Staying or Selling: Best Updates for Your Raised Ranch

The Refreshed Home advises homeowners, buyers, sellers and flippers on how to best improve and update their properties. This is the first of a series on how to update different style properties. 

Raised ranch houses are one-story, set on a raised/partially above ground foundation. You know these houses, they have deep roots here. Enter, a half staircase up to living space, half staircase down to finished basement.

A mainstay of every Westchester community late 50s through the 70s, the raised ranch was recognized by their exterior details as much as for their floor plan.

Born in southern CA in the 1930’s, they got popular as an affordable upgrade from the basic starter houses approved for FHA loans in the 40s. Post-war affluence begat more automobiles, which begat being able to drive further away to get bigger houses built on larger plots of land.

Big and boxy, the raised ranch is linear and practical. They represent good value, but their original incarnation wasn’t exciting even then. 

As a plus, these houses have good-sized rooms, usually with hardwood floors. Exteriors were finished with combinations of materials, usually stucco/stone/brick on the foundation, with shingles/siding on the living level.

But kitchen and baths were modestly scaled, and many were built with over-engineered exterior entries: ornate pediments, or little roof-lets. In our market, exterior colors ran from all white/white with brick, all deep brown, or a dated color with brick base, and usually a very. bright. door.

1. Selling or staying, exterior updates are the most impactful, highest ROI improvements for this style house. Depending on your circumstances, consider:    

  • Changing the fenestration: Speak with an architect about re-working the exterior entry, changing out the funky bay (or typical picture) window, and if other windows are old/inefficient or have broken seals, include that in the conversation too
  • Painting, using an organic color palette, perhaps add/change facing to exposed foundation or chimney.
  • A landscape architect can help you re-shape/update the hardscapes like driveway and walkway, create or update backyard entertaining spaces, plus rejuvenate the property with some new plantings.

2. Re-doing kitchen and baths are worthwhile, but costly and time-consuming endeavors. Rarely wise if you’re  planning to sell in 6+/- months, but if you’re a year or more away from listing, well, maybe. Know your competition, and ask your agent.  Weigh your short and long-term goals against costs.

For simpler and less costly improvements think WHITE!  In smaller rooms, white on surfaces closest to your face will brighten and expand spaces exponentially:

  • Get rid of wallpaper (inc borders), any pastels, ruffles, fussy patterns or  complicated window treatments
  • Paint kitchen cabinets, wood stained trim/mouldings/doors white
  • Price out a new countertop at a local stone yard (you touch the stone, they measure/fabricate/install)
  • New vanities the come with tops can be had for a few hundred dollars, maybe $20 for a new white shower curtain (36 square feet ot white!), simple frameless  medicine cabinet maybe $150?
  • Blessed with tub/toilets of color? Re-glaze tub to white, replace commode with white, comfort height toilet all for about $1000.

3. Many raised ranch 80s updates saw walls separating kitchen and DR either removed, or partially opened up. If yours doesn’t have that done already, would start there. Also consider:

  • Change typical builders wrought iron railing with something more current, even build a knee wall separating LR from entry
  • Upgrade any old hollow-core doors with more substantial counterparts
  • Are your lighting fixtures from this century? ‘Nuff said!