Friday, August 28, 2009

The Ideal Kitchen

How would you design your kitchen if you were starting from scratch? Everyone always mentions more cabinet space, but it's important that you can actually REACH the added cabinets. So often we see kitchens with cabinets and shelves to the ceiling...not very practical unless you always keep your ladder at hand. I think I'd prefer an island or peninsula with more cabinet space underneath. It would also be nice to have some open shelving for cookbooks and recipe boxes.
I'd definitely want an eat-in area. Everyone always congregates in the kitchen, and it's great to pull up a stool to watch the chef cook or to read a magazine while waiting for the water to boil. If you have kids, the kitchen counter will be where they do homework, play games, or grab a bite to eat before soccer practice.
I'd want a nice, oversized sink with a gooseneck faucet to fill and clean those big pots and pans. I'd also make sure my sink, oven/range, and refrigerator were in the traditional triangle within a few steps of each other.
I would want lots of lighting including undercabinet lighting where possible. I'd go with hardwood flooring because I've found it's easy to clean and easy on the feet and legs when working in the kitchen. And, of course, I'd include a wine rack!
As I move beyond the kitchen basics, I'd include a small desk with several drawers. Even though I rarely sit at the desk in my kitchen, the phone is on the desk, and this area serves as a perfect clutter-keeper for mail, business cards, phone books, prescriptions, and post-it notes. Pens, pencils, scissors, tape, batteries, nail clippers, and coupons are stashed in the desk drawers. Another nearby drawer stores a hammer, screwdriver, tape measure, and odd screws and nails.
In or near the kitchen, I'd want a pantry. Cleaning supplies, paper products, oversized bowls and baskets, garbage bags, and buckets need to be nearby. Ideally, the pantry would be between the garage and the kitchen as a convenient drop-off point as you come into the house.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flat dollar discount or percentage?

I'm wondering which is more likely to catch your eye? A flyer offering a flat $100 off or a coupon offering 10% off. We're looking forward to the "Sold on Springfield Township" event on September 20 as a way to market our building and remodeling services, and I'm preparing some marketing material. This event is an all-day house-hunting affair sponsored by Springfield Township. It starts with an overview of the community, and then folks will fan out to visit open houses throughout the township. There will be prizes and free food, and each participant receives a "goodie bag." Our Building Images flyer will be in the "goodie bag." Since the main focus of the event for Building Images will be our remodeling services, I'm planning to include the coupon. I'm picturing the recipient as either a homeowner who needs to fix-up a home to sell, or someone looking to buy an existing home that may need some renovations to fit their needs. Which would you prefer? $100 off or 10% off?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Live in Cincinnati?

Cincinnati is a great place to live. As a major city in a convenient location, it has the big-time atmosphere provided by professional sports, world-class arts and entertainment, great hospitals, unique restaurants and shopping, and excellent universities. It's also the headquarters of ten Fortune 500 companies. Add in the low cost of living and the ease of getting around town, and you have a terrific place to call home.
Yet, it's the small town values and sense of community that really make Cincinnati so special. I think that stems from the German heritage that is such an important part of Cincinnati history. In the next few weeks, you have an opportunity to get a great snapshot of Cincinnati, its culture, and its people. It's almost Oktoberfest time! We really like the huge downtown Oktoberfest Zinzinnati that takes over the area around Fountain Square on September 19-20. But to get a real sense of Cincinnati values and community, you must visit one of the smaller festivals held by the German societies. Stop by Germania on August 28-30. We love to sit at a shady picnic table and sip the Warsteiner while listening to the German music and watching the folks in their lederhosen. We fill up on sauerkraut balls, sausages, pretzels, and homemade strudel.
Another festival we enjoy is at Donauschwaben on October 2-4. These folks always entertain us with their opening parade and dancing. It's fun to see the kids dressed in the traditional German clothes---and no one thinks they're "dorky." Chances are you'll strike up a conversation with some of the locals, and before you know it, you'll be raising a mug with your new Cincinnati friends. Prost!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Remodel or Move?

If you've decided your home no longer fits your needs, you might be thinking about moving. Maybe you need more space for the kids or a home office. Maybe you've outgrown your closets. Maybe the baths are just plain "dated." You're probably tempted by all the "For Sale" signs and all the indicators that it's a buyer's market. It's true that you might find a great deal on a house that fits your needs. Then again, it may take months of house-hunting to find the perfect match. Once you find the house and agree upon the price, you have to find the right lender that offers the right mortgage option for you. In the meantime, you have to sell your existing house...and you know that can take months. Then once you take possession of the new house, you will probably decide to do a few things to it...painting, new carpet, etc. And then you have to pack! All that "stuff" that has to be moved...And don't forget the psychological strain of leaving your neighbors, school, or familiar community. All of this while time passes...It wouldn't be unusual for 4-6 months to go by before you can actually close on both houses and move.
On the other hand, think of remodeling your existing house. You could have a room addition, new baths, new kitchen cabinets, or flooring upgrades, and you wouldn't have to uproot the family. You wouldn't have to pack! And often, you can use an existing home equity line of credit to finance the remodeling so no complicated loan applications or appraisals are necessary. In many cases, it can be quicker and easier to make changes to your existing house. Consider not only money, but also time and effort when deciding whether to remodel or move.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Building a New Home--Where to Start?

