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Homeownership

Are home renovations necessary, or has HGTV artificially adjusted our thinking?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Home renovations are as American as apple pie — but how necessary are the *really*?

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Home renovations after a certain amount of time may seem like a no-brainer — but is doing so really necessary, or has a culture of constant change created an artificial need to evolve despite situational requirements?

Here’s a hint: it’s the second one.

Much like replacing your phone or laptop after a couple of years, renovating one’s home has become a time-stamped activity.

Unlike replacing your phone or laptop, renovations can be incredibly expensive, and — unless someone is flipping a house — they’re also inherently self-serving.

Unfortunately, due to countless house-flipping shows and successful alarmist marketing, it can be easy to begin to view your house’s appearance as a chore rather than a hobby or investment.

The reality of the situation is much simpler than it appears. Conditions under which you absolutely should renovate your home include circumstances involving things such as non-compliant materials (get rid of the asbestos, Gary), outdated or hazardous construction, a Realtor says it won’t sell without them, and other quality of life updates — not because five years have passed and your neighbor sighed at your outdated shiplap.

In other words: if your house is objectively okay, it doesn’t need “fixing.”

That isn’t to say that renovations are unintelligent; if you’re looking for a way to increase both your property value and your home’s livability, updating the décor is a sure way to do so.

Residents with specific design tastes and money to spare shouldn’t refrain from adjusting as wanted, but the bottom line is that your house — despite its invariable quirks — doesn’t need a face lift if you don’t actually want to do the lifting.

There are other alternatives to consider as well. If renovations are extensive, they can easily reach six figures for a small home. In many cases, simply selling the house you own and putting that money toward one which fits your needs may be a better option. Ask your local Realtor.

Unless you’re simply touching up a room’s paint color or installing smart home technology in your ‘60s ranch, renovations are expensive, time-intensive, and generally unnecessary. If you’re hesitantly considering renovating your home, focus instead on the positive – for now, your house is intact, functional, and enough for you.

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Homeownership

3D-printed homes that are up to code, coming soon to America

(REAL ESTATE) The first ever 3D-printed home has been created that is up to code in America – it’s affordable, and could crush the elitist tiny home movement.

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This is America – you know it’s not cheap to build a house these days. In fact, HomeAdvisor reports that the current U.S. national average cost to build a home comes in at just under $300,000, or about $150/square foot for a 2,000-square-foot home.

Sadly, this price is out of reach for many Americans’ budgets, so what are those with limited funds supposed to do?

One answer in recent years has been the tiny/manufactured/prefab house industry, a trend toward homes with smaller footprints with roots in the minimalist and green-building movements. But this option is not without its obstacles, often pertaining to jurisdictions not keeping up with the code and zoning issues surrounding these smaller, sometimes off-grid homes.

And another issue has popped up: Some of these so-called “tiny” homes are still relatively quite expensive per square foot and can take a long time to build (for those going the custom route). In fact, many believe that tiny homes have become a badge of honor for elitists.

These limitations and obstacles seem to have left a wide-open hole in the market for fast-built, low-cost homes that could eventually be built on a mass scale. Enter ICON, a construction technologies company based in Austin, Texas, whose website says it is “leading the way into the future of human shelter and homebuilding using 3D printing and other scientific and technological breakthroughs.”

The company announced last year that it has built the first permitted, 3D-printed house on site in the United States.

The 350-square-foot home was created in approximately 48 hours of total printing time and for around $10,000 (printed portion only). ICON predicts that the production version of its printer, which they named the Vulcan, will be able to print a single-story, 600-800 square foot home in under 24 hours for less than $4,000.

But you won’t be able to buy your own 3D-printed home from ICON quite yet. The company currently isn’t working with individuals, choosing to focus on its partnership with the nonprofit New Story. Together, they plan to tackle housing shortages around the world. In fact, the Austin house serves as a prototype for the work they plan to do.

