San Franciscans love their homes–for the most part. With our legacy of notable architects, many reserve a special spot in their hearts for the innovative men and women of home design. From Julia Morgan to Willis Polk, from Bernard Maybeck to George A. Applegarth, some of the most brilliant minds in the architectural world have left a mark. Even the best intentions sometimes fail, however. Not every design is a winner. There are things people love about their homes, and things they would love to change.
I queried colleagues and friends about “loves” and “hates” in homes in an informal survey via the office intranet, facebook and other, more terrestrial locales. I’ve noticed that with nearly all home-buyers in San Francisco over a certain age, there are three essential items a home must have. I’ve termed these the “deal-killer-triad.” Most folks paying $500,000 and up, who have graced our planet for 35 years or longer, simply won’t live in a home, let alone buy it, if it does not have parking, in-unit laundry and ample closet space. It makes sense, too, that these amenities are deal killers because for the most part there is no way to remedy their absence. Not surprisingly, perhaps 40 percent of loves and hates relate to these three attributes.
Another popular love is pet-friendly buildings. About one in four San Francisco households has a dog. Throw cats (not recommended at the same time) into the mix, and it’s easy to see how the demand arises. Also increasing in demand are elevator buildings. As the first of the Baby Boomers retire, our aging society will require more housing friendly to those who cannot (or do not) want to grapple with stairs.
But enough about the love. Let’s look at what people hate about homes. Perhaps one of the most interesting qualities on the hate list is not really even a characteristic of a home at all: School-district policy that does not guarantee children attend the school nearest their homes. I can see how that would chap one’s parental hide–particularly if a compelling factor in why your chose to live where you did is the school district.
Handfuls of others say that they hold no love for popcorn ceilings, kitchens closed off to the dining area and wall-to-wall carpeting. Well, I guess not everyone wants to feel he lives on the set of “Charlie’s Angels.”
And what of the architects who don’t seem to consider how the home they are designing will actually be used? My condo building is a great example. The wall-heater ducts are in precisely the location where people will place their couch. Hmmm, thought the architect, where should I put this mechanism that spews high amounts of heat and reaches temperatures guaranteed to ignite common household combustibles? Oh, I know. by gum! It shall go where the couch will be.
It’s fun to jest, but there are lessons behind even a casual survey of homeowners and home-buyers. As industry professionals, our goal is to give our clients what they want . And the only way to learn is by asking. It is also our job to pay attention to what sells and, also to what does not. Understanding both allows to increase our value. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Guest Post by Rob La Eace
No Parking, No Deal : Practicality Rules [theRegistrySF.com]