Design Options for the New Home Buyer

The same architect has done quite a few houses in the neighborhood where I am planning to build. commercial carpet The houses look nice, but when I met him at a housewarming, things did not jell. What should I do?

You will be working with your architect very closely for as long as two years, and you need to be very comfortable with that person. If you didn’t like the architect when you met him socially, I would keep looking.

How far out in design can I go?

It’s your house; you can build whatever you want. But a word of caution is in order. At some point you or your heirs will be selling your house. If you build one that’s so unique that few buyers are interested, it will be harder to sell it than if you go with something a little more mainstream. This is not saying that resale should become the tail that’s wagging your design, only that you don’t want to build something that becomes a white elephant.

I signed a sales contract for the same façade my builder used for his model. Called the “Devonshire,” it has a clear English cottage look. Then I went on a long business trip. When I returned and visited the job site, I found that I was getting the “Marseilles,” which has a clear Mediterranean look with red tiles and white stucco walls. Can I do anything?

When you signed the sales contract you agreed that the builder has the right to make your house “substantially similar” to the model. I would say that a Mediterranean look is not at all “substantially similar” to an English cottage look, but these distinctions are in the eyes of the beholder, and the relevant beholder is the court in your jurisdiction. You should consult an experienced real estate attorney who is familiar with production builder sales contracts and practices in your jurisdiction.

My builder offers several choices for the exterior finish of the house. I can get a brick front and finish the sides and back with something less expensive. Am I being cheesy to consider this?

Not at all. In most new subdivisions now, almost every house with a brick front has something different for the sides and rear. When you find out how much it costs to have brick on all four sides, you will decide to do what all the other buyers on the block did.

My husband and I go back and forth on whether to have a living room in our new house. We hardly use the one we have now. Any thoughts?

I think there are two issues in this debate. The first is practical. If most houses in your market still have living rooms, having one yourself may be helpful when that resale time finally comes. That being said, some floor plans are now cleverly configured so that you can close the living room off with French doors and use the space for something else such as a home office or even a guest room (if you do this, you might consider adding a shower to the first floor powder room). If either of you anticipate that you will do a lot more entertaining in your beautiful new house, the living room could be an asset.

Then there’s the emotional side of things. If either or both of you have always lived in a house with a living room, you may feel, subconsciously, that a house is not “complete” without one. Sort of like shutters for windows—they’re rarely functional but most people think a window is “naked” without them. We all have deep-rooted feelings about what a house should look like and what spaces it should have inside. Perhaps sentimental attachment to the furniture in your present living room because it belonged to your parents or grandparents accounts for your ambivalence.

If you can tease out the reasons for your back and forth debate, you’re on your way to finding a solution here.

Our builder is offering a deck as an option. Should we get it now or get it later?

Unlike finished space such as a breakfast room, which definitely will cost a lot more if you add it later, a deck now or later will generally cost the same. But, should you decide to get the deck later, make sure that you ask your builder how he is framing the backside of your house where you want to add the deck. In some instances, builders frame a house one way when they are building the deck and another way when they’re not.

You need the framing information because that will affect how you frame the new deck and support it. If the deck is not framed properly, it is subject to collapse.

When I open the doors in many builders’ models, they feel flimsy and cheap. What could I substitute if my builder agrees?

Most production builders, as tract builders preferred to be called, use hollow core doors. A solid core door made of medium density fiberboard feels more solid when you open or close it. When it ‘s painted, it looks like the solid paneled doors you see in older houses. The heavier doors also provide sound-proofing benefits.

I know that I need more lighting than the builder offers in the base-priced house. How can I tell what I will need?

Try to visit the furnished model at night. During the day, the large windows that everyone wants flood the house with natural light, and this makes it hard to determine what additional lighting is required.

Which kitchen counter layout works best?

A galley arrangement with one aisle and the sink and stove opposite each other so you only have to turn around to go from one to the other is the most efficient kitchen counter layout. An island cooktop opposite the sink, which many builders offer, is almost the same thing. Just make sure that you have at least 15 inches of counter space on both sides of the cooktop. This will give you ample room for pot handles to overhang and space to put bowls and utensils and the condiments that you use while cooking.

I’m kind of a slob in the kitchen. Any suggestions for finishes?

Congratulations on being so honest! I would get countertop materials that don’t stain, such as composite (its made of quartz and a small amount of polyester binder) or stainless steel, which is indestructible. Avoid light wood or white cabinets because you don’t want the stains from tea bags that you toss to the waste basket and sometimes miss or other food stains to show. Pick a color or pattern in the floor that hides the dust and dog hair. And, get a counter arrangement that does not give you a huge food prep area because I suspect you are the type of cook who spreads all over whatever space is available. If that space is large, it will take you longer to clean up.

I have three small dogs. I have heard that many homeowner associations do not allow owners to have more than one dog. What should I do?

Keep looking until you find one that will allow you to keep your dogs. This regulation is not likely to be included in any of the sales promotional material, so you’ll need to ask the sales agent. To be absolutely sure, check the homeowner association bylaws.

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