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What are your “must-haves” or “wish I had” for your dream home

Sarah C
January 12, 2019
We are custom building our house and want to get some ideas. If you could custom build or build your house all over again, what are they? Any awesome organization ideas or cool features would be great too!

Comments (49)

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    Virgil Carter Fine Art

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  • Migraine Craftsman

    Sarah C

    I personally like;


    1. Laundry (washer-dryer) in the bathroom

    2. Lots of windows

    3. Big window(s) in the kitchen

    4. Windows in the bathrooms for venting

    5. Foyer/mudroom with storage

    6. Vaulted ceilings (modest pitch nothing crazy)

    7. Tongue and groove and pine doors

    8. Tiled showers/tubs

    9. Granite countertops in kitchen/bathroom

    10. Easy to maintain exterior siding

    11. Simple roof lines

    12. Good insulation

    13. Real wood stove or fireplace

    14. Porch up front

    15. Porch in back of house with exterior fireplace


    There you go my favorite features there is a lot more but we'll go with 15. :-)


  • rainyseason
    Don’t: get caught up in the finishes such that you lose sight of the less visible things that make a house more livable/functional. I wish I’d paid more attention to air sealing, insulation, electrical outlets in non-obvious places (next to the toilet for one of those bidet seats, high up on the bathroom wall for the Sonos speaker), a scientific HVAC plan, a shorter path for the dryer exhaust, etc. All very unsexy things, but none that can be easily fixed after the fact.
    Do: make all your selections before construction starts. While you have time, take your time to decide on paint, tile, floors, appliances, cabinets, fixtures. Your design will be more cohesive, you will be able to budget better, and those quick decisions you have to make during construction will be better informed and less stressful. Example: I spent a ridiculous amount of time and effort making a decision on the master bathtub only to learn during construction that it won’t fit up the stairs and even if it did the floor won’t support the weight without some $$ engineering. I whipped out my tub spec wish list- the height, length, depth- and figured out my plan B quickly and am very happy with it.
  • Mrs Pete

    Bouncing off Sarah C's list:

    1. Laundry (washer-dryer) near the master closet

    2. Lots of windows on two sides of all major rooms

    3. 6' bay window over kitchen sink

    4. Windows in the bathrooms for venting

    5. Foyer/mudroom with storage ... will include pantry, hobby closet, half bath, desk, pet area, easy-on-elderly-entryway, and natural light

    8. Tiled showers/tubs

    9. Granite countertops in kitchen

    10. Easy to maintain exterior siding

    11. Simple roof lines

    12. Good insulation

    13. Gas fireplace

    14. Big sitting porch in front -- not just for show, but sized for outdoor furniture

    15. Patio in back of house -- partially covered /partially uncovered

    And now my own additions:

    Simplicity and good design

    Small kitchen with large pantry

    Details for aging-in-place

    Ample bookshelves and built-ins for TV

    Ample storage in all the right places

    Plantation shutters

    Approach to the house /guest parking that makes sense / doesn't require guests to walk around the house

    Easy to clean /maintain

    Modest in size

    Don’t: get caught up in the finishes such that you lose sight of the
    less visible things that make a house more livable/functional.

    Yes!


  • Kirsten Eloise
    I second focusing on what’s inside the walls, even if it’s not as fun as tile selection. We didn’t start discussing things like zoned HVAC and the recessed lighting plan until after money was being earmarked for countertop upgrades. We had to reverse course on the option budget because I want the things inside the wall to be prioritized for upgrades now. Cosmetic fixes will be a much easier and cheaper fix later.

    As for things we‘be prioritized: 1) zoned HVAC; 2) more recessed lighting than was originally planned for; 3) dimmer switches; 4) large, efficient windows; 5) bathroom with a shower in each floor; 6) laundry upstairs; 6) 2 separate closets for the master; 7) large shower in the master.
  • ptreckel
    A full bathroom on the first floor. Non negotiable.
  • H B

    Radiant heating; blocking like crazy on interior walls for towel racks etc.; heated towel rack; whole house vac; laundry chute. Attached garage. Great insulation. We didn’t design our current house but whoever did....lots of wasted space. Good luck, have fun!

