When you don’t have stairs to work around, it makes your home more valuable.”

In North Carolina, the aging population is expected to grow by 80 percent and in Wake County, the number of people over the age of 60 will increase from about 250,000 today to more than 600,000 in 2034.

“I often get buyers asking for ranch-style homes because they want or need main-level living for themselves or an aging parent,” says Molly Bonis, Realtor with Fathom Realty.

The convenience of larger lots in established neighborhoods with mature trees adds to their caché as new homes are built closer together. Once prevalent in many communities across Raleigh, including North Hills and Drewry Hills, the number of ranch houses is starting to dwindle.

“It’s simply supply and demand,” says Bonis. “They don’t want the cookie cutter houses that you can find every day on the market.”

Few new homebuilders are constructing ranches, choosing to save money on roof and foundation space by building upward. Many existing ranch-style homes in older neighborhoods are being torn down to make way for these larger homes.

Modernizing mid-century

Ranches are also popular with young families and lovers of mid-century modern style, who are willing to tackle projects that might be stuck in a different decade. The ranch is generally easy to modify due to its simple roofline and basic shape, according to Hank Wall of Wood Wise Design and Remodeling.

“They were built in the era when people had smaller rooms, so the three things [homeowners] typically ask to do is update kitchens, update bathrooms and take down walls,” he says. “Removing walls can shift an old-style home into how people want to live today.”

These modifications also make the home more appealing to homebuyers, who are increasingly embracing the concept of aging-in-place.

Free-range ranch

One-level living has advantages for young families; childproofing is much easier when you don’t have to worry about stairs. As homeowners age or care for older relatives, they are safer in a home without steps; in fact, Wall says most household accidents occur on stairs.

Some smart adaptations will help a home age gracefully alongside its owners. MacKowski recommends ample light both inside and outside the home. Keep the interior bright with energy-efficient windows and task lighting, and install touch or rocker-style switches. In the bathroom, she advocates for folding seats and curbless shower stalls with built-in antimicrobial protection.

Throughout the house, she suggests widening doorways, adding custom pullout storage, installing adjustable closet systems and changing to smooth, slip-resistant flooring. Add loop handles for easier grasping, lever handles instead of knobs, and easy-to-operate appliances like wall ovens and front-load washing machines. All simple updates that add value and modernize living spaces for many years to come.

Home sweet tech

Nest Thermostat:

This smart thermostat not only helps you save energy but multiple family accounts makes it easy to manage. Through its Farsight function, the device lights up the moment you walk into a room. Plus, it’s a great tool for those who travel or visit family for extended stays. Safety alerts notify you if temperatures drop or if your furnace is acting up. nest.com

Braava jet:

Housecleaning is chore for everyone but increasingly difficult as one ages. A range of cleaning robots can take the aches and pain out of it. This new mopping robot tackles up to 200 square feet at a time, leaving you with clean floors without the hassle. For larger spaces, try the slightly more expensive Braava 300 series. irobot.com

Skybell:

Ever wanted to see who’s at your door without getting up? Now, you can with the Skybell video doorbell. Whether you are at home or away, the doorbell allows you to see who’s knocking and communicate with them via your smart phone or tablet. A motion sensor triggers and alerts when someone stops by even if they don’t ring your bell. skybell.com

Cameron Walker

Cameron Walker is a writer, mother and Raleigh native. She earned her B.A. in communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her M.A. in the same from the University of Southern Indiana. She loves research, rainy days and sharing her favorite recipes on her blog, HoneysuckleAfternoons.com. Cameron is a writer with the College of Textiles at NC State.
Cameron Walker

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About Cameron Walker 43 Articles
Cameron Walker is a writer, mother and Raleigh native. She earned her B.A. in communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her M.A. in the same from the University of Southern Indiana. She loves research, rainy days and sharing her favorite recipes on her blog, HoneysuckleAfternoons.com. Cameron is a writer with the College of Textiles at NC State.