Raised ranches are ubiquitous in Chittenden County, but many buyers won’t look at them.
I think they are worth a second look.
What is a raised ranch?
It is a type of split level home where you walk in the door between two levels so you see one staircase pointing up and another pointing down.
Most of them were built between the 1960s and mid-1980s.
You’ve seen a million of these homes before.
They look like this:
I’m not sure exactly when raised ranches got started getting a bad reputation, but I’ve heard lots of complaints about them.
The entryway is too small.
I hate the idea of having to go up the stairs as soon as I walk in the door.
They are just so dated.
All good points, I agree. Still, I sometimes feel like these negative feels are unjustified. For every downside of a raised ranch, there is also an upside.
I for one will admit that while I initially dismissed raised ranches myself, I’ve grown to actually really like them.
In fact, I like them so much that I’m moving into one soon. For me, the pros outweigh the cons.
This may or may not be the case for you. Buying a home is a personal decision, and just because it nets out one way for me and my lifestyle, doesn’t mean it will be the same for you.
Still, I think it is good to see the raised ranch debate from both sides,
Here are some pros you may have overlooked.
1) Light and Bright Lower Level
One of the best aspects of raised ranches is that the lower level is largely above grade.
Instead of a dark and dreary basement, raised ranches typically have a lower level with legal, egress windows in every room, letting in tremendous light and making the downstairs feel more inviting and livable than a traditional basement.
While some of these raised ranch lower levels may not have been updated since they were originally built in the 1960s and 1970s, in the homes that have been renovated, these lower levels can really shine in a way that just isn’t attainable in a fully underground basement.
2) More Rooms and Privacy
Because of the usability of the entire lower level, raised ranches typically have the potential for many more usable rooms.
Downstairs rooms in a raised ranch are especially suited for making great recreational rooms, guest bedrooms/suites, and offices.
The layout of the split level makes this whole lower portion feel distinct from the upstairs giving an added layer of privacy.
While some people don’t like the amount of separation, if you have loud kids who want a place to play or practice musical instruments, like to have a nice separation between your living space or home office, or want your guests to feel like they have their own private wing, this design could provide you with tremendous value.
3) Potential for Efficient Open Concept Living
For some time, people were really into redundant spaces. There are tons of colonials out there with a separate living room and family room, a dining room and breakfast nook, etc.
Today, these redundancies are out of fashion.
Lots of people prefer the idea of living in an open space that joins one living room, dining room, and kitchen together.
Although the traditional raised ranch design left some separation between these rooms, more and more homeowners are opening up the walls and creating beautiful open floor plans that create a beautiful open layout.
4) Leave the Outdoor Gear and Paper Trail out of Sight
In many raised ranches, the garage is built into the lower level or in an adjoining structure with an entryway coming into the lower level.
The downside of this design is it means that you need to carry your groceries up the stairs (one of the most common complaints I hear in these kinds of homes).
Yet there are some big upsides too.
For one, all that winter gear we have to tote around with us in Vermont (boots, hats, gloves, and lots of mud) stays off of your main living level.
Also, frequently, there is enough space downstairs to build a sweet mudroom. Some of the best mudrooms I’ve seen have been in raised ranches.
An additional benefit?
At least in the non-raised ranch houses I’ve lived in, it has been easy for mail and newspapers to accumulate in my front entryway or in my living room.
Having a downstairs setup to sort through your papers when they come through the door will help keep all that stuff out of your beautiful open living sanctuary upstairs.
5) Great Addition and Upgrade Potential
There are some great articles about ways to upgrade raised ranch homes by addition additions.
The design is particularly well suited for implementing some of the following ideas, if they haven’t already been done on the home you are considering.
Screened Porch or Den
Many raised ranch owners have added a screened porch off the dining room, and many others have used this same space to build a large sunroom or finished den.
When done right, these spaces can sometimes be the highlight of the home.
Entryway Bump Out
For those bothered by the small entry spaces, some raised ranch owners have added bump outs, basically a small addition off the front of the house that allows you to expand the entry space and create a full mudroom space with closets when you walk in the door.
These additions also add lots of visual interest to the exterior of the home and can help the house stand out from other raised ranches in the neighborhood.
Living Room Built-Ins
Many of the raised ranches in our area have fireplaces in the center of the living room.
Some owners in this area have built custom cabinetry around their fireplace (or added windows on that side of the house) and created a unique and personal light that can be the highlight of the living space.
If the garage on the house you are looking at is in the basement, you may want to consider converting it to additional living space.
Some owners have built an external garage to the side or in front of their homes and then attached it to the lower level.
I’ve even see a few cases where they have then gone on to build more rooms above the garage.
Here is one of my favorite examples:
This project would dramatically increase the square footage of the home while creating a unique footprint that can elevate the look of the house.
Some raised ranches have large enough attic spaces that it can be possible to redo the ceiling and add a beautiful vaulted look to the living room, dining room, and/or master bedroom.
One very nice upgrade to enhance the look of a raised ranch is to change the siding on the lower level of the home to stone or brick.
This can add some visual interest and make the home look less boxy.
6) Let in the Light!
I have heard people comment that they find raised ranches dark, but I always find this ironic because I think they have some of the best potential to be bright of any floor plan.
The fact that the main living level is slightly above grade already helps with lighting, but many owners have added windows to the side of the home (which in traditional raised ranch designs, sometimes lacked windows).
Additionally, the main level is also the top level of the home which provides many opportunities to enhance both natural and artificial lighting.
Want to install more ceiling lights?
It is way easier than in a colonial because since it is a top floor, you don’t have to tear out the ceiling.
Your electrician can access the electrical wiring through the attic and help you put in as many ceiling lights as you want.
Another big plus which just isn’t possible in a traditional colonial is the ability to add solar tubes or skylights which both allow natural light from above to flood into your home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pallas Ziporyn is a Realtor based in Burlington, VT. She is the founder and head writer for The Vermont Real Estate Blog, and she works with both buyers and sellers in Chittenden County and surrounding areas.
In addition to her real estate pursuits, Pallas enjoys serving on the Winooski Planning Commission, skiing, writing, and spending time with her husband Chris and their two small children, Leander and Hugo.