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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

take it a little further before year's end

Ok, I spent a little more time with this- made a couple of mods. The comps told me I needed at least a 20x14 kitchen set up to compete, so I had to arrange my shape into 3 lateral bays. This plan will frame side to side. The key for demonstrating a new home comes in the foyer. That's why developers always go for volume here if they can. If the buyer likes the house at first glance- they'll forgive a lot of flaws. If the don't like it- they'll pick on each and every detail. I knew going in that the view planes on this house have to read strongly from the front door. I'm probably not going to give much, if any, of my 2nd floor space to volume, so the entry area has to be decent. Lots of views. Thats what my arrows were denoting. Since I want to focus on developing the entire lot, these views should terminate with glass to take you back outside. I'm going to keep my f.p. internal to avoid the tacky little dog house, or a fortune on my expensive exterior. I'm going to step down the living space a foot to add some drama. I clearly have to add a little bit to the garage side to make room for a mud/entry, and I already know my 24' is going to be a killer upstairs, where I'm going to want 2-12' bedrooms with a 2' closet between.
probably will want to cantilever- or at least add 2' above. Don't really need it in the 1st floor room. That's it for now

1st stab

sorry, the sketch didn't make it in to the last post. Here it is

market comps

Looks like the major player in Parkland is Heritage Homes. Here's what they are selling for 400K. Nothing too exciting- but they provide the full component of downstairs rooms, i.e. formal living, dining, and study.- When you shop builders for comps, its always best to use an inventory home. That way you don't have to figure out how many extras have to be added in to the base price to come up with the actual selling price. Here you get 2843 s.f. My 2200 sf house has to compare favorably to this. I've done some basic math and have a game plan. 40x24x2floors will get me 1920 s.f. I want at least 200-300 over the garage so that's about as big an envelope as I want to play with. I'll want an offset at the front and rear to give me some massing options. I've got one of 2 ways to attack this problem, either keep the full room inventory and make micro-sized rooms which borrow from each other spatially, or keep the number of spaces to a minimum and let them stretch out a little more. My inclination is to go the latter route, again to differentiate this product from the usual developer fare. I'll need a kitchen/dining area, a living area, and a 3rd-flex area which can be used as formal dining, study, or 2nd downstairs living space, depending on the buyer's needs. My first stab is something like this.

lot check

Just did a quick search on the local MLS. Criteria was 90-120k lot, less than 1 acre, in one of the popular school districts. Parkland Manor came up. about 2 miles away. New subdivision with 15,000 ft lots, about 100x150. 15' sideyards, 25' front, 40' rear. Plenty big building envelope for 2200 s.f.-

Next step is to check the comps. Do a search for houses in Parkland schools- 380 to 420k, less than 2 yrs old.

additional background

Its obvious that if this design is going to compete in a marketplace in which I have to give up 700-800 s.f. to my competition, then I am only going to appeal to a limited slice of the pie. In addition, by being generic rather than specific to a site, I am giving up the opportunity for location to be the selling point. It has to reside in the logic and compelling nature of the plan.

There a few a priori assumptions. First, I am going to compete with the merchant builders by composing all 4 sides of this plan. No vinyl box with a pretty front. Second, the plan will be laid out in a way which encourages the use of the entire lot. 90% of the depressing feeling given off by the typical subdivision is the way the house sits in a sea of undesigned, and thus unused space. Third, at 400k, the marketplace will demand 4 beds, 2 1/2 baths, and two car attached garage. No reason to force that issue. Fourth, the plan will push the garage to the rear in true TND fashion for several reasons: help engage the entire lot, differentiate from the merchant builder competition, increase curb appeal. There is a cost for this in terms of impervious surface, but there are ways of solving that issue if it comes up. Fifth, the house will be close to equal between 1st floor and second floor s.f. with a significant portion of the second floor built out over the garage. Simple economy here. I'm putting a lot of extra money into the garage placement and finishes on the exterior. Don't want to add money to an inefficient conceptual layout.

The next step is to see what kind of lot 100k will buy me, so I can be sure I get enough width and depth to make a plan work.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On the Cora website, several designers have started blogs on putting together a new plan which would reflect CORA's preferences on an appropriately designed house. At this time, there are three guys working on it. One typically does large coastal commissions in New England worked out diligently with gridding and golden section layerings with traditional detailing done in an almost post modern way. Another specializes in modern designs with a bent towards affordability and plan book type applications. The third is from Texas and does well worked out plans in traditional styles.

I thought it might be interesting to contrast their work with the kind of home a developer might do to bring a product to market to sell in a tough economic environment. The kind of home most of the Cora designers vilify, but which most of the population tends to buy. It might be interesting to contrast the design goals and process so as to better understand not only where the housing design profession is at this point in time, but also to see where it might be heading. It would be curious to see what the buyer has to give up in terms of amenities as well as what he would be gaining in terms of design purity.

I'm not sure what the cost issues should be in this comparison. The other guys are working with a much higher cost per s.f. than a production builder would ever contemplate to hit a mass market. One the one hand, I could start with a much higher s.f. to compensate.

On the other hand, it will be much more informative to limit the s.f. to an equal amount, to see how the room arrangements and sizes might compare. The difference to the buyer will then evolve into how much more disposable income can be directed towards other goals than housing, i.e. recreation, education, charity, saving the planet, whatever.

We're building simple 2 story plans with 2 car garages for about $110.00 per s.f. in our area (builder's cost) so I'll use that as a guideline. This kind of product goes on a lot which can be bought for $100,000 to $125,000.- Outsale price to the public would be $400,000. to $450,000.

In this price range, I'll be competing with the likes of Pulte and Ryan, who typically sell at about 135 a foot. For 400k they are going to give you nearly 3000 s.f.- so my little 2100-2200 house better give a lot of bang for the buck.