I’ve been in some bad homes.
Condos with layouts that make me scratch my head, where the bathroom has an inexplicable diagonal jog behind the tub and living rooms are bisected by a pillar that makes placement of a couch or TV pretty much impossible.
Houses where modern touches have been grafted onto original features in a haphazard way, resulting in doors that don’t close properly, bathrooms so tiny that washing your hands means banging your elbows against the back wall and layer after layer of flooring making you trip as you walk from one room to the next.
In some cases, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me or my clients not like a space. We struggle to find the words to explain what is missing, why we just don’t feel at home.
This summer will be my sixth year as a full-time Realtor and as I continue to learn, work and grow in my field, I’m more and more interested in how design impacts the appeal and value of real estate.
Anyone who has found homes online using a set of criteria and then visited a number of the properties in person knows that it isn’t just about the numbers. There are two bedroom condos that you and your family can live in comfortably and there are those that might just fit you and a small dog. The difference is layout, useable space and developers who have done more than just tick boxes on a sheet. The difference is how it was designed.
There are houses you walk into and immediately get a sense of comfort and enjoyment, where the entrance flows to the living room, which is convenient to the kitchen, which looks onto the deck, which is framed by the garden. Then there are homes you walk into and then walk right back out.
Good design matters. In a home, good design makes you comfortable and happy. If you are a buyer, a well designed home makes you want to live there and results in more offers and a higher sale price. If you are a seller, a well designed home attracts lots of attention, sells quickly and for a higher sale price.
Make no mistake about it, design and sale price are very closely related. Case in point is a recent sale in the east end of Toronto. This property sold last year for $610,000 and the kitchen looking toward the living room and front door looked like this.
The buyer did some extensive renovations and imbued the home with a real sense of style and design. The property sold last week for $892,000 and the kitchen looking toward the living room and front door now looks like this.
Good design matters. It makes us feel, and emotion is what makes us act. Logic will make us think but my clients don’t buy a house because it looks good “on paper”. We buy homes that we feel comfortable in and that we can see us living and growing in the space.
As I’ve spent more time thinking about the impact of design, I’ve looked for ways to build on my daily experiences and intuition. Last year I read a book called A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, by Michael Pollan. An interesting read about a non-professional’s adventures in building a small cabin on his property. I enjoyed that book, but I remember it primarily because it introduced me to a 1977 publication called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.
Now that book is something special. It is nothing less than a primer on the principles of good design as it relates to towns, buildings and construction. It is absolutely amazing. The “patterns” in the title are principles to follow in designing spaces.
I’ve been so impressed with the lessons contained within it that I’m going to start including one of these “patterns” in each of these posts. At the bottom of the post, you will see a new section called Elements of Design. In it, I’ll introduce a pattern and the brief description of it and then comment on it. It’s my attempt to share how we all instinctively interpret and respond to a space.
For my buyer clients, I use these learnings to help identify what we like or what is missing in a space and how we could improve the feel (and value) of the property if we purchase it.
For my seller clients, I take these lessons to heart when discussing possible renovations, rearranging of furniture and all the ways in which we can tweak their home before selling to make it as appealing as possible.
I hope you’ll find these lessons as interesting as I do and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss them with you at some point!
If you or someone you like are considering buying, selling or investing in real estate, will you get in touch? I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.
Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a sequence which corresponds to their degree of privateness, the visits made by strangers, friends, guests, clients, family, will always be a little awkward.
On many occasions I’ve had clients comment on how they don’t like when they walk into a home and there is no separation between the entrance area and the living room or kitchen. The public areas (such as where we open the door when someone knocks) need to be separated in some way from the private areas (where the clutter and items of our everyday living are located) for us to feel comfortable.