While there is some (understable) criticism of the tiny home movement — mostly due to the more elitist, ridiculously expensive trends making waves in the industry — what ICON is doing seems like a major step in the right direction.

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Homeownership

Recent survey says great time to buy/sell a home is now/not now?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Are people ready to buy a home? The most recent NAR survey explores this and other questions, and of course the answers vary

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The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) conducted a poll during the final quarter of 2019 and the results are in: more than half of Americans believe it’s a good time to buy a home.

In fact, over 70% of individuals born between 1925 and 1964 (the silent and boomer generations) report that they believe it’s a great time to buy. Of course, part of this likely has to do with the continued decrease in mortgage rates, which makes buying a home a less expensive process.

Doctor Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR, says these attitudes towards home buying are also influenced by the strong economy. With the economic conditions improving, many also make the assumption that the housing market is turning around in their favor as well. Not to mention, the strong job market has made relocating a more feasible option for many – meaning more homes to buy and sell.

And speaking of home sales: many also believe now is a great time to sell a home. Granted, this perspective seems to be skewed in favor of those with incomes over $100,000. Of that demographic, over 80% reported confidence in selling their home.

That said, this optimism is far from universal.

Those earning less that $100,000 per year were less likely to believe the economy was improving, which isn’t too surprising. Furthermore, those from urban areas were less likely to have an optimistic outlook on the economy compared to people who lived in rural parts of the country. This might have to do with the housing prices in urban areas increasing at a faster rate than housing prices in less populous regions.

Of the demographics, millennials (born between 1981 – 1996) are the least likely to report an optimistic economic outlook and the most likely to believe housing prices will increase in their communities. Then again, makes sense why the people entering the job market during the aftermath of the 2008 recession might look at the glass as half empty.

NAR’s survey covered 2,707 households across the nation and was conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence between October and December of 2019.

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Homeownership

Historic Mansion is demolished, pointing out flaws in protections

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) West Mansion in Houston almost makes it 90 years before being demolished; this points out some issues in historical preservation protections.

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“No money will be spared to make this one of the showplaces of the country,” declared Joseph Finger, architect of the West Mansion. Constructed in Clear Lake in 1930, West Mansion’s had a unique 89 years – housing everything from the Lunar Science Institute to the luxurious Dr34m display – but that came to a close with its recent demolition.

The mansion was in good structural condition, was listed as a Historic Landmark and had even been ranked on Preservation Texas’s “most endangered” list in 2007.

So, why did it get demolished?

First, it’s worth understanding that West Mansion has been on the chopping block before. The original owner, James M. West Sr., initially built the mansion as a centerpiece of his sprawling ranch. Still, he sold the mansion, along with the ranch, a mere 8 years after it had been constructed.

The mansion remained unused for over 20 years.

From 1961 – 1992, West Mansion became the Lunar Science Institute (later renamed Lunar Planetary Institute), at which point it was sold with the restriction that it had to be preserved for twenty years. Although many groups tried to fight for it to be preserved longer, none could raise the money necessary for extensive preservation.

West Mansion was once again at risk of demolition in 2012, but the current owner (Rockets player Hakeem Olajuwan) instead opted to renovate the home and use it as a place to showcase his luxury clothing line, Dr34m.

Although groups like Preservation Houston continued to work towards keeping this historic landmark, Olajuwan was able to schedule and demolish in under a month.

This move came abruptly. Pasadena, the city where West Mansion resided, has no preservation ordinances for historic structures. Although outside organizations have offered incentives for owners of historical structures, there was nothing stopping owner Olajuwan from tearing it down without any public notice.

Worse, according to David Bush of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, there was no attempt made to salvage any of the material, much of which was expensive and easily recyclable.

West Mansion, which had grown to become more than simply a landmark of Texas wealth, will certainly be missed. There is also a lesson in the West Mansion demolition: while non-profits can work hard to preserve historical structures, it also comes down to residents working to ensure there are local protections in place.

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