Functional home and resale...what can be skipped

8mpgNovember 7, 2012

Im hoping to build next year and deed restrictions puts us at 3500sq ft minimum single story or 2500down 600 up if 2 story. I personally would prefer a 1 story (possibly 1.5). Now there are couple things I think most houses in this size I dont really think we NEED: a 2nd living room or a breakfast nook. I feel that the extra square footage is better used for a single large great room and little bit larger kitchen with bigger island to use as a breakfast area.

Most people with formal living rooms dont use the space...ever (well the people I have met). When people come over for entertainment, they use a living/great room and the kitchen. Formal living room usually collects dust with expensive furniture that isnt ever used. Been to many houses with plastic wrapped formal furniture in my days.

Anyways, Im looking for input on my idea of subtracting these two areas. Im worried about resale in the future. I believe that it would be more functional to have another bedroom rather than a formal living. Also, possibly a 2nd island that could also be purposed as a kitchen table with more seating for 4-6 rather than 2-4. The house will keep the formal dining room as I think it is important for people to spend time each other and dine together. Lacking a full kitchen table might be motivation to use a formal dining than 2-4 times a year. Id also rather use the square footage for a mud room, computer center near the kitchen, little larger laundry room with a possible island to fold laundry in, etc...

The house is just going to be the fiance and I so. We may adopt a child in a couple years but not planning on having a bunch of children. This is why I worry about resale and the use of other people. What is your opinion on my ideas...any other areas we can skip? I feel that most house plans I see online are more traditional or older plans without new features we seem to trend to such as a mud room, home theater, etc. I believe we have hit an age where we want more efficient and useable space. No need for 2 story foyers or great rooms.

I'll take any ideas/comments positive or negative.



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Have you read the Not So Big House books by Susan Susanka? She agrees with you completely. Her typical floor plan replaces the formal living room with an "away room"-- basically a library or other quiet space for someone to hang out if they don't want to be within earshot of the TV. She also puts more care into the "family entrance". In place of a formal dining room, she suggests planning one dining space that works everyday but can be dressed up for formal occasions.

Whether or not this is a resale risk depends a great deal on where you're building and what people expect there. I'm building in Minnesota, where Susanka started out, and many of her ideas are in tract homes here. Formal dining rooms are the exception, not the rule, and formal living rooms are shrinking. The home we plan to build will not have a formal living room or dining room, and I am not concerned about the impact on resale. But I believe that in the South these ideas are less popular.

The very best thing you can do to protect resale, IMO, is to have a floorplan with good flow. There should be a gentle transition from most public to most private spaces as you walk through the house (your master bedroom shouldn't open to the foyer, IMO, unless you plan to throw *really* fun parties, LOL!). Consider what people can see as they enter the house, and as they enter rooms, and as they sit at the table, or island or wherever you expect people to loiter. Think about rooms you love, and what you love about them. My parents' house was built in the 60s, and because the flow works, the house doesn't feel dated (or at least it didn't once they took up the orange carpet, LOL). When we were house-hunting we looked at numerous homes from the 80s that felt incredibly dated because, while they can check the boxes of having all the rooms we're looking for, the flow didn't work, and so all your left with is a house that has the bling people were looking for in the 80s.

There are Not-So-Big-House plans available online, if you want to check them out. I'd also recommend "Designing your Perfect House".

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Susan Susanka's website

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 8:30AM
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I totally agree about the living room. We have a library instead and it is used as an away room - talking on the phone when a little extra quiet is needed (husband is a physician and patient phone calls with loud kids in the background is a no no), reading when everyone else is watching TV, etc.

I would not eliminate the breakfast nook - dining room maybe but not breakfast nook. Most folks don't like to eat their meals on an island. Breakfast is fine, but I like to be able to look at someone when I eat dinner with them. Not to mention, if you use your island as a prep space (we do) I wouldn't want to stare at the dinner mess or have to clean it up before we eat.

Having an island and a breakfast nook allows you the flexibility of the serve/prep space but lets you eat dinner as a family - which I for one want. It also gives you extra dining space if you have a larger than normal crowd (we have a 6 person table, 5 people in family, but if we have kids friends eating some will eat at the island).

If you don't use a formal dining room, I don't see a problem eliminating that.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 8:51AM
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We still have a dining room in our new home but I eliminated the door opening from the kitchen into the so called dining room and we use that room as our home office/study. We have plenty of eating space in our kitchen between the table and bar and is open to the great room where people can be seated if needed.

If we ever sell the home and the new owner wants a dining room, they still have the space for it. If they want a study too - they'd have to use the main floor guest room as a study.

We made the rooms fit our needs, but it can be changed for future resale.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 9:54AM
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Perhaps if you are interested in a smaller more efficient home, then this isn't the location for you to build. 3500 square feet is NOT a small home, and there will have to be spaces that you create that you don't use, simply because of the minimum size requirements.

I'm sure you could sell the lot and find a location that didn't have such a large minimum square footage requirement.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Yes, 3,500 SF is a lot of house for 2, possibly 3, people. Do you expect to live in this house for a long time? Most people tend to live in a house a lot less than they originally think.

Susamka's books are very good references.

The best advice I ever heard about designing a house is to design it for you and not for resale. After all, you're the one living in (and paying for) it!