So you've made the decision to build a new home rather than buy an existing home. So what's next? If you are truly building a custom home, you need to gather all of your ideas together. You have probably been admiring other homes and dreaming about your ideal home for years. However, now that it's time to get your ideas on paper, it's hard to remember everything.
If you haven't already started a file, do it now. Start collecting magazine photos, newspaper articles, print ads, online resources, and other clippings and notes of things you might want to include in your new home. If you're in the kitchen and think to yourself that it would be nice to have a place to store your Tupperware, make a note of it and put it in your file.
This is also a good time to start talking to friends and relatives about their houses. What do they like? What do they wish they had in their homes? Visit Open Houses in the area. Go to home improvement centers like Lowe's and Home Depot. You can get a good idea of room sizes by walking through model homes and paying close attention to dimensions and layouts. Take a trip to a new home show. The Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati will be hosting their annual Homearama home show in September in Mason, Ohio. Whether or not the Homearama homes are in your price range, you can still gather lots of great ideas about the newest innovations in homebuilding.
The beginning stages of your new home design should include three categories---Needs, Wants, and Wishes. If you group your ideas in such a way, it will be easier to work within your budget once you begin to meet with your builder and/or architect.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Build a New Home?

Everyone knows it's a buyer's market these days. Find the neighborhood you like and you're likely to find at least one home for sale. If you find more than one, you'll probably be in the driver's seat when it comes to making an offer. So why would you want to build a new home rather than buy an existing home? We tell our prospective clients that building a custom home allows them to have the home that THEY want rather than the home that another owner or even the builder wanted to build. You can look and look at existing houses, but you'll probably never find a house that fits ALL of your needs perfectly.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati offers these reasons to build:
  1. When you buy a new home you get exactly what you want. You won't have to replace old carpet, countertops or aging appliances or roofs. You select the floor plan, appliances, window treatment and flooring.
  2. New homes carry better warranties.
  3. Today's new homes can be wired to take full advantage of the latest communication, security, home office and entertainment technologies.
  4. New homes often sell at higher resale values than older homes.
  5. Builders today are subject to more stringent disclosure standards than existing home sellers.
  6. New Homes are safer than older homes. They have the most up to date wiring and electrical components and have been constructed to meet today's stringent building codes.
  7. New homes are healthier because asbestos, lead, and other hazardous materials are no longer used in new home building.
  8. New homes are more energy efficient. Newer window technology, increased efficiency in heating & cooling systems, better insulation and better control of air infiltration are just a few of the things that make new homes far superior in energy efficiency than existing homes. New homes are twice as energy efficient as homes built prior to 1980.
  9. Existing and or older homes are more expensive to maintain and require additional maintenance and upkeep vs a brand new home or condominium.
  10. New homes offer more updated floor plans, typically featuring more storage, larger rooms and modern features.

Friday, August 7, 2009

How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Home?

People often underestimate the time it takes to build a custom home. Once you make the decision to hire someone to build your dream home, you will probably spend as much time in the pre-building stage of the process as it will take to actually construct the house. You'll probably agree that an investment of such proportion deserves careful planning and professional advice, but some folks just don't understand the time and effort needed by both the homeowner and the builder before the first load of dirt is moved.
We pride ourselves at Building Images with truly getting to know our clients. Barry spends several hours at the initial meeting listening to the needs, wants, and wishes of the homeowners. The initial meeting is usually followed by a series of meetings in which the clients share drawings, sketches, magazine pictures, and photos of ideas to incorporate into the home. Barry does all his own design work so the clients meet directly with him rather than with an outside architect or a third-party designer. This expedites the building process and eliminates communication issues between designer and builder. The first meetings with Barry result in rough drawings followed by more meetings to refine the ideas. At Building Images, computer-generated drawings help with visualization, but sometimes table-sized 3-D models are also needed. Barry's rough estimates of cost allow dreams to mesh with reality so that the finished design stays well within budget. You should expect the entire design process when building a custom home to take several months.
Once the design is finalized, Barry completes the plans and specifications and figures the final contract amount. At this point, most clients take the contract, plans, and specs to several financial institutions to compare mortgage options. Expect another few weeks to pass before getting approval.
When the financing is approved, we order a survey and site plan of the property, and we submit applications for building permits. Again another few weeks may pass before the permit is issued. Once the permit is received, the actual construction can begin.
The entire pre-building process generally takes at least 6 months. However, if you are building a home to last a lifetime, those 6 months are probably the most important part of the process.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Land for Your Custom Home

One of the most difficult steps in building a custom home is locating the property on which to build. Many people think in terms of "buying land"...maybe several acres out in a rural area. When considering buying land in the country rather than a building lot in a city or suburban area, you need to think about several factors. The farther the property is from a city, the cheaper it is. However, when planning to build a custom home in outlying areas, don't forget you'll need to consider extra costs for contractors and materials. There will be extra charges for time, transportation, and logistics depending on how far away the home will be from the city. In addition, you need to investigate availability of utilities. What about water and sewer? Will you need a well? A septic system? What about gas and electric? Will you need a propane tank? What about cable tv and internet service? And don't forget about zoning ordinances and proposed land use changes that could eventually effect the value of your property. Those 20 acres look beautiful right now, but what happens when the outlet mall goes in next door? Of course, with any property, you'll need to examine easements and covenants, and you'll also need to consider the elevation of the land and any natural hazards that may effect your building site. Finally, you need to imagine what your life will be like once you're living on the property. How far is it to the grocery store? the school? to work? What happens if it snows? Are the roads plowed? Where will the kids ride their bikes?
Nevertheless, living in the country could be a perfect experience for you. Privacy, beautiful scenery, working the land for business or pleasure, fresh air, self-sufficiency---all could be reasons for opting to buy land. Just make sure you carefully weigh the benefits vs. the costs so you know the true value of your property.