Transformation Tuesday: Love the Home You're With

| 11/29/2011 2:48:57 PM

Tags: renovation, remodel, renovate, custom home, personalized home, Jessica Kellner,

This Tuesday has me thinking about home renovation, thanks to my recent trip to my parents' home for Thanksgiving weekend. Ever since my younger sister moved out of the house several years ago, my mom and dad have been debating whether they should move to a new home or renovate the one they've got. Despite the fact that they never seem to fully settle the debate, they continue doing home renovations and improvements that make moving out less likely. And it makes a lot of sense. Their house is great—it's in excellent condition, it's a good size and it's in a great neighborhood. But since there are no kids left in the house, they're left with more rooms than they regularly need, but less space than they'd like in the rooms they use often. This brought to mind the excellent article by my friend Wanda Urbanska in the current issue. In Space Case, we talk about how to reconfigure your home to suit your needs at any time of life. Forget resale value! Forget the old-fashioned requirements of a dining room, study, guest room and office. Designing a home for the typical suburban family with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths is a thing of the past! In a poor real estate market, your home is far more valuable to you as a haven that nurtures your life and its goals than as a commodity you're ready to flip at the drop of a hat. So embrace your life and your home (and have some fun) by suiting your home to your lifestyle.

Here are a few of my favorite tips for customizing your home to your life:

1) Embrace your hobby. Are you an avid gardener, a craft-enthusiast, a knitter, seamstress, baker or candlestick-maker? Dedicate a space in your house to your hobbies. If you have a rarely used guest room, turn it into a dedicated craft room by putting in a desk, shelves or bins for organization, and proper lighting. Hang an inspiration board to motivate you.

2) Knock it out. One housing trend that doesn't seem to be fading away anytime soon is a preference for an open floor plan. Any time you can open up your home, it helps make it feel larger (long views trick the eye into perceiving a larger space) and brighter, because sunshine can travel unimpeded throughout the house. Taking out whole walls, parts of walls or even making cut-through spaces from room to room will make your home feel brighter and more modern, and it will also pay off in the real estate market should you decide to sell down the road.

3) Seek out wasted space. Sometimes we become blind to wasted spaces in our homes because we're used to things as they are. If you live in a tight space, consider ways you can tuck new functions into existing spaces. A corner of the living room can become an office area if you separate it with a pretty privacy screen. A mud room or entryway can house a garden-supply nook if you buy a table with a few drawers and install some shelves on the wall. 

4) Divide and conquer. Another smart idea for empty-nesters in a poor real-estate market? Create a rental unit within your current home. I have a friend who is in her 50s. The kids have moved out and she's single, yet her gorgeous house is nearly paid off and in a fantastic neighborhood. Because she bought the place a few decades ago, she would be spending nearly double her mortgage to rent a decent apartment, yet she feels like a pinball bouncing around in the too-large space. If you have a few spare rooms with access to a bathroom, reconfiguring your house to accommodate a small rental unit (by adding a new exterior entrance and a kitchenette) may not be that difficult. Plus, it will provide extra income as well as a built-in housesitter if you travel.

brant saye
8/31/2012 8:14:50 AM

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vickie houser
1/15/2012 9:56:18 PM

I belive a "great neighborhood" is going to be different for each family. You can't tell someone what a great neighborhood is, unless you know them well. For example - my great neighborhood is an old neighborhood on the south edge of town, near downtown. Schools are tough and crime is higher just a few blocks away, but we have a great old cottage with a extra large lot perfect for gardening. We can get anywhere in town with a 5 min trip to the interstate, and our street dead ends at the ravine that runs a creek to the river. Nice neighbors, and no possible expansion south of us. And no home associations telling us what we can do with our property. Is this great for you? Maybe not, but it for us. :)

gina bisaillon
12/12/2011 12:26:46 PM

What's a great neighbourhood? For me it's being able to walk to the stores and services, for you it might be the good schools for your kids. Usually, it also means where the other houses are kept in good repair, where you feel safe about leaving for a vacation, where you know your neighbours. Or not?

mike kiernan
12/9/2011 5:20:19 PM

Before you do anything it would be a real smart move to consult your attorney or tax advisor. Some states will increase you property value for taxing purposes based on your home re-modeling simply based on the construction / re-modeling permit issued. In Maine they are almost desperate for any signs of a home re-model to base any type of property tax increase on. Know what the law says and be sure you stay inside of it. The alternative is you might just improve yourself right out of your home because you can't afford it.

geri modell
12/9/2011 4:08:30 PM

Nice article, but I have to just say that I find the multiple references to "great neighborhood" a bit jarring. Can you define what you mean by that? Perhaps you mean that there is low crime, the area is clean, the neighbors are friendly? It would help to spell that out. I feel the term "great neighborhood" is synonymous in some camps with lack of ethnicity in area demographics, so I would express a very polite suggestion that you try to be specific when using such a term. Maybe it's just my beef. Would be curious to hear if others had similar reaction. Thanks - otherwise, very good food for thought, as my husband and I are empty-nesters constantly asking these very questions.

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