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Older Alaskans Need More Ranch Homes

by Connie Yoshimura

Alaska’s senior population is growing.  According to Alaska Economic Trends, Alaska has an estimated 87,304 seniors, up from 54,938 eight years before and more are on the way.  Anchorage/Mat-Su added more than 17,000 seniors, representing over half the state’s overall increases.  The report goes on to identify many seniors as well-educated boomers who arrived in the 1980’s and have made Anchorage and Alaska their permanent home. Nearly one in four live alone and 57 percent of those are women.   Eighty-two percent of Alaska seniors live in owner-occupied homes compared to 64% of Alaskans.  Home ownership is an important part of their well-being and lifestyle. An interesting note is seven percent live with grandchildren and about two percent are responsible for their care.


The challenge for our housing market, however, is what type of housing is available for them to age in place.  Even the fifty plus year olds I meet at open houses worry about climbing stairs to bedrooms because of their hips and knees.  More buyers are asking about a two-story home with a first floor master, a hillside ranch or a smaller ranch home.  Large lots no longer interest them due to the time and expense of lawn care.  These buyers prefer new so that there is not the unexpected cost for roof, furnace, hot water heater replacement, et cetera. They also recognize the benefits and savings of Alaska’s five star energy rating for new homes because they most likely live in a four star home built in the 1980’s. 


In 2018, 2776 single family homes sold in Anchorage and Eagle River and l5% or 440 were single family ranches.  I found that number hard to believe but trust me, we double checked it.  The average price was $252,000.  But, here is the problem.  Today’s new construction ranch  home has a median price of $450,000.  The majority of them are located in the Eagle River/Chugiak area where land is more available and, thus, prices slightly lower lot costs. If Anchorage wants to keep its older population, we need to increase the maximum 40% lot coverage ratio that currently exists in Title 21.  Smaller lots with increased lot coverage ratio for single family ranch homes will bring the cost of home ownership down for Anchorage’s senior citizens. 

Making the Case for the ‘Rancher’

by Connie Yoshimura

Over the past few weekends at open houses, I’ve visited with several ‘boomers’ who are considering downsizing to a ranch style home. They’ve told me stories of friends falling on stairs and breaking bones and are concerned it might happen to them. However, boomers with potential mobility issues are not the only buyers considering a move to a ranch. In a recent survey published by Builder online magazine, 65% of Americans actually prefer a ‘rancher’ as they are called in the lower 48. In Anchorage, MLS reported 384 ranch homes sold in 2016. That’s 13.05% of the total reported sales of 2016. That was a surprise to us and we had to check those stats twice. 

So if you’re a fitness fanatic and love to climb stairs either at the gym or home, why buy a ‘rancher’? According to an HVAC system source, heating a ranch is less expensive. That makes sense since there is less open air and vertical space to heat. If you’re concerned about quiet, there’s no noise from above. The best ranch style home separates the master bedroom from the secondary bedrooms either by the great room or bathrooms. A ranch is also easier for exterior maintenance. No ladders necessary when cleaning gutters!

Finding lots in Anchorage to build ranches on is a challenge for buyers and builders.  Many newly developed lots are only fifty feet wide and the handful of wider lots that are available require homes that are 2,000 to 2,400 square feet. Plus, new ranches are more expensive on a price per square foot than two-story homes. Even the older ranch homes that sold in 2016 had an average price per square foot of $214. Only 13 new ranches sold with an average price per square foot of $263, a 20% bump up for brand new.   

It’s a given that two story homes are more cost-effective and can fit on a lot with a smaller footprint. The MOA allows a 40% lot coverage ratio for ranches versus the 30% lot coverage for two-story homes but even that 10% increase is not enough to accommodate most ranches on small lots, let alone one with a triple car garage —the #1 wish list item for almost all new home buyers.

Dwell Realty has six new ranch homes either under construction or coming out of the ground in the next few weeks. They range in price from $339,900 to over $750,000. Check them out at or give us a call at 646-3600. 

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Dwell Realty
561 E. 36th Ave., Suite 200
Anchorage AK 99503