Right Home Consulting

"create the home that enhances your life"

Because the home-building industry is not very prospective home owner-friendly, newcomers can make some costly mistakes. This page shares some of the most common mistakes made by people going to real-estate agents, residential designers, architects, builders or designing a home for themselves. If any of the situations outlined below sound similar to your situation, you may be well advised to seek some assistance from Right Home Consulting.

Buying a beautiful existing home without realizing its inadequacies

Many people looking for existing homes fail to "do their homework" when it comes to deciding what they need. Just as in shopping for a major appliance, doing some pre-shopping research and soul-searching can avoid future problems. Ken and Karen found a beautiful house in the North East Heights that was a little more upscale than they had originally set out for, and its price was a steal, because it was a buyers' market and the house had been unsold for 14 months. After closing and moving in they began to realize that the shortcomings in the design really started to cramp their style. Ken didn't have enough room in the garage for his sporting gear and woodworking workbench and Karen didn't really feel comfortable in their spacious, but somewhat intimidating living room. If Ken and Karen had done a systematic enumeration of their requirements and preferences before hitting the market, they could have avoided buying a home that didn't meet all of their needs. They still could have considered the beautiful, bargain house, but they would have proceeded with the awareness that they were giving up some things they needed in order to go a little more upscale and save some money. The Right Home Consulting process is designed to generate a streamlined written program that can be used by shoppers and real-estate agents to find the correct subset of homes on the market that fully meet the shoppers' needs.

Bringing a floor plan or magazine clippings to an architect

Another common mistake is to bring a floor plan or pictures from a magazine to your residential designer or architect and expect him/her to have any creative license in developing your project. This behavior handcuffs the designer and can ruin the client-designer relationship, because whatever variations the designer suggests may be viewed as less adequate than the final product in the drawings/pictures. It is always better to begin at the beginning--start with who you are, your personal needs, get the functions right, and later find the style or technologies that best fit your needs. Clippings are good for only one thing: communicating a look or style that you find attractive.

Relinquishing all of the decision making to the architect

The opposite problem to the one above happens when clients throw a few basic requirements at the designer and then wait for the perfect set of plans. In this scenario, the designer may have to make many revisions until he/she develops something the owners can live with. It puts the owners in the unenviable position of needing to critique the design and negotiate changes to "get back" the things they need. It also tends to take a good, holistic design and modify it, making it a patchwork quilt of ideas, rather than an elegant, seamless design. Often clients start to feel guilty after a few revisions and settle for the architect's current iteration. The more mutually beneficial approach is to list as many requirements as possible up front, and let the designer respond to those needs in concert. A thorough planning, or residential programming process identifies all of the needs and lets the owners know their priorities if they need to whittle down the size and scope of the project.

Communication with the architect/designer can be difficult

Unfortunately, even the most caring and careful designers can get the wrong impressions from their clients as to what they value. Home owners are not trained and very few have actual experience in communicating their needs and preferences in a new home. Designers and architects are trained to interpret clients' dreams and aspirations in architectural form. A simple sentence such as "What we really want is an modest, sustainable home that conveys our artistic sensibilities" can lead to many different functional and spatial interpretations on the part of the designer. The single most important function of residential programming is to accurately communicate the client's goals and needs to the designer, so that priorities can be fully understood and acted upon. With a written program, which reflects hours of consideration on the part of the client, the designer can gain a more complete appreciation for the clients' backgrounds, goals, needs, and preferences.

Going directly to a draftsman or builder for design services

As you probably know, draftsmen and builders generally are not architects or residential designers. A draftsperson can draw up plans for a home, given the parameters of sizes and relative adjacencies of rooms, and a builder can produce a house from a good set of plans. However, this practice of skipping the all-important steps of programming and designing can be problematic. If budget is the only concern and the clients don't care much about having the home meet all of their special needs, this may be a viable option. But buying an existing home has less risk involved, in that the home is available for inspection, whereas even good plans are difficult for the untrained eye to evaluate. Clients can successfully take a detailed design program and co-design with a builder or look at existing plans and determine if there are any that meet their needs. Clients can also co-design the home from a program with a draftsperson, but need to be careful to avoid mistakes concerning infrastructure and utilities.

Designing a house that is too large

The trend for larger homes has already peaked in the United States, however many clients are eager to design rooms in their homes to suit every purpose and activity. This enthusiasm can lead to a home that is a monument to excess when the kids leave home, and incredible utility bills while they're still under the roof. Green design suggests that we consider right sizing our homes, and in many cases this means downsizing from our ultimate wish list. As an Ergonomist, I am always amazed and saddened to see spectacular professionally equipped residential kitchens that are larger than those found in medium-sized restaurants. A good ergonomic rule of thumb is to locate the stove, refrigerator and sink within a triangle that is no larger than 22 feet. This allows the cook to move efficiently from station to station. Remember, after the photographer leaves you have to live and work in that beautiful kitchen. Living rooms and master bedrooms are often done on a grand scale to impress others, but waste space, heat, and are time-consuming to clean. Before you sign up for a huge master bedroom, ask yourself what activities you typically perform other than sleeping, bathing and dressing. Living rooms are the most cozy and inviting when they accommodate 5-7 people in a small conversation cluster. Unless you entertain large groups regularly, downsize your living room plans.

Building the home you dreamed of having since you were a child

While it is generally an emotionally healthy thing to realize life-long dreams, building the house you dreamed of your whole life may not be the best solution for your current life situation. Psychologists tell us that many of our desires as adults come from deficiencies we felt as children. For example, Judy is 57, and she has a burning desire to have a huge walk-in closet and custom cabinets in her master bedroom dressing area to house her belongings. She no longer has her childhood dolls or any other collections, but she is relentless in her quest to have personal, private storage of her things. Judy expressed the need with Dr. Miller at Right Home Consulting and realized that her feelings went back into her history of growing up in a small house with her parents and never having had enough room to store her small doll collection, which her Mom would not let her leave on her bed. Having realized that her irrational desire was linked to her feelings of conflict as a child, Judy is much more flexible in designing her bedroom storage to fit her current needs. She still may decide to have a huge closet, but now she can make the decision knowing the history and reasons behind it.

Making design decisions based on resale of the home

Real-estate agents and builders often advise clients to add features or size to a home just so it will be more marketable when their clients decide to leave the home. While this advice may be good for business and turning the home, it may conflict with what the clients really need and want. They also are pressured into putting extra money into the home that they can't use on the things they really want. My advice is to include just what the clients want and need, unless it is far from the norm. A one or two-bedroom home may actually sell quicker to a retired couple than a larger home. If you use smart design and have an eye for attractive living, your home will sell to other smart, stylish people. They can add the Jacuzzi or wine cellar after they buy the home from you. One notable exception to this rule is providing space for universal access, such as wheelchair accessibility. As baby-boomers age and retire, there will be plenty of buyers for homes that are easily upgraded to universal access.

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