Everyone wants a unique home that fits the way they live.
If you have lots of kids, you need bathrooms and casual space. And a vacation.
Everyone wants their house to sell easily and quickly - someday.
Are those two statements contradictory? You might think so, if you listen to some of the conventional wisdom from the real estate and homebuilding industries.
If you're selling houses, you're obviously interested in ones that will appeal to the widest audience possible. Houses similar in size and style, and with similar floor plans.
Theoretically, that should lead to greater exposure and a greater chance of a quick sale.
If you're buying a house, however, you want something much more personal - a home that has all of the things you need to support your unique daily life.
If you're an empty-nester, you probably want more living and entertaining space, and less maintenance. You don't want it to look like the house next door, either. That doesn't sound too difficult, does it?
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And yet I'm routinely asked by my clients to include things that they haven't been able to find in any "spec" home or any online house plan.
Things like decent-sized laundry rooms and mudrooms. Things that families need, like a walk-in pantry.
They also ask me to leave out the stuff they don't need – the formal living rooms, dining rooms, the powder rooms with the little balls of soap in the seashell bowl.
So how do you get a house that fits you, without being stuck with it forever?
What you really want
The whole point of this article is that a unique and interesting home, designed to closely fit the needs of your particular family, will very likely appeal to other families someday, too.
And maybe in a big way.
About fifteen years ago, I was hired to create a custom home for a client on a difficult property (the last lot available, the one that no one wanted) in a very nice subdivision.
The client had some specific needs, including accommodating a handicapped family member. We designed an unusual home with a screened porch facing the street, no formal entry foyer, a first-floor home office that converted to a handicapped-accessible bedroom, and a garage you could park sideways in.
They also wanted the home to have a character on the outside that was unlike anything else in the neighborhood.
Not exactly mainstream.
Six years ago, they sold the home. Here's what they had to say:
"[We received] far better-than-average appreciation of the property when we downsized some nine years later. We sold the home by ourselves with no realtor involved, and we heard from many that the unique design and curb appeal attracted them to contact us. We had no problem selling our fine home ...."
And since they're too modest to mention it, I'll add that they nearly doubled their money on the sale.
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That's what I want – how do I get it?
That's the easy part. Figure out what you want, and put aside notions about what you think the next family living in your home might want. Tune out the people telling you what you should have.
Focus on what works for you, not what works for the real estate market.
Make a quality home that works - whatever "works" means to your family and your life. Make it interesting and attractive, but above all make it fit your unique needs and wants.
Get a whole new attitude about what a unique and interesting home could be.
Sources of (better) inspiration
The key is to change how and where you're looking for new home and remodeling ideas.Stop looking at house plan websites and home-improvement-store plan books. Most of those are recycling the same basic plans over and over again, so you're not going to find much that's unique. And forget the idea that you're going to find one complete design that does all you need it to do.
Instead, look for the parts and pieces you want - find a cool kitchen, a knockout exterior, a screen porch you simply must have. A mudroom with a built-in cubby for each child.
You'll find that kind of inspiration online at sites like Yahoo! Homes, Houzz.com, Remodelista.com, and Freshome.com. You'll also find it in some of the better home design magazines, like Traditional Home, Residential Architect, Fine Homebuilding, Dwell (if you like contemporary design), and many others.
Don't worry about finding exactly what you want, or whether you can afford what you see. Keep a very open mind; we're tapping the power of imagination and brainstorming here.
And don't worry about how those pieces fit together. Sorting through what's feasible and what's not, and working with you to assemble your ideas into a unique, cohesive whole is my job, right?
Best of both worlds
You'll discover something else when you change your sources of inspiration. You'll see that there are lots of unique homes out there and that those homes are often more valuable than most - maybe because they're unique.
If you prefer a "middle of the market" home design, this probably doesn't make much sense to you.
But if you get excited by living in a house that stands out from the crowd, a home that does things that most homes don't, a home that you can fall in love with, then when the time comes to sell, you might find that "sold" sign out front a lot sooner than you'd thought.
Richard Taylor is a residential architect based in Dublin, Ohio and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with him at http://www.rtastudio.com/index.htm.
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