Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Rethinking Urban Housing

In many Seattle neighborhoods we are once again seeing small homes on larger lots being scraped, developed or subdivided to provide new homes and more housing options in city. A typical reaction is to cringe at this type of development, but is there a way to achieve density without feeling like your neighbor’s house is getting turned into a box apartment building?

Small-scale solutions.

In last weekend’s Seattle Times there was a great article about small-scale solutions to Seattle’s housing needs.  Here are a few key points from this article:

“The more interesting ideas in a densifying Seattle are happening at the small-scale level, such as where architects are figuring out how to squeeze two or three town houses onto a lot that a generation ago would have seemed barely adequate for one unit. They report that it’s been a struggle, but recent changes in the building code are finally enabling more innovation.”

“We found this tiny little lot five years ago, purchased it and sat on it through the recession,” says architect Tiffany Bowie of Malboeuf Bowie Architecture. “Finally the city changed the zoning to allow three units, and that’s when we began to think, hey, this might be feasible.”

A little repetition is good, a lot is terrible. Repeating a pattern of forms in four units, as architect Foster did in the Denny Rowhouses, sets up a pleasing visual rhythm. Now imagine 10, 20 or 50 identical units (or take an excursion to the ’burbs, where you won’t have to imagine). At that scale, repetition is numbing. The magic threshold is about six. Beyond that, don’t repeat.”

Visit the Seattle Times to read the full article Small-scale solutions to Seattle’s huge urban-housing needs


Little details can go a long ways.

When selling a house that needs updates or vision I not only look at the big picture I look at a few details as well. Most people enter a home and begin to think about what it could be, but subconsciously there are things that can hold that vision back without them realizing it. I try to eliminate or lessen these road blocks that cloud vision. This is not about the art of deception, but the art of creating vision.

Overcome the road blocks.

A great example of this is a property I just listed. This house was built in 1960 and has not received any updates since then, obviously a fixer. When I walked through this space for the first time I immediately made a list of things that I thought would help engage buyers in the vision. An initial observation I made was that this house was set above the street with great opportunities for light to enter, but the existing curtains not only made the rooms feel smaller, they prevented the full amount of light to enter the room when opened all the way.  By removing the curtains this allowed the maximum amount of light to enter and highlighted the great corner windows with the potential for a very modern feel.

In the kitchen there was a similar issue with the curtains, but there was an additional component of the exterior screen.  The exterior screen gave one side of the window a darkened feel, which made one think that there was not a lot of natural light in the kitchen and the only way to get light into the kitchen would be to open up a wall (which actually with this floor plan would not be a bad idea). However, by removing the screen it almost doubled the amount of light that was being let into the kitchen and made the kitchen feel larger. This showed the potential to work in this kitchen without feeling crowded or having to spend the money to open up a wall.

By removing these two issues I believe that the vision for updates took on more life in the mind of the buyer than it would have if screens and curtains were left up. Each property will have different road blocks so the solution is not always to remove window coverings, but the trick is figuring out what road blocks need to be eliminated in order to allow a buyer to be able to visual their future home.

I believe real estate is changing.

I am not saying that in a few years residential real estate will look completely different, but with the technological advances we have seen and will continue to see change is inevitable.  A large part of this will occur in how clients interact with agents and what agents offer clients in return.  Agents will continue to be an important and crucial part of the transaction side, but what about the other sides, the searching, the follow up, the presentation?

It is time to be creative.

I think there is a lot of opportunity for a “new agent” on the horizon and I find it exciting not terrifying.  This does not mean leaving the “old school” ways behind and starting all over.  What it does mean is being careful what you are tied to as we enter this new realm, because if you don’t let go, the weight of the past will hold you back from the opportunities of the future.