What We Already (and Always ;-) Knew....

southernheartSeptember 28, 2007

This article (linked below) was posted on MSN today, and I thought that you might enjoy reading it.

Seems that the rest of the nation might be catching up to our mindset. :) I'll take my 1800 sf (and smaller mortgage---almost paid---and utility bill under $100 and smaller carbon footprint) any day of the week!

Here is a link that might be useful: Smaller Homes---the

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Very interesting. Our little cottage (730 sqft) on 1/4 acre is paid for. Our elec. bill probably averages to around $100 or less a month, and everything else is cheaper also. We are working on making our little place more energy and living efficient. In our area there are a lot of new places sitting empty. They've overbuilt and overpriced the area.

Greed and gluttony lead to ruin.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 1:02PM
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SH, I enjoyed reading that and several of the other links included. Thanks for posting.

Glad to see the pedulum has finally begun to swing back to some degree of normalcy. We bought our 1800sf house on a rural road back in '75. Enjoyed the location until sewers came through. Then McMansions and townhouses sprouted like mushrooms all around us. Now, instead of looking at the sun rising and setting on a corn or wheat field, we see huge rooftops. And this sadly, as we all know, is going on everywhere. Sandy

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 11:13PM
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It's about time people came to realize that big houses are a waste of space , energy & materials . In my smal house , low bills for heat and A/C make every little inconvience worth while. Thanks for posting that article.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2007 at 3:55PM
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Interesting article. Interesting how quickly things change.....a slow growth to larger and larger and BAM! Small reigns.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2007 at 11:15AM
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Our 1800 s.f. may seem small, but I think we've made a very nice home here. I always tell the hubby we should get a sign to put up outside the house that says "Don't laugh, it's paid for".;o)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 10:46PM
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So true. We are going to build a "medium-sized" 2500 sq ft classic American farmhouse and are in the process of interviewing builders. Yesterday, one who we seriously considered for his quality of work and great reputation, took us to tour one of his prior builds - a HUGE multi-million dollar showhouse that he built a couple of years ago. It probably took him completely out of the running to build our house because it totally turned us off for several reasons.

Although the building site was gorgeous - several acres with a winding driveway and perfect pond - the house was a totally out of place in this environment. From a distance, the outside was a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style, but as we got closer and went inside, it was a horrible mismash of prairie superimposed on Japanese temple on California coastline Mcmansion. The owners were there and gave us the grand tour, but it became very clear that this place was built to impress and dazzle with all the latest trendy stuff from Architectural Digest, but it was not a "home". I felt like we were touring some sort of architectural museum, not a home.

The owners were intent on impressing us with all the "gadgets" and "widgets" that they had included, including a compressed air nozzle in every bathroom just to clean electric razors and hidden plant watering hoses in every room so their maid doesn't have use a watering can. We're still laughing over that stuff!

But the sad thing about all this is that what all this house drove home the point to us that the builder who we were seriously considering has gotten so caught up building a house like this (with an unlimited budget) as his "masterpiece" that he can't possibly now ramp down and build a normal sized house and stay on budget. He just kept pointing out to us all the very expensive design details that he had put into this monstrosity and repeating over and over how the owners has "just turned him loose". That's great, but we can't afford custom made faucets in the shape of a dolphin spouting water, or having our front doors custom made in the shape of the Japanese word for "waterfall" (no, I'm not kidding!), so now I have big concerns about using him.

Sadly, for as much money as these people spent on that house, rather than being impressed, I think the majority of people who might see it would come away with the same impression we did - wretched excess overdone with no sense of continuity of theme. My husband said it best after we left - "Build what you love and spend what you want, but for God's sake, make up your mind what that is before you start!"

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 12:49PM
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Another thing which may or may not factor into the large/small housing is we "baby boomers" are now reaching the age of Social Security and don't need nor want to have/clean a big home.

I had to laugh, Arabella, at the built-in plant watering thingies and just about everything else that house had to offer. I'm so happy the maid doesn't have to water the plants ;-o Wozzer! It was good you found out before you got into a real mess, huh?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 10:40PM
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Yeah, Patti43, you just had to see that place to believe it! It was a huge single story house with a finished walkout basement and it had an ELEVATOR! Now that was a first for me - a single story house with an elevator. When I asked why, the owner said they had it installed so when they entertain in their very trendy English pub down there, if their guests get tipsy, they don't have to risk tripping on the stairs to get back up!

They even have an automated duck feeding thingy on their pond so they don't have to bother feeding their ducks like the rest of us country peons do. This thing goes off every morning and evening and spreads cracked corn around their pond. Cracked me up and I swear those ducks had to be laughing too.

The sad thing was that I really liked this builder, but he scared us away by showing us that house. I just don't think he can work on a simpler design and stick to a reasonable budget. My DH and I were laughing so hard on the way home that my sides were hurting. We decided that they should get a new set of front doors made - and the design should be the Japanese characters for "wretched excess".

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 11:14PM
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I would definitely find someone else who 'gets it'. It's one thing to need work, be hired by people like that and do the job, but then to apparently be so proud of it afterward is the problem - not just going quietly into the night 'back' to being tasteful.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 5:16AM
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LOL! Exactly. IMO, there is much more beauty in simple lines, functional living space, and making sure the house blends into the setting and becomes a part of the whole of it. If ostentatious excess is their thing, then that's great and that's what he was paid to do. But it really bothered me that he kept saying "they just turned me loose" and he thought that was a GOOD thing!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 9:05AM
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Have you seen other homes the same builder has done that were vastly different than the "excessive" house? IMHO if he built the vision those owners wanted ( as flawed as it may seem to you) then he is a good builder. So if you see another home that is vastly different with owners who are also happy with the job he did, I think it speaks volumes.

