Ranch Style Homes

Oster Area Ranch Style HomeLove it or hate it, you can’t escape it: the Ranch.

By far the most abundant architectural style among Silicon Valley homes is the ranch. A recent resurgence in interest in this unique and pervasive house design suggest it is regaining popularity, and there are plenty of reasons to love it! Here we’ll take a peek at the history, how to identify, and the function behind the ranch design. Ready to meet America’s dream home?

New modern ranch homes for town or country living by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org

by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org – Click to see

Back on the Ranch: A Brief History

In the early 1930s, San Diego designer Cliff May took the architectural world by storm with his spin on the Spanish colonial revival home. Inspired by adobe ranchos and modern design with an emphasis on comfortable California living, May developed this unique style. This soon evolved into the quintessential California ranch style.

It’s no surprise that the ranch has come to be known as a suburban style. Its popularity was widespread during the booming post-war years through the 1970s, peaking in the 1950s with ranch homes accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 new homes! (Witold Rybczynski, p 207)

Having saturated the market for decades, and with buyers wanting bigger homes, the market shifted away from building the sprawling single-story ranch in the later decades of the 20th century. Still the design retained popularity in the resale market. With more ranch homes celebrating their golden jubilee (some of the earliest are approaching 90) and some gaining historic designations there has been a renewed interest in ranch architecture over the last decade or so.

Design Elements

 “Today, almost any house that provides for an informal type of living and is not definitely marked by unmistakable style symbols is called a ranch house.” (Sunset Western Ranch Houses (1946), IX – 1946).

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When A Parent Has To Sell The House

Typical Saratoga Oaks townhouse, Saratoga CA (Silicon Valley) - living space over garageOne of the hardest things that adult children must sometimes do is to assist their parents in downsizing.  Most of the time, this means also getting the parent(s) to agree to sell the home, perhaps also to move into a seniors facility (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care) or perhaps to move in with one of the adult kids. Very often, leaving the house also means leaving a good deal of memories and perhaps independence.  It can be terribly difficult for everyone involved.

Sometimes our older family members can live at their own home until they die, which is what they want and what makes everyone happy.  It may also be the most economical thing to do.   As they age, there are services which can come to them (gardening, cleaning, meals being prepared or dropped off, errands being run, driving services provided when reflexes slow or eyes fail). One company has invented a medicine dispenser which is timed and will alert family members if the meds aren’t taken!   It may be good to utilize some sort of safety device in case there’s a fall.  If you can get all the bases covered, it can be close to worry free for everyone.  In those cases, perhaps worrying about real estate can wait.

For others, though, either medical needs or social needs drive the change to a place with many other seniors. For some, this infusion of new friends can be an emotional lifeline that greatly improves the quality of life.  Particularly for those who lose the ability to drive and move about independently, a transition to a seniors facility can mean a reconnecting with others which was lost due to lack of independence.  I have seen that with some of my own relatives.   Or when a beloved spouse dies, sometimes the loneliness is compounded by remaining in the same home and being mostly alone.  A move can be a big help, and the companionship of others is no small part of it. (more…)

Homebuyer Tax Credit Good for “Move Down” Buyers Too

Recently I read an article on Realty Times about the tax credit for non-first time homebuyers. Did you know that it may be used for “move down” buyers as well as “move up” buyers?

There are some caveats – the home cannot cost more than $800,000 and a couple cannot earn more than $255,000 per year.  Owners must have been in the home for five consecutive years of the last eight.  This may be the ideal help for Silicon Valley seniors wanting to downsize.

To read the article on Realty Times, click here.