What is your 'demographic?' (need advice)

lara_janeApril 3, 2007

I'm namely interested in age and family size.

We're early 30s and have a 6-year-old (or as he loves to inform us, 6¾) and also hoping for a baby within a year or so. We're in the planning stages of building a small home that will be paid off in a couple of years and then eventually we'll build our "forever home" (also smallish) on the same property.

As I stated in this thread, we're wanting to build a 2-storey with 2 bedrooms upstairs and common rooms on the main level. We'll have a basement that will later be finished with another bedroom (or two?) and a den. We're still working on plans but we really don't want more than 1400 square feet (not counting the basement), and the smaller the better, really, as we'd like to be mortgage-free asap!

Whether a single- or 2-storey is more economical is debatable, but this is what we'd like right now. However, we're wondering if the "demographic" of small-home buyers will not like this plan, due to our assumption that it will be mostly empty-nesters in the market for a house of our size and stairs are usually not favored. (Especially considering our house will basically be three levels!) We're crossing our fingers that perhaps we're wrong and maybe other small families would be interested...

This is kind of where our hearts are but if it's not reasonable of course we're willing to change our plans to suit the market. We'd just appreciate your thoughts on the matter!



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Mid 60's, retired, kids are long-gone/on their own, debt-free, living on Social Securities plus rental incomes from a couple of commercial properties.
Yes, we could've built a 2-story for a lot less (per sq ft), but we designed/built a special/custom small single-story. We were willing to pay a lot more per sq ft in order to have exactly what we wanted. We "over built" for the neighborhood, and if we had to sell we would be lucky to get 75% of what we've spent. We're gambling that we'll live here for at least 15 years. We REALLY like this house.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 2:10PM
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We're in our 30s with a 9 year old and hoping for a baby in the next year too! My Dh built our current home starting about 12 years ago. It's a 1.5 story with 2 bedrooms upstairs, living area down and a partially finished basement. We put it on the market and it sold within a week to a couple retiring early from the military.

We're building our forever home now and to be hinest, we're not making a whole lot of changes in size. Our current home is 1500 sqft not including basement (900 down and 600 up due to cathedral ceiling in living room) and our new home is 1800 sqft (900 up and 900 down).

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 9:02AM
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53 and 47 and we're building a 1600 sq foot single level (with walk out basement).

Personally I would not mind a multi level at all - good exercise. The MAIN thing you want to do is make sure the laundry is on the same level as the bedrooms.

The problem is not stairs but stairs when carrying loads up and down.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rod and DJ's House Building Adventure

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 1:15PM
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I'm 55, live alone in a one-level, 1300 s.f. home.

The American family is shrinking, and more people are living alone than ever, at all ages. This trend is projected by demographers to continue. Some housing analysts even wonder if the large homes now being built will become white elephants in 10 years and become basically multi-family boarding houses, as many large older homes did in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

So it looks like there will be buyers for homes like yours in some locations. Today the trend seems to be that people who want smaller homes move into urban areas while large home building continues in the suburbs, either as infill or in new developments. In rural areas, there's a mix.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 3:30PM
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I think there are several factors that come into play:

- how big is your lot? If it's on the small side relative to your neighbors, you might want to build up rather than out to preserve the space you have.

- can you specify the design of the house to make it easier to adapt later? Could you make sure there's water/power/gas available for a main-floor laundry if you plan to put it in the basement for now? Could you deal with wide, straight staircases so it would be relatively easy/less expensive to add a chair lift later? Could you leave space for a home elevator (even if the space is just closet space for you now)?

- What is the norm in your area? In my neighborhood, one or two stories -- anything goes. In others, a different style would stick out more (esthetically as well as structurally).