My philosophy when finding a builder was to find someone who had built several very different types of homes with happy consequences. That means he actually listens to his clients.

We have a builder in our area whose work I just love. I can recognize "one" of his homes almost anywhere. We didn't hire him. Not sure if my vision didn't match exactly with his who would dominate.

I say go and look at other homes he has done. We would all like to do our "thing" with no budgetary restrictions at some point in our lives. Sounds like he had fun and gave the homeowners what they wanted.

Good Luck with your choices.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 2:03PM
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Yes..we saw two other homes he built. One was really lovely and well done, but again, he was given an unlimited budget and was allowed to do a lot of very costly design elements that drove up the cost of the house. In that case, the owners didn't care about a budget - they just wanted a showhouse to entertain in. He does lovely work, but because he's not used to working within a budget and he's so into what I call "do-dads" that don't add anything but a "look" into a house without adding function, I just don't think he's the guy for us.

The other thing that bothered me a lot was the fact that he's into overkill on all the mechanicals in the house since he's so used to building huge houses meant for entertaining lots of guests. To give you an example, the Prairie/Buddhist Temple house has 4 different furnances and air conditioning units and 4 80 gallon water tanks. Now they entertain a lot and although there are just 4 bedrooms in that house, there are 7 bathrooms. They may need 4 furnaces/AC units and that many hot water heaters. But our house will be just about 2500 SF and there will be only 2 people living in it. My husband and I only entertain overnight guests occasionally and we're only planning 2 full bathrooms and a powder room. This GC could not get it through his head that we don't need 3 water heaters for 2 people. The house we live in now up until recently only had a 40 gal WH and we've lived with it just fine. When we recently replaced it with a 50 gal model, we felt like we had almost unlimited hot water with just that 10 gal difference because it's much more efficient and heats the water so much faster than the old one.

He's so used to doing houses that have 3 dishwashers in the kitchen and walk-in commercial refrigerators that he just can't mentally scale back to something more normal for just two people. It scares me that his vision for a house is skewed by the grandiose ones he's built.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:29AM
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I'm a builder/renovator. And I'll do any size or style house you want!

One time, over a two-year period, in a two-block area, I speced and custom built three larger homes 3,800-4,400 sf. My next project was building a carport and some other odds and ends next door to one of the new homes. I was right there, hammer in hand nailing the roof on.

If the clients want to spend more or less than someone else might, that's not my business. I'll only balk if they want to cut minimum Building Code requirements.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 8:11PM
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I just read an article in the local paper regarding real estate sales/prices. The topic was a paragraph long and article veered to tearing down old houses, merging proprerties for the huge builds. They stated this remains a very viable market in the scheme of poor real estate buys/sales. They are buying these properties on average at 500 to 800 thousand each, then selling the new homes for 3 times their investment after building.

It is fine with me that people can afford and want the large homes. What bothers me is the historic razing going on, the areas they mentioned are ones I used to drive through and soak up the architecture/gardens. I can't fathom the old homes being in such bad condition that they warrant razing, these are well kept beautiful neighborhoods that have always been sought after.

They do this in the area I currently live in. Everytime an estate sale happens it gives me thought as to when a builder is going to move in on the property. Many of the old homes located on good size lots are original owners who built and are still living in them and now in their 80s/90s. Many of the estate sale houses remain empty and not for sale, although continue to be maintained well. When I discussed insurance the last time on my smaller home, they told me the land was worth double the house. Sadly I suspect a waiting game for side by side lots to be available for building big. Haven't checked on the building requirements, the city may actually have a limit on minimum construction size. Also, building a small home on a single lot in this area would be quite costly. They have a few years to get mine.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 7:58AM
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I guess I just don't understand why people need to build/live in a huge house. We recently went to a dinner party at the home of some friends. They are super-nice people and I could appreciate the work they had done, but four levels of more and more and more? It was overkill: I got bored by the time we hit the third level. Also, in terms of big houses, once upon a time, I would have said, "To each his/her own." But now, given the global state of resources, I think it's highly self-indulgent for people to use enormous quantities of those resources to heat/cool a ridiculously over-sized house. Nobody needs a 4,000-5,000 sqft house.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 11:15PM
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Nobody needs a 4,000-5,000 sqft house."

If it's good enough for Algore, it's good enough for me!

Here is a link that might be useful: At Home with Algore

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 11:05AM
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But according to the article, he's converted the house to solar, etc. That's the idea, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 11:30AM
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But the point is, AL became green, himself, when people started pointing out the hypocrisy of his message. If he was really GREEN...he wouldn't be living in a 4500 sq. ft. solar house, but a much smaller one.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 9:57PM
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jason: I don't disagree with you. But, as far as I'm concerned, Al Gore is beside the point. At least, beside my point. :)

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 10:32PM
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My apologies, Organic. I was being snarky. AG aside, the purpose of this forum is small homes, and, as I heard at one conference, the easiest, best way to be green is to build a house on 1/3 the size of land you intended, and 1/2 the size. It's sort of like saying; yes, we can make a Hummer more effeceint....but if people didn't feel they had to have a Hummer to begin with (i.e., they didn't feel the need for something so big), half the problem would be moot in the first place.

What I also find interesting is that when I first started building (which wasn't all THAT long ago), a 1200-1500 square foot home was not considered 'unusually' small; it was fine for some families and certainly first-time buyers. Then the size seemed to explode. Now it's going back down again, and not just for boomers.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 9:40PM
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I watch a lot of shows on HGTV, and what always gets me is when couple with one or two children tell the interviewer they need a larger house because three or four bedrooms isn't big enough! When I think of the small houses I grew up in in the fifties....

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 2:24PM
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