Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Time to Build!

Almost every day I ask myself why more people are not taking advantage of this crazy building market.  By crazy I mean this is a ridiculous buyers market.  The answer seems to be fear.  We can't seem to get away from all the bad news.  Just turn on your tv or your computer and you get nailed with it.  I cannot say if the fear is justified or not.  Each persons situation is unique, and so it is up to them to determine for themselves.  But I can tell you that right now there are some really good opportunities for those that choose to pursue them.

If you have been thinking of building a new home or remodeling your existing one I suggest seriously pursuing it.  If not, you may just be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.  I have been in this industry for more than a few years now, and I cannot remember any time that the market has been more favorable for the buyer / client.  Here are a few of the big reasons:
  • Interest rates are ridiculously low.
  • Contractors and subcontractors are highly motivated.  In many cases they are working with little or no profit just to keep their good people busy.  And since they are not that busy, they have the time to dedicate to your project.  An associate of mine has had a flood of very high quality contractors practically begging to bid on a bathroom remodeling project.  I have had numerous local contractors request to bid on a project that is several hours outside of our traditional building area.
  • Lot costs have plummeted.  Developers are looking to unload.  Indeed the banks now own quite a bit of really nice land.  Call up a few of your local banks and ask for their property listings.  You might find a great deal by buying directly from the bank.
  • Many material costs are at 10 year lows.  Since no one is building demand is very low and inventories are up.  Classic over-supply and under-demand.
  • Everyone in the process is open to negotiation.  Realtors, Land Owners, Architects, General Contractors, Sub-Contractors, Suppliers, etc.  
Seriously this feels like the perfect storm - as in the perfect buyers market.  A great opportunity to do a beautiful project at the best possible value.  

How long will this last?
Nobody seems to know.  But statistics are beginning to show an improvement in the sales of existing homes and once inventory is diminished construction costs will begin to rise again.  Nobody knows how long this "window" will be open, but we all know it will not be open forever.  

Don't Feel Guilty!  
It is true that the current market allows the buyer to take advantage of the situation.  But at the same time the builders, vendors, designers, realtors that are surviving are truly appreciative of the work.  And if you pick the right team they are going to give you their best.  

Build Smart!
If you decide to proceed with a project, make sure you do it smart.  For instance "McMansions" have a bad name right now and the builders cannot seem to give them away.  This might not be the type of home that will be in great demand even after the turnaround.  Folks are starting to look for a more modest, smartly designed and quality constructed home.  The type of homes as seen below designed by Ron Brenner Architects.
Be Smart!
Utilize the expertise of your professionals (architects / designers, general contractors, realtors, etc.).   Don't try to design and construct the project yourself.  You will get a better outcome and will carry less burden if you have a good team around you.  And besides, right now you are practically getting their services for free!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interior Design with Sketchup

Simply Elegant Home Designs is now using Google Sketchup to better describe the interior design elements of their house plans.  

Ron Brenner of Simply Elegant had this to say.  "Better visualization of the product results in more thorough understanding of design intent and better translation by the builders.  We have been using 3d visualization for some time to illustrate building exteriors, and have discovered how valuable that visualization is.  It seems a logical next step to illustrate the interior design elements of a home with 3d.  Nowadays Architects have so many good tools to work with, and so why not use them?  The idea is to use the tools available to us to create a better product and a better service.  I think that some day we may not be issuing 2d plans, sections and elevations, but we will be issuing 3d virtual models.  And some day builders may have a television monitor at the job site in lieu of a plan desk."

The animation below illustrates the interior cabinetry and millwork elements of "The Stillwater", a house plan offered by Simply Elegant Home Designs.
video

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Mudroom

The mudroom has become an increasingly important space in home design. This space has transitioned over the years from nothing more than a small hallway with a coat closet into a zone that serves multiple needs. I now spend much time thinking about the function of the mudroom zone in our home designs.

Here are a few of the potentially important features of the mudroom zone:
  1. A Bench - Where you can sit down and put on your boots.
  2. Lockers - A place where you can quickly drop off your coat and hat.
  3. Dump Desk - A storage space for dropping off the mail or briefcase.
  4. Powder Room - The mudroom zone is a great place for the powder room because it is a more "discreet" location and convenient on your way in or out of the house.
  5. Laundry Area - The mudroom zone is a great place for the laundry. This space is convenient to the activity areas of the house, but since it is "around the corner" it is a bit more acoustically separated. Hanging storage for the laundry can sometimes double to serve as a coat closet area.
  6. Second Entry - The mudroom zone typically will function as the space you enter from the garage. If the plan layout allows it can also serve as the primary "family entry" from the outdoors. This way the kids don't have to open the garage door to come inside, or worse yet use the front door.
  7. Windows - The mudroom zone is an important space, so access to natural daylight here is as important as any other room.
  8. Beauty - The mudroom does not to be a "utilitarian" space. It is an important space, so why shouldn't it look as good as the rest of the house?

The image below illustrates a custom cabinet that provides lockers with bench and cubby storage on one side, and provides hanging storage for the laundry area on the other side.

The image below illustrates a typical new multi-functional mudroom designed by Ron Brenner. The bench area is outfitted with hooks above for coat hanging, storage drawers below and cubbies above. A taller cabinet serves as a "dump desk". A powder room is discreetly located behind the storage area. Durable slate tile flooring is installed. The family entry door is just out of view to the right, also washing the mudroom with natural light. A separate stairway leads to a "private getaway" located above the garage. You can also see the kitchen is conveniently located around the corner.


Update to top 10 house plan sites

Some time ago I posted my opinion of the top 10 web places to find good house plans.  I have now updated that posting by dropping in one new name.  LaMiDesign has been inserted into the number 4 position.  It is a great place to find truly modern house plans.

Please check out the revised top 10 list.
 
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