For every decision you make, you can be pretty certain there will be some potential buyer out there who won't like it. Some folks would insist on bedrooms up to limit the noise from common areas; others don't want the steps. Try to think ahead to make accessibility changes easier, but don't even try to design the ultimate. An old Danish proverb says, "He who builds according to the advice of many will have a crooked house." Don't have a crooked house. :-)

BTW, I'm in my 40s and living by myself in a 3-bedroom rambler. The basement contains the washer and dryer and a second bathroom but otherwise is a big closet. But I don't think I'll ever have problems selling a 3-bedroom rambler in this market.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 9:47AM
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We are in our mid-30's and have 5 children. We built a small (1300sqft) 3 bedroom/3 story home and sold it to a single mother. It had the MB and 1/2 bath with an open loft upstairs, the living and 2 bedrooms with a full bath on the main level and an unfinished basement with laundry and storage. We had no trouble selling but I hated the laundry in the basement. I wish we had built a laundry shute :) We are getting ready to start a new house that will be 2 story with the MB upstairs again and everything else on the main level. I like it best if kids are not running up and down stairs. LOL We will build it in sections. First with just two bedrooms (1100sqft) then when that is complete add on another bedroom and the living room (1750sqft total). I can post pictures of the house plans we designed if anyone is interested.
Oh yeah, we built mortgage free then and will do so again. MY husband is doing all the work and we made LOTS of sacrifices as well as 5 years to complete it but it was worth it and are about to do it again but it will not be as hard as it was the first time when we built in Alaska.

Here is a link that might be useful: all our houses

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 3:50PM
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I am 36 and DH is 33. No kids. We are in a 2-story saltbox home (really 3 with the walkout basement/tuck-under garage on the back, it's a deeply sloped lot) and are looking for a 1 story home if at all possible. Since 1994 I've been disabled by chronic fatigue syndrome and severe fibromyalgia, and stairs can be incredibly daunting at times, especially if I have to try to carry something while getting up those stairs. If I'm in a flare and using my cane (which DH rather pointedly hung on my purse recently LOL), it's dang near impossible to carry, say, a full laundry basket upstairs! Thankfully this house has a first floor master suite, one of the top five reasons we bought it; we might buy a 2 story again if the main bedroom and bath are on the first floor and I don't have to use stairs to get to the garage. I would definitely not get another house just like this one though.

No one ever expects to become ill or disabled, or to have an ill or disabled child, and too many people pretend "it can never happen to me". The Baby Boomers are aging, too, no matter how much they fight it kicking and screaming. My dad was an amputee by his late 40s, living in a tiny 1930s 1 1/2 story (bedrooms upstairs of course) bungalow that couldn't have been made elder-friendly or handicapped-accessible with anything but a can of kerosene and a match, and I could tell you some hair-raisers about his trying to get around that house. If you're bent on building a house with stairs, work a space for a dumbwaiter (to be added later, maybe) into your plans, or even an elevator, or put yourself in a location where you can unload the house quickly and easily if the excrement impacts the ventilating device, and be able to either rebuild something new that is more accessible, buy a single-floor house to modify, or if you are lucky find a house or condo that's already been built or altered to universal design principles.

Were we ever to get lucky enough to build (not going to happen unless we win the Lotto, it is just too damn expensive up here) it would definitely be a single-story house, or single-story on a walkout basement for DH and his sawdust. :-)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2007 at 5:41PM
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We're 59 and 54 building a 1 story 1176sf house. A stint in a wheelchair and then using a walker convinced me to go with a single level. But to get what we wanted it took a good architect to come up with the design. Tom

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 7:08AM
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I'm a "come of age" Baby Boomer and the lone occupant of a two story, 4 bedroom, 2 full bath house. I've lived in larger and I've lived in smaller, but this has a roomy comfort level (approx. 1700 sq ft) and affords me the luxury of having "someplace to go". This house was designed and built in the mid 30's by an architect for his family, has thoughtful features (one being the laundry chute to the finished basement's laundry room) and no wasted space.

I can't imagine the time coming when smaller homes won't be in demand; lots of singles, suddenly singles, empty nesters out there. On the other hand, larger homes with inlaw suites and lots of extra bedrooms may find themselves occupied with an elderly parent, children staying home longer to get their financial footings, children with children returning home. And some of them may well become boarding houses or residential care facilities for the predicted increase in Alzheimer's victims...

