As Alaska’s age profile shifts upward and the baby boomers begin to slow down and decide to stop climbing the stairs of their two story homes, the return of the ranch is upon us. Between $300,000 and $600,000 there are 44 active ranch homes listed for sale. Frankly, this number was a surprise to me. So are the 27 pending sales and the 33 ranch homes already closed in 2016. This is a sleeper area of the market that has suddenly come alive, although not without its challenges.

Almost half of the ranch homes for sale are over 25 years old and the oldest on the market was built in 1941 and is located in the popular Rogers Park area. There are 15 homes less than five years old and a handful of brand new ones under construction. The old fashioned ranch was usually three bedrooms, one bath and a one car garage. The bedrooms were all clustered together for the benefit of young children. Today’s ranch is radically different with the master at one end of the home and the secondary bedrooms at the other. Family members come together in the great room which also has an open kitchen. One big ticket item is the expanded garage—either an extra large double or a triple car. Some also have workshop areas. These homes are designed for the aging baby boomer or the dual income family with no children.

Southeast Anchorage remains a sought after area for ranch homes as the aging baby boomers migrate down from their large hillside homes but still want to be close to familiar shopping and, even more importantly, their adult children and grandkids. Local builders are finally catching on to this trend and new ranch homes are popping up in the new Huffman Timbers subdivision located at the corner of Lake Otis and Huffman and also in WestGate, a craftsman style duplex condo community. Sonoma Glenn and North Pointe also have ranch homes recently built or under construction.

In a slightly softening housing market, builders are looking for niches and the return of the ranch home is a prime target for our growing older population. That’s not to say, however, there isn’t sticker shock when it comes to cost. They are more expensive than the traditional split/entry popular in the 1980’s and the two-story homes with great rooms now populating our newer neighborhoods. That’s because the roof and foundations are larger for ranch homes. With a ranch plan there is no opportunity to divide those costs between a first and second floor.

In today’s market, you can expect to pay between $250 and $273 per square foot for brand new ranch style living built to a five star energy rating. Nevertheless, the ranch home remains more popular than the apartment style condos (flats) in a larger building with interior corridors. That’s a very small segment of the home buying market, usually best suited for snowbirds, who live here only part-time. Most of us that plan to age in place still want to have a front door and an attached garage with a small yard, even if we have to hire someone to take care of it.  That’s the benefit of a ranch condo with a homeowner’s association. Expect more choices in this market the rest of the year.  Just don’t be surprised by the price.