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Form over function: Dumb trends in home design

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Here’s my short list of things that seem to sell homes, but leave me dumbfounded.

Bowl Sinks

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Giant bowls are for tossing salads, not sinks. I don’t need to brush my teeth out of something that looks like a museum piece. Not only is this harder to use, it is also arduous to clean with almost double the surface area. When was the last time you had to clean the bottom of your sink as well as the inside? If you have a normal sink sunken into the counter top, the answer is: never.

Vaulted Ceilings

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You’ll love it! Until you get your first utility bill. Hot air rises, and if you live in a cold climate, that grand vaulted ceiling is exactly where the hot air is going in the winter. It looks nice in pictures, but you’d be best to verify the design and quality of the heating system and insulation. If done poorly, you’ll shiver down on the couch but sweat when you stand. And don’t think some dinky $79 big-box-store ceiling fan is going to magically distribute all that hot air back down where you want it. At least you can climb a ladder and toast a marshmallow.

Fancy Landscaping

Yes, you can add curb appeal with shrubs, flowers, topiaries, and cedar mulch. But too much is a bad thing, especially if you underestimate how much time, labor and water it will take to care for all these plants. Everything looks cute and manageable when you first install it.

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Then it ends up looking like this:

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Obnoxious Rebuilds

If there’s one thing in home buying that seems to get people lined up with tire irons ready to beat the competition with a winning bid, it’s tear-downs of small homes that are subsequently replaced with turgid, overpriced glamour houses.

Why buy this modest starter home that is cost effective and straight-forward to maintain …

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…when it can be torn down, rebuilt as a monstrosity, and sold at triple the price? The MLS posting says “Gr8t Valu” so it must be true!

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This newly built home doesn’t show you how it is still surrounded by 1960s-era ranches and now totally out of character for the neighborhood. It is also located after a tight curve on a moderately busy street. Unlike the starter home, you will never go on the roof for any maintenance unless you are either a roofing professional or a complete moron. Despite being triple the price, the basement comes unfinished. At least they built a tiny fire pit out back, and it has luxurious interior crown molding hand-crafted in medium density fiberboard throughout. Here is an excerpt for this home typical of the quality of insipid copy-and-paste MLS postings these days:

Gorgeous detail… Lots of magnificent finish throughout including French doors, ceiling moulding,wainscotting,chair rails and built ins around the gas fireplace. Lovely patio and walls for exterior details.”

Amusingly, the use of “walls” is so vague that it is easily confused with the exterior walls of the house itself which is a useless differentiating feature. They mean the stone wall that was constructed out back. Regardless, “lots of magnificent finish” is not likely to compensate for the magnificent monthly withdrawals from your bank account to operate this castle.

There you have it, some of my pet peeves in home buying today. If I were you I’d dismiss all of the superficial nonsense and concentrate on extremely valuable investigations such as identifying how much insulation is really in the attic and walls, the quality and efficiency of the heating/cooling and how you will know if water is going to (or ever did) come into the basement. You can always add your favorite bowl sink later.

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