I would not design SOLELY on the off chance that the space MIGHT be needed by someone else, but I would design giving myself a little extra for breathing room - be it an office, artist's studio, hobby room, whatever. Togetherness is a good thing, but sometimes a place for alone time is refreshing too.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 6:31PM
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My husband and I are in our early 40s with two boys: 5 1/2 and 2. Our house is a two story with just under 1600 sq ft. We do fine in it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 3:10PM
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I'm 54 and bought myself a one and 1/2 story cape 5 years ago. It's very small - only 768 sq. foot on the main level. I converted the living room to a dining room (no place to eat in the kitchen as I needed the space for kitchen stuff) and one of the two downstairs bedrooms into my 'den'. The upstairs has two bedrooms, but with the ultra low ceilings and issues with heat/cold, it has become a storage area. Then again, with a premium on closet space on the main floor it works great to have spacious out of season clothing storage, etc. I find it is easy to maintain a small home, and with my bedroom on the main floor, I expect to be able to manage to live here as I age. My biggest regret is that I haven't room for a 1st floor washer and dryer. The laundry area is in the basement along with my semi-finished studio. I think one has to be creative with small space, and that challenge can be what makes it rewarding. For example, I converted the (former bedroom) closet in my 'den' into my ultra small 'office'. The placement for everything needed to be carefully thought out, but I love it - and the fact that I can close the door on it...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2007 at 10:55PM
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I sincerely thank you all for taking the time to reply! I thoughtfully read your responses over the last couple of weeks and have shared them with my husband.

We were drawn to the idea of a 2-storey to separate the living and sleeping quarters, but we've (okay, mostly I've ;-) ) been fiddling with sketches and trying to make the same idea work in a single level. (We have rural acreage so lot size has never been an issue.) The original 1920s plan I'm using as a jumping-off/inspiration is just over 1000 square feet and seems to have all the room we need (plus a basement), but I may need some help with the kitchen. If I ever get to the point where I can leave it alone I'll scan it and share with you!

Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions we'd certainly appreciate your further input! It's a challenge to design a home that will meet our needs and wants yet remain sensitive to future buyers! Thanks again for your help!

Lara & Jake

    Bookmark   April 17, 2007 at 10:57PM
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If you have not already, check out Sarah Susanka's books on "The Not So Big House" (including "Building the ..." and so on). While Susanka gets some criticism for the cost of these "not so big" houses, the books do a good job of outlining the principles behind the designs as well. I used several of those principles in updating my ranch and can't think of any ideas that proved unsatisfactory even with the low budget I had.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 7:50PM
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We are 38 and 43 with an 8yr old and a 6 yr old. Our homeis just under 1100 sq ft 3 bedroom, 1 bath, single story. It's a fifties ranch house with basement, and just a crawl space kind of attic, so the 1100 is exactly what we have to work with. My husband has claimed the garage as his painting studio, and the washer/dryer are out there too.
Generally this house is great for us, we have a pretty open plan for the public areas, and the weather here is mild enough that we spend ALOT of time on the deck and or in the yard. What we miss the most is a second bathroom and with our daughter aproaching adolesence it is about to become an emergency!
We are thinking of a remodel and addition. He says out, I say up, and I want to keep the master bedroom on the main floor. We agree on that.
We plan to live out our days in this house so having all of the necessities on the first floor is what makes sense to me. If later on the (hopefully) upstairs bedrooms are empty, or used by a caretaker or returning child, that is just gravy. The blessing and the cuse of this small house living is that we are all together much of the time, but I have found that, outside of the very noisy playdates the kids, have we all want to be in the same room all of the time anyway.
I agree that Susan Susankas books are wonderfull, they can strike a boutiuque-y tone at times but overall, wonderfull spaces. I just bought "Creating the Not So Big House" and would reccomend it. There are a number of demographic models profiled.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 7:14AM
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Please pardon my atrocious spelling and gramar in that last post. It was written at 3AM! And we have NO basement or attic. Ack - not good.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 12:55PM
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We are in our 40s/early 50s, with two kids who will be out of the house within 6 years or so...1800 sf (3/2) on one level. I am SO glad that we didn't go larger, or with a 2-story. I find one level easier to keep, and if we should have bad joints or other disabilites in the future, this house would still be a perfect fit. My parents have 2000 sf on one level, and are now in their 70s/80s, and their home is still a great fit for them. Both houses are on the smaller side in a nice area, so would sell quickly, and are a good value investment-wise.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 8:27PM
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We are late thirties, 3 kids ranging from 4-8. Our house is 1800 sq. feet, no basement. We chose 1/2 the mortgage to fund college tuitions and nice family vacations. We've learned to love our smaller space as long as we keep the clutter down and remember love isn't about accumulation of stuff!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 4:56PM
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It's certainly interesting reading about folks who have had sudden illnesses or disabilities. I suddenly became a single dad to one child, so I know about life's curve balls first hand. That said, we certainly don't need 1968sf for just the two of us, but we'll suffer with it as long as possible because the neighborhood is terrific.

