Many people ask me what they should do with their houses when they are redesigning them. Some plan their remodeling and/or addition as though they were going to sell the house the next day, when instead they intend to live there for another 20 years.
My advice is always the same – design the house for your taste, but don’t do things which are really poor design and/or don’t meet the standards of the American market.
For example, I was in a house recently which had no access to the backyard from the main living spaces of the house. To make matters worse, the house had only one bathroom and it was equidistant from both bedrooms, but to get to it, a person would have to go through a very public hall next to the dining room. Another item which made the house unsellable, in my opinion, was that it had no curb appeal. The owner had enclosed the front porch, and when he did, he did not even leave a window on the front of the house. Lastly, the kitchen was on the side of the house and had no connection to the backyard, although the house had a pool in the back. These 4 things together make the house very difficult to sell.
Today, most of the people with whom I meet to discuss their remodeling or addition, want a few basic things:
(1) They want an open kitchen, with as few walls as possible.
(2) They want the kitchen to face the back of the house or the family room which is on the
back of the house.
(3) They want nice, roomy bathrooms
(4) They want as high ceilings as possible.
(5) They want their houses to have curb appeal.
(6) They want a floor plan that works for them and is relatively open.
In the adjacent photo, the client wanted the kitchen moved from the center of the house to the rear, which we did. Before it was where the laundry room is now. Nobody wants a kitchen like that today!
People talk much about including green items, but almost nobody wants to pay for them. One item which really is not that expensive and gets paid back rather quickly is a solar water heater. The question is where to put the solar panels. Often homeowners’ associations or municipalities control where they can be located so that they are not visible from the street.
“Green” item such as rain barrels and xeriscape may not be attractive to the person who might consider buying your house in the future.
Modern design is “in”, but tacky is not. To do modern design well, a person needs to have a sense of proportion and style. Simple designs work best. Too many materials and too many colors are hard to coordinate and pull off well. So stick to unpretentious, but elegant designs, and you will not go wrong when it is time to sell the house.
One last thing I want to talk about is whether to include a pool. Pools are great. They are beautiful to look at, but they also require maintenance. Not everyone wants a pool. Those who have young children are afraid that their kids could hurt themselves in the pool. Those who are old do not want to have to attend to the pool maintenance. So before investing in a pool, think about whether you will enjoy it enough and whether you will use it consistently.
To me these are good principals to follow when redesigning a house, but at the same time, keeping the house sellable in the future.