If you have a ranch-style home to put on the market, you’re in luck: According to a 2019 Google report, people searched for this architectural style the most over a 12-month period. What’s more, in one commissioned 2018 Harris Poll of more than 2,000 Americans, 41% ranked ranch houses as their favorites.
First built in the 1930s as a spinoff of the bungalow and the ground-hugging Prairie-style houses that Frank Lloyd Wright created, the ranch style boomed during the late 1950s and 1960s. Its rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped design all on one story appeals to first-time homebuyers and small families, as well as people with disabilities and seniors eager to avoid stairs.
Ranches are popular in 34 states throughout the South, Midwest, and West, especially in Kansas, Minnesota, and Wyoming. But distinct features like a natural exterior of oak, wood, or brick and a low-pitched roof give sellers and real estate agents a curb appeal challenge, according to Aaron Tobias, a top real estate agent serving the Columbus, Ohio, area.
More than 94% of the agents surveyed in HomeLight’s Q2 2019 Top Agent Insights report say curb appeal adds to your bottom line — plus, it entices buyers to come inside in the first place. Here are some expert ways to boost your ranch home curb appeal.
1. Break away from the boxiness
A ranch-style home averages about 1,500 to 1,700 square feet, although some can be as large as 2,500 square feet. But its boxy exterior tends to remind visitors of a shoebox — not a good impression, considering a ranch house tends to have an open interior layout.
Break up that boxy look by adding visual interest and decreasing the number of angles. Brick&batten, a virtual exterior design service in Atlanta, Georgia, ramped up the curb appeal for one Michigan ranch-style home by suggesting a curved flagstone walkway leading from the driveway to the garage.
The Scott family of Atlanta, Georgia, blogged about revamping the exterior of their 1960s ranch-style home, including adding a path of chunky crab-orchard stepping stones from the porch to the street. Not only does the path create a direct and welcoming way to reach the front door, it contrasts with the home’s strong horizontal lines by being perpendicular, they wrote.
Installing a pathway costs about $5 to $15 per square foot if using pavers and $10 to $30 per square foot if using flagstone, according to HomeAdvisor.com. For less cost, consider a gravel walkway (starting at about $1.40 per square foot) dotted with stepping stones, such as these 16-inch square ones in Limestone at Walmart ($2.50 each) or these recycled-rubber ones that resemble flagstone from Gardner’s Supply Company ($15.95 each).
2. Cut back trees and shrubs
It’s easy for a ranch house to become lost among busy landscaping. Tobias lived in a ranch-style home and says that trimming a tree to expose the front stonework made the home look bigger. A large tree also can block the natural light that a ranch-style home tends to draw through large front windows.
The average cost of pruning a tree runs from about $80 to $500, depending on the size of the tree and how much work it needs. However, if you have a tree that’s growing too large for your yard, or showing dead or broken branches, or cracks in the trunk (not the bark itself), you might be better off removing it.
Mark Hughes, a certified arborist for about 15 years with Arborist Aboard, Inc., in the Tampa, Florida, area, charges about $500 to remove a tree that’s 12 inches in diameter around the trunk and not close to any structure. Removing the same size tree that hangs over a screened room in a backyard is more involved and would cost about $1,500. (Depending on how big a job this is, you’ll also want to allow time for your yard to recover.)
If trees aren’t a concern, be sure that any shrubs and bushes along the front of the house don’t obstruct the windows, either. “Bushes should always be cut underneath the windows, for sure,” says Tobias, noting that older clients interested in ranch-style homes especially “prefer a lot of natural light.”
Incidentally, wild hedges can imply that you’re behind on your maintenance, all the more reason to keep your greenery neat. The cost of hiring a landscaper varies by area, but expect to pay about $60 to $75 per hour or follow these DIY landscaping tips to see what you can tackle yourself.
3. Add height and interest through layered landscaping
If your landscaping doesn’t vary in size or groupings, your ranch-style home might look as flat or one-dimensional as your yard, even if you have a variation on the traditional ranch style, such as a raised ranch or split-level.