I used to chuckle at the forum description suggesting that homes under 2000sf are "smaller." Our house seems pretty big to me.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 1:34PM
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I am 53, single since 1989, and live in a single level 1263 sq. foot home. The only thing I would change is the size of the bathrooms and the main living area. I don't mind the smallish bedrooms. Personally, I think that the current trend towards the larger home speaks to the excess of the average American consumer. It costs a fortune just to heat and cool those large spaces, especially when the ceilings seem to soar to the moon. People are working longer and longer just to pay for their homes. I like my small place. It will be completely paid for long before I retire, leaving me free to travel or whatever I care to do in the second part of my life. There is also the negative environmental impact of all the excess materials and energy that go into the larger home.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 7:27PM
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I'm 51, DH is 39. No children. 4 cats. Our property records list our home as 1,347 sf, but it is 1 and 1/2 stories and I don't think that counts the larage attic (or the basement & garage). It's from the late 1930s-early 1940s.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 1:58PM
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First -- congrats, cecilia!

I am about to turn 60 (aaacckk) and have been single for 17 years. I've lived in my little house for 33 years. I raised two sons there, with three bedrooms up and one full bath. Down I have a big kitchen, a combo living -dining room, a den and a half bath. The laundry is in the basement.

My thought is to expand one bedroom and add a tv room downstairs, turn the current den space into a laundry room and add a shower to the half bath. If stiars become an issue I will live primarily on the first floor.

The house (1st and 2nd floors) is 1200 feet plus a basement and detached garage. I can also shove stuff up into the attic, although I don't recommend it because it's basically a graveyard for stuff.

My kids played outdoors a lot which made a big difference in the amount of space we needed when they were growing up. Our street is very quiet and there were lots of kids in the neighborhood so they played in the street and on the sidewalk. Those things make a difference.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:02PM
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It's been interesting reading about where folks are in their lives and their opinions about house size and configuration.

As for me, I'm also approaching 60 (ack is right!) and have been single for 23 years. I raised my two sons in my previous house, a 2-story Cape Cod style, which was 3-4 bedrooms, 2 baths in about 1387 sq. feet. Then I bought my current home, a brick bungalow-esque 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, 1535 sq. feet, built in 1910 - huge attic and basement (neither of which I use), and the original, cute little brick garage which is storage.

If I had the room and the money to put in a second bathroom, I would do it. That would make the house much more attractive to potential buyers. As it was, I used all my money to remodel the kitchen and bathroom, plus upgrade the ancient wiring and plumbing.

If I decide to build in the future, I would keep the house under 2000 sq. ft. and have at least 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. I prefer larger but fewer rooms in my home. Would love to have a screened porch living in the South, too.

