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Getting Started

You’re ready to start poring over plan books and visiting furnished models. Slow down!

You need to study your own nest first. The more precisely you can state what you like and dislike about each room in the place where you live now, the easier it will be to find a new house that meets your needs. And, the happier you will be when you move in. Nothing is worse than ending up in a new house that has all the shortcomings of your old one except that it’s bigger or smaller.

 

Katherine’s Childhood Home Adapts for Today’s Lifestyles

 

Katherine returns to the house where she grew up, in suburban Washington, D.C., for the first time since her parents sold it in 1987. She considers why the home, built in the late 1930s, adapts for today’s buyers and compares quality of construction materials, then and now.

 

Trends: ‘And the Most Popular Home Plan Is...’

 

For two years running, the same plan has been the best seller at three of the five leading home plan services. It is significantly smaller than the average-sized new home built in 2012, a clear sign that homeowners are willing to live smaller. But they also want quality over quantity — this baby is packed with luxuries — and an exterior that is traditional.

 

When a Parent Ages in Place at Your Place: Planning Beyond Design

 

If you are thinking about moving your elderly parent into your house, you are surely asking yourself if it can accommodate the needs of an older person. But your concerns should extend beyond your house to include your community and your extended family. Can they provide the support that you will need? If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to care for an elderly parent.

 

Make a Smaller House Feel Bigger (Really)

 

When you opt for a smaller house, you can’t have everything, but architects say that most homeowners haven’t gotten the message. Their must-have list for their simpler life often adds up to a larger house than they live in now. Eventually they get more realistic. Memphis architect Carson Looney points out that as main living areas get smaller, the spaces that connect them — hallways, stairs, and doorways — should be larger than the ones most home builders provide. This will make the rooms feel bigger, too.

 

‘Smart Money’ Home Building: Hire Experience, Control Costs

 

“Smart Money” in home building means getting the best house within your budget rather than the biggest house or most trophy features for the least money. Katherine’s tips include hiring experience, hiring architect and builder at the same time, and focusing on lifetime cost rather than first-time cost in choosing materials.

 

Parents Moving In? Kids Back? Read In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats

 

If you’re considering building a granny flat, Michael Litchfield’s In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats will get you organized. The book offers a brief tutorial on planning and zoning review process, tips on kitchens and bathrooms — the costliest part of such a project — and 30 inventive examples that range from tiny to merely small.

 

Insider Insights: Dan Gregory, Editor of Houseplans.com

 

Behind every really good writer stands a really good editor, the unsung hero behind literary success. Filmmakers also have editors and their work is so valued the movie industry includes it in the annual Oscar awards. Architects do not have editors to offer feedback on their designs, but home plan services do have acquisition editors and Dan Gregory of Houseplans.com is the best in the business.

 

Livability: The Ultimate Take-Home Test

 

Architects use one word to describe nearly everything, including houses: design. When talking to each other, the term conveys a lot of information, but the average person who tries to understand why a particular house passed muster is in the dark. Was it the floor plan and the traffic flow? Window placements? Energy savings? Some other reason? A term for judging houses that everyone can understand is “livability.”

 

Ex-HUD Secretary’s RX for Housing: Quality

 

When asked how home ownership could be improved for middle- and low-income households, Henry Cisneros said the No. 1 issue for him was quality of construction because he has seen so many projects “go south.” Cisneros also discussed the sales contracts of large home builders and the need to make these “transparent” and clearly understandable to the average person.

 

Get Inspired by Iconic Designs of Famous Architects

 

After finishing Dominic Bradbury’s The Iconic House: Architectural Masterpieces Since 1900, I was ready to start crisscrossing the country to visit places I had never considered to see houses I had never heard of. Though some of Bradbury’s iconic houses will be familiar, in many cases the architects are known for other projects and their houses are startlingly different.

 

Organize to Downsize: Here’s Where You Start

 

Downsizing, like all big changes, can be overwhelming. Not only will you be thinning out your belongings, you also have to decide where to live. To help organize your thoughts, clarify your choices and determine your priorities, use the journalists’ tool for framing a story: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

 

Best Planning Tool for a New House? Your Current Home

 

If you decide to build a new house, you're likely to find that so much media attention is focused on green building, it’s easy to lose sight of the basics — including the most basic thing of all, which is why you decided to do this in the first place. What is it about your current house that makes you want to move on?

 

Moving Day: Box Buying Tips to Send You Packing

 

Corrugated fiberboard boxes are cheap, green and miracles of engineering. A box that weighs less than two pounds can hold 65 pounds, contain 60 percent post-consumer recycled content — and cost only 67 cents!

 

Real-Estate Love Is Blind, Bring Along This Reality Checklist

 

When I saw a brand-new apartment on Roosevelt Island it was love at first sight. Great views, great floor plans, perfect size and affordable. I was too bowled over to notice any shortcomings like the kitchen that was great for one person to use, a nightmare for two. Or the huge windows that would require costly shades to block out the blinding afternoon sun.

 

You, Your Builder and, Yes, a ‘Real Estate Prenup’

 

We all know what to do when presented with a prenup – consult an attorney before signing anything. What we may not realize before signing any contract, including a pre-nup for marriage or the purchase of a new house, is that all contracts are heavily biased in the writer’s favor.

 

Sizing Up the Idea of Downsizing

 

The notion of downsizing can be appealing, but its full implications may not sink in until homeowners are deciding what to keep, what to let go. Katherine and her husband took a trial run by renting out their 3,000-square-foot Michigan home and moving for a year into a 1,000-square-foot apartment in New York City.

 

Architect Fees Made Simple(r)

 

Traditionally an architect’s fee is based on a percentage of construction cost. The percentage varies from firm to firm, as do “standard services.” Some architects charge an hourly rate or a combination of the two fee systems. The large amount of money involved in building a house creates anxiety for clients, and a wise architect guides them gently through the process.

 

Managing the Stress of Home Building

 

Forensic architect Richard Rivin cites two often overlooked factors in successful home building projects. First, homeowners handled stress well. Second, homeowners worked with an architect who structured the decision making so that the homeowners felt confident with their choices at each step of the design process.

 
 

Turn a Good House Into a Great House

  Interior designers are skilled at matching a house to a lifestyle. They have a practical streak and expertise in the aesthetic nuances. Their savvy about durability of materials and finishes goes far beyond that of a typical model-home salesperson and most custom builders. Engaging an interior designer can help you turn a good house into a great house.
 

 

 

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