The ease of attached garages and minimal stairs
illustrate ranch homes’
appeal from the moment you enter.
courtesy of Bielinski Homes
With their airy, West Coast casual charm,
ranch homes have never gone out of style in metro
Milwaukee, bucking numerous local and regional
homebuying trends throughout the decades.
In fact, local real estate professionals
agree that ranches are more in demand than ever in
today’s frenzied housing market.
“They are going like hotcakes,” says
Shorewest Realtor Jim Fisher, who works primarily with
homebuyers in Ozaukee County and Milwaukee’s North Shore
While younger couples with larger
families gravitate to two-story homes, ranches are a hit
among homebuyers of all ages. “It’s just an easier
lifestyle. You get these great open concepts,” says Paul
Bielinski, CEO of Waukesha’s Bielinski Homes. “The ranch
home has a wider appeal.”
Bielinski and John Harlos, vice president
of sales and marketing for Elm Grove homebuilder Kings
Way Homes, note that ranches, many of which have a
limited number of — or complete lack of — stairs, appeal
in particular to baby boomers, who may suffer from
health conditions such as arthritis.
Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of Kings Way Homes
Formal dining rooms have given way to effortless
open living spaces with high-end touches.
It’s not just the traditional ranch
drawing in hopeful homeowners. Split-level ranch homes,
or homes with staggered levels, are also in demand.
“The No. 1 priority is that people want a
first-floor master bedroom,” Fisher says, noting that
decks and patios attached to master bedrooms —
particularly those overlooking scenic lakes and verdant
woods — are sought-after home features too.
First-floor home offices and sunrooms are
also popular requests. Large living areas with spacious
kitchens have all but replaced formal dining rooms, a
thing of the past for homeowners with hectic lifestyles
and demanding careers who have little time to entertain
Many baby boomers are empty-nesters who
prefer to downsize without sacrificing luxurious housing
amenities and features, such as granite countertops and
vaulted ceilings. “It’s either granite or quartz. People
still want that look, the natural stone look,” explains
Fisher. Many homebuyers desire the pleasing contrast of
dark wooden floors with white appliances; however, oak
trim is decidedly outdated.
“People hate oak — it’s a four-letter
word,” Fisher notes.
Kings Way Homes’ John Harlos notes that ranch home
are “consistent top performers” across the region,
because they allow homebuyers to both raise families
and age in place comfortably.
courtesy of Kings Way Homes
Often, ranch homes have finished walk-out
basements (with doors for entrance and egress),
lower-level spaces converted into a separate suite with
a bedroom, full bathroom and a kitchenette, making the
style of home ideal for multi-generational living or
Bielinski says that his company’s ranch
duplex condominiums — located in Waukesha, Oconomowoc
and Eagle — are also hot sellers. These homes without
stairs can be entered through a garage and feature wider
hallways to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, step-in
showers and levers on doors instead of doorknobs. “We’ve
designed this with baby boomers in mind,” he says.
Seemingly immune to housing market
trends, ranch homes remain perennial favorites.
“I don’t know that ranch home popularity
has ever left. Ranches are consistently sold in our
communities, from Brookfield to Mukwonago,” says Harlos,
adding that the homes are “consistent top performers”
for Kings Way Homes.
Spacious bathrooms with walk-in showers and
easy-grip cabinet handles such as those in this
Bielinski Homes master bath accommodate homeowners
who use mobility aids such as walkers and
courtesy of Bielinski Homes
In today’s bustling real estate market,
Waukesha County ranch homes typically start at $300,000
and 1,400 square feet, but a custom-built home on a
prime lot can run over $800,000 and exceed 2,400 square
feet. Fisher explains that a lack of available lot space
in Ozaukee County is driving custom-built home prices
up. These days, a homebuyer can easily spend more than
$500,000 on a newly-built home.
“New construction costs are so
astronomical right now,” Fisher says. Many homebuyers
opt to purchase and remodel existing ranch homes in
cities like Mequon and Thiensville, many of which were
built in the 1960s and are about 2,000 square feet.
These ranches, which typically contain three bedrooms
and two baths, begin at about $400,000. Neutral hues,
especially darker grays, are choice home exterior
Fisher adds that millennial homebuyers,
many of whom have bustling careers, prefer houses on
very little land, which translates to less yard
maintenance. “They [millennials] prefer more concrete
and deck, rather than having to cut the grass,” he says.
With housing inventory in short supply,
homes built on speculation, or “spec homes,” now account
for about two-thirds of Bielinski Homes sales, a number
which, according to Bielinski, used to be a considerably
see a lot of people turning to spec homes,” he says. “We
live in a world of instant gratification. People want a
home, but don’t want to wade through the building