I hope you give careful consideration to the amount of space between the two properties that you may build. Neighbors can be great to have, but enough "elbow room" between homes is priceless.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 3:01PM
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Cindy Noll

We are 50 & 54(DH) and have two sons 18 & 20, with no hope of either moving out in the near future. We have a 1550 sq. ft. 3/bedroom 1/bath house. It was built as a 1232 sq. ft. rancher in the 80's when interest rates were double digits! Later we added a 300 sq. ft. sunroom/family room off the dining room and it is the biggest room in the house. The layout of the common rooms is pretty good for a small house, the bedrooms are small and the bathroom is the pits, but we have survived. We do have a full basement where my laundry is and we have a toilet down there waiting for the rest of the 2nd bathroom for 23 years. I do have a cutout to throw my laundry down from the bath room linen closet, so I only have to carry the laundry up to hang or fold! Plan on staying here forever and would like the 2nd full bath in the basement soon. I have a place outside my kitchen door in the garage where I plan to put a 1/2 bath someday (don't tell DH) and there is room for my laundry out there to if health needs dictate. If I had the extra baths, this house would be near perfect for us.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 7:30AM
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It's just my husband and myself now. When we built the house we had KIDS, five of them. We both have health issues as we're 73 today, DH, and I'm 69 in Sept.

when we built the house, we made the first floor into a walk-in area. It would have been the basement, but we did bath, K, LR and Dr open to each other. The laundry room and two minisule,tiny, bedrooms.

the upstairs has been made into an apartment for our grandson and his family. We have just enclosed the front porch as a combination library and sitting area.

It's working very good for us. We don't use the dining as dining anymore. We each have a computer with back to back desks in that area.

We've noticed we don't get a lot of company. Our kids, when they come to visit, rarely have their kids with them. Our lifestyle has changed drastically.

We use one br as a br and the other as a dressing room. We have a queen size bed so there's little room for anything else in there.

we enjoy the samller area. We do miss the balcony off from the sitting room upstairs, but the trade off is much better.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2007 at 8:47AM
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We're both 29, our son is going on 7 and our daughter is just over 1 1/2.

We're in a little ranch on a slab, our sq. footage is 900 but that's foundation space - there's an exterior entrance to a storage room on the corner that takes up about 50 (we want to get rid of it and put in a real entrance, mud-room style).

Our kids share a room, we've got one other, and the 'Master Bedroom' is the shared den, computer room, and collectible space.

I would LOVE A BASEMENT. Or something. Honestly, a large part of our problems with this house are in it's construction. Mid '50's slab house, NEVER been remodeled, very inefficient. Very. Not the greatest layout, of course.
A lot of our problems could be adjusted with a major remodel - drywall, insulation, re-framing the roof and attic space so it's useful. Fixing the heating ducts being embedded in the foundation, so it never really gets warm in winter.

Do you have any idea what I'd do for a *well-designed* house at 900 sq.ft, much less 1400. ^_^

I guess at least on our front, I don't think you'd have an issue.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 2:54PM
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I just turned 23 and my fiancé is going to turn 24 shortly. No children yet, but plan on starting within the next couple years. We live in Orange County, California. Surrounded by HUB housing next to million dollar homes. Most houses in my area are practically built on top of each other, especially the larger more expensive homes closer to the beach.

We just bought my grandma's 3 bd 1 1/2 bath just under 1400 sq ft 1957 cookie cutter ranch house with no basement and a crawl space for an attic on a 7,000 sqft lot.

The house has been very neglected and in much need of updating, so instead of fixing more than a few things here and there we've had to pretty much start from scratch.

We've gutted the whole house and moved the washer/dryer from the kitchen into the third bedroom, creating a office/laundry /guest bedroom if really needed. We also moved the wall between the kitchen and the bathrooms creating 2 decent full baths.

We've thought about building up, but it wouldn't be suitable for our circumstances. Seeing as how it would cost considerably more than an addition going outward. Also, my fiancé has some knee issues and tries to stay away from stairs as much as possible.

Anyway, Midway through we were screwed by our GC. So, now we're doing it ourselves wtih help from friends and family.

Meanwhile, we're living with his mother, 10 year old brother, 12 year old sister, his older sister and her husband and their 3 year old boy and 20 month old girl.

I will definitely be happy in my smaller 2 bedroom 2 bath with office and eat in kitchen with a big yard.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 5:55PM
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