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 1:21PM
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I would put the space into a large dining room. We moved into a house with a large dinning room and a small counter in the kitchen and we eat every night and many lunches in the dinning room - really love it. We use the kitchen for small breakfast and bigger deals in the dinning room. We do not have a formal living room but have a smaller sitting area and a cozy den for TV etc. We use all our space about 2200 square feet - we are retired.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 4:26PM
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We did not do a formal living room - instead we have a "study" that I guess you could also call a library. Has built in bookcases/desk along one wall and will eventually have a comfy reading chair. We wanted an area that could function as an "away room" and homework place for kids. It's separated by french doors from our main family room.

We did keep the formal dining room and breakfast room though. Inherited a dining room set that I needed a place for. My mom's house has an island and a dining room with no casual "breakfast room". No pun intended, but it is sometimes uncomfortable to eat breakfast! Going in the dining room by oneself is sort of odd (we all wake up at different times and prepare our own bowl of cereal when we visit), but sitting at the island often seems antisocial. If you were to do without one of the areas, I would cut the island seating. I can easily do without that.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 7:36PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. Selling the lot and buying somewhere else is not going to happen. You cannot pick up 2.5 acres anywhere around me for what I paid. We are in an area that is well built out and acreage is very hard to come by. I really like the area. 3500-4000sqft is not the problem, Id like to make the best use of it rather than have wasted spaces. My parents house is 3800sq ft and has 4 LARGE bedrooms whereas other houses these days I see are the same size with smaller bedrooms but they go to 5 bedrooms. Id like to have individual bathrooms per bedroom rather than jack/jill. These are small touches that can be done by skipping extra unused areas. Just making the spaces more functional rather than wasteful.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 1:48AM
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See, now you're talking about really adding to the price of the house. All square footage isn't equal in costs. Adding in more bathrooms isn't cheap space. Bedroom space usually is, but larger kitchens and baths, and the larger HVAC needed to deal with 3500 square feet rather than 2500 square feet...... It all adds up quickly. Not to mention the constant carrying costs to heat and cool space that you don't need. And the higher taxes on the larger space. And the more maintenance costs. That is something that people do not think about as a permanent part of the home when they are in the planning stages.

And if you are on a budget, the differences you are talking about can be budget wrecking. If you're already at the 1M range, then 50K here or there probably isn't as threatening to the realization of your plans rather than if you are a 350K budget. A house the size that you describe, and with the details you are describing is closer to the former budget than the latter.

It's always better to build smaller, with plans to expand to larger later if need be. Building big is only really smart if you already have a large family, or you are building a spec home, to be sold upon completion. Then you really don't care too much about the details as all that is important is square footage.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 7:54AM
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Thankfully I live in Texas where building is cheap. We are realistically in the $75/ft range to build the house due to the fact we own the land. Building in Texas is so much cheaper than other parts of the US that it is amazing when I see what others build for.

My biggest concern of resale is due to the fact we probably wont live here that long.. Im assuming 5 years or so. Even at 3500sq ft, that would be the smallest house in the neighborhood. The next door neighbor is 5600sq ft on one side and 4600sq ft on the other.

If we decide to move in the next 5 years, Im hoping to make a few hundred thousand dollars in the process. A 4000sq ft house with moderate finishes is going for close to $700k. Land value is about $200k and the house was built in 1998. Our land value will be about the same and the house can be built for $300k (estimate from a friend who is a builder). Im hoping to be around $400-450k total with land. These are the numbers we are going by. Building 3500-4000sq ft does not bother me as I see a potential for large gains in the future. Picking up the land for 40% of its value was a great help. Luckily when we add land purchase price and house building price, we theoretically will be quite positive equity wise. While I would like to stay in the house (forever) the taxes will probably run us off. Luckily in the beginning the county will add land purchase price + house building price and tax off there. I can afford taxes on that. They have rule it can only increase 10% per year, so I have a few years before taxes get outrageous. If they do not reassess the house yearly, the longer we will stay. I can afford the taxes but dont want to :D

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 10:43AM
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If you already know you want to sell within 5 years and your motive is to "make money", I think you are taking a huge risk....but that is only my opinion. Who knows what the housing market will be in the future?...are you willing to take that risk...and can you afford to do so? Taxes are only going to go up...that is a given, so I'd think more than twice doing it.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 11:00AM
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Phoggie... I have been looking to build or buy for over a year now. The fiance and I both live at separate places (been together 8 years). Id really like to stay at this house for a long time as we have both lived in this area our whole lives and have stable jobs in a great part of the DFW area. We will see how things play out whether we stay or not. If we work hard and pay the house off early, taxes are easy. With our income, Im hoping to have the house paid off in 5 years with planned expenses. Luckily I work in healthcare and can pick up overtime or a PRN job if I want to. Heck, my income this year is 50% overtime :D

We will see how taxes play out based on assessments. Again, our goal is to stay long as we can but I refuse to pay $20k a year in property taxes. We should be in the $6000-7000 range when we build

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 11:26AM
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We dont have a breakfast area and have never missed it. We use our dining room everyday. It's open to our kitchen and family room and a bit more casual than most dining rooms, but can be dressed up for formal occasions. I wouldn't want to eat at the island all the time.

We do have a library with french doors so that the room can be closed off. Does it get used everyday? No, but it gets used often enough tht I'm glad to have it. I think for a 3500 sq ft house, you need one additional room other than the family room. Design it as a flex room, so that it can be used as a library, playroom, piano room, office, spare bedroom, formal dining room etc.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 12:03PM
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