Consider how your yard looks by height (treetop to eye line to ground level) and distance (foreground to middle to background), advises Surrounds Landscape Architecture and Construction of Sterling, Virginia, a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals. If everything sits at the same level, it all blends together where combining various sizes and groupings of plants keeps the eye moving.
If you have space in your yard for raised planter boxes or planters with multiple tiers, this also creates the illusion of height. Raised designs also allow for good drainage. Try the Leisure Season medium brown cedar raised garden bed at Lowe’s, or the VegTrug Poppy Go 2-tier planter at gardener’s supply company.
Speaking of landscaping, black and brown mulch — as opposed to red mulch — provides a neutral background that won’t work against the color of your flowers or your house, according to the Home Depot. Green foliage especially pops against dark mulch. Try Earthgro by Scotts, $3.33 for a bag covering 2 cubic feet.
4. Play up color and texture
Older ranch-style homes might have been built quickly and according to a “cookie-cutter formula,” so even with brick or front columns, they might look a bit… blah.
Paint any dated red brick a lighter color for a modern update (and keep the house from blending in with nature), like Magnolia’s Joanna Gaines did when she and husband Chip Gaines painted this Waco, Texas, ranch house a light gray on HGTV’s Fixer Upper. Try sea salt from Sherwin Williams, Greenwich Village by Behr, or Romabio mineral-based masonry paint in nube gray.
For bursts of texture, the Gaineses also incorporated raw shiplap shutters around the front windows and installed new cedar and stone posts along the front of the house. Try these horizontal slat-board shutters from Dogberry Collections.
Style writer and blogger Jordan Reid at Ramshackle Glam updated her 1969 ranch house’s curb appeal by covering the reddish-orange brick with a variegated mortar wash in Kelly-Moore Swiss coffee, turning the brick a distressed white. She contrasted that with dark trim in Benjamin Moore raccoon fur and added Ekena Millwork decorative shutters to give the front windows more heft. (If you have decorative shutters that don’t look quite right, they might be too narrow for your windows. Try this measuring guide to check.)
5. Showcase the front door
Nothing says, “Welcome home” like a well-lit and stately front door. Unfortunately, because of the rectangular or L-shaped design of many ranch-style homes, the front door can appear like a dark nook. Inspire potential buyers with warmth and confidence by choosing a door color that makes a statement.
Lori Sawaya, a certified color strategist who works with interior designers and home stagers, recommends a warm sandstone gray stain to unify the main color scheme of one 1960s ranch-style home but chose navy blue to update the front door, making it more visible and inviting. Try loyal blue by Sherwin-Williams or bering wave by Behr.
Reid chose a coral color for her ranch house’s front door, part of her “bright, retro makeover with cool, textural details.” Try Sherwin-Williams coral reef or pimento by Behr. She also increased the lighting around the door with Sea Gull Lighting Jamestowne black outdoor wall lantern sconces.
Don’t forget the house numbers. If they’re not visible from the street (a safety concern, as well as one that helps buyers find your house), they should be. Consider ditching any dated digits with ones in SoCal from Modern House Numbers in brushed aluminum, dark bronze, matte brass, powder-coated white, or powder-coated black.
6. Spotlight the porch
If you’re fortunate enough to have a front porch on your ranch-style home instead of just a small entryway, highlight it. “Outdoor living space is becoming so popular,” Tobias says.
But just like staging your home’s interior, a little goes a long way. “Some people want eight flowerpots and their favorite swing and a bench and a welcome sign and a mat… We try to keep things simple,” Tobias says.
Consider symmetrical planters, such as the Wym 2-piece plastic planter Box by Sol 72 Outdoor, or a small seating area if space allows, such as the Ainsley patio three-piece bistro set or the Braymer outdoor lattice patio cast-iron garden bench.
Just because it’s been an architectural style for decades doesn’t mean your ranch-style home can’t dazzle with updated curb appeal. Try even just one of these tips, and see how brighter and more enticing your home can be.
Header Image Source (Fran Hogan / Unsplash)