The short vocabulary quiz I created after paging through Barron’s Real Estate Handbook back in September was so popular that I’d been meaning to create another. And in a serendipitous moment, A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture, by Virginia Savage McAlester (Random House, 2013), landed on my desk.
And what a thump it made! This hefty tome holds almost 900 pages of reference material, including more than 2,000 maps and illustrations. More than just a home style guide, this is also a history text, covering domiciles from ancient Native American tribes to the present day. It also gets into the minutia by looking closely at building materials of all sorts, while also examining the 30,000-foot view of neighborhood and community structure. As a reference material, one would expect occasional wonkiness. But the text is also eminently readable, with clear narratives making connections between the march of time and the uniquely American ways of life. Continue reading »
I love traveling to new places whenever I can. But I also try to get back to the family cabin up in northern Minnesota once a year, because it’s good for me. Not that it’s great for my waistline, mind you. But after a week spent sitting by a campfire, canoeing, strumming the odd musical instrument, and cooking big communal meals with my family and friends, the stresses of urban life have faded completely. The priorities I try to maintain amidst the many tasks competing for my attention through any given day come slowly into focus, with seemingly no effort on my part.
As you might imagine, returning from the cabin ain’t easy. But I try to maintain that relaxed, yet can-do spirit that reigns over me while I’m there long after returning to the city.
So when my colleague (and fellow Minnesotan) Erica Christoffer brought Dale Mulfinger’s Back to the Cabin: More Inspiration for the Classic American Getaway (Taunton Press, 2013) to my desk, I couldn’t wait to crack it open. The architect and “cabinologist” (and fellow Minnesotan) filled this follow-up to 2003’s The Cabin with more than 240 pages of beautiful photos of cabins of every stripe (from places other than just Minnesota). From ruggedly rustic to light-filled luxury to pronto prefab, Mulfinger provides detailed floor plans and site illustrations that set this book apart from your average “pretty house pictures” book. He manages to talk about the various advantages of building materials and structures, and weighs in on renovations and incorporating accessibility, without drowning the sheer beauty of the subject matter. And since the word “cabin” means different things to different people, I think it’s particularly interesting how Mulfinger gets at the many purposes these individual homes provide for their varied inhabitants. Continue reading »
In the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark, Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman unwittingly caught up in an international drug smuggling plot and forced to fight off Alan Arkin, who plays a deadly intruder in her apartment. In a situation that may seem hopeless, Hepburn’s character levels the playing field by breaking (almost) every light bulb in the flat, plunging Arkin’s character into the same darkness she lives with every day.
So maybe it’s just a scary movie, but for some reason I often think about it when reflecting upon accessible housing. Maybe it’s because today we can all be glad that people don’t have to go to such lengths to create spaces that can be used with equal ease, regardless of ability. In fact, an accessible home can mean a better life for all occupants.
One of the best new guides I have run across to achieve this goal is The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages & Abilities, by Deborah Pierce. The structure of this handbook is smart. Pierce leads off with the necessary definitions and then introduces readers to the accessible home from one activity to the next (living and dining, dressing and sleeping, etc.). She then leads readers on tours of 25 real accessible homes, dealing firsthand with the practical solutions needed by very different individuals and families.
To some real estate professionals, accessible housing remains a niche. But for the forward-thinking pros in the know, this is the future of housing. As Pierce notes, healthy active adults have a one-in-four chance of becoming disabled for at least three months at some point in their lives. And while aging in place is becoming a priority for older home buyers, younger home owners still want to accommodate family and friends visiting their homes, regardless of mobility issues. Continue reading »
By Agnes Masnik, Freelance Writer for REALTOR® Magazine
More than 10,000 Baby Boomers a day are turning 65 starting this year, according to the Pew Research Center. And home owners are responding to changes in the economy by exploring the option of turning a single-family house into two homes.
Commonly known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), these dual housing arrangements were quite common up until the end of World War II and the boom of suburbanization. ADUs are now making a comeback. The “New Urbanism” planning trend includes ADUs in a wide range of affordable housing choices, particularly for the elderly, disabled, empty-nesters and young workers.
Michael Litchfield, author of In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes (Taunton Press, 2011) helps answers the question if an ADU is right for your clients.
From the book: 3 Key Points for REALTORS®
1. Get to know the various types of Accessory Dwelling Units.
2. Understand common zoning standards for ADUs to better advise your clients.
3. Gain an understanding of the family dynamic surrounding a life change and how to best meet clients’ housing needs.
Litchfield walks the reader through the decision-making process from the details of popular designs to tips on how to choose appliances and materials for energy and space saving products, as well as navigating plans and permits. He chronicles 30 in-law units and personal stories in the U.S. and Canada. Litchfield offers a richly-illustrated and informative guide to transforming a single-family house into a property with independent living spaces.
From the book: 7 Take-Aways For Home Owners
1. An ADU allows for family to live close by. Continue reading »