  • whaas_5a

    Don‘t skimp on milkwork and windows.

    Have your landscape plan and budget in place.

    if you have kids or plan to have kids or plan to move at some point make sure you make a space for them and make a space for you.

    Take your time. When you’re ready, stop, then take your time again.

    Use an architect and designer if you can afford both.

    The majority of your common spaces should be south facing.

    Dot your eyes and cross your tees.

    Good luck and have fun with it!


  • Karla Tamez
    I wish i had a front porch, hardwood flooring, quartzite countertops for my kitchen, ceiling and undercabinet lights.
  • Sammy
    • Oversized garage space
    • Masonry fireplace(s) with ash dump(s)
    • Basement foundation
    • All-brick exterior
    • One plus wooded acre with mature hardwoods
    • No goofy windows
    • No two-story/cathedral ceilings
  • Heather N

    We are renovating a home and installing a Control4 system. Lutron makes a similar system. It would be much easier to install when you’re building the home than in a renovation as we are doing. The system allows us to customize and control home technology, such as lighting, A/V, window shades, etc. It also allows you to combine multiple light switches into single switches by using scenes, and we can use our phones or tablets to control everything.


    For example, we’ve been able to replace these big ugly 6-switch light switches with a nice clean keypad. You don’t need as many light switches throughout the house because things run on timers or you can use a single keypad to control dozens of lights. It’s hard to explain but it is definitely the future of how homes will be managed, and it is hard to retrofit a house with this type of system.


    Example of the switches we are replacing and the keypads to replace them



  • doc5md

    @sammy- what do you mean by “no goofy windows”??

  • Heather N

    Some things I’ve thought about since we moved to our new house a year ago:


    1) Incorporate a mudroom - have it go from the garage or side door into the kitchen. Our old mudroom was off the family room, and it didn’t feel efficient

    2) toekick lighting in kitchen and en suite bathrooms - super nice to have on at night

    3) If you have a kitchen island with a sink on it, use one of the drawers (we used the one above the trash pullout) as a paper towel holder so you don’t have to have a paper towel holder on your island. Ours pulls out and then there is room to store extra rolls behind the roll that is in use.

    4) If you have little kids - we built a pullout stool in front of the kitchen prep sink so the kids could easily access the sink to wash their hands and fill up their glasses of water. They also stand on it when they help me cook.

    5) water filtration - consider what level of filtration you will need for your water supply and locate any filters appropriately. Our Reverse Osmosis filter is too big to put under our sink in the kitchen, so we are locating it in the basement below the kitchen.

    6) Consider the depths of your window frames if you want to mount any shades inside the window frame - it looks nicer if they don’t stick out and are enclosed by the framing. If you want any automated shades, make sure you run electrical wires there

    7) Lighting - if you go with LED lights, particularly for recessed lights, make sure you get lights that are dim-to-warm (whiter at high brightness and get warmer and less white when dimmed). Also make sure that they actually dim properly - many LED lights don’t dim very much

    8) dimmer switches everywhere

    9) run gas lines to your fireplaces even if you’re going with wood burning just so the option is there to convert in the future. We have a mix of gas log sets in some fireplaces that we use often and regular woodburning fireplaces in other places that aren’t used as frequently

    10) radiant heat flooring

    11) bench in master shower

    12) get high ceilings in your basement if you can - we have some workout equipment that my husband couldn’t use at our old house with 7foot basement ceilings. High ceilings make it feel like a much more usable space

    13) agree with earlier post about trying to get your main entertaining spaces with some south light. Evening entertainment spaces (such as a living room) should get south/west light, morning spaces (such as a kitchen) should get south/east light. Rooms that you don’t use frequently should get the worst light.

    14) video camera doorbells

    15) get a garage door opener that can be controlled from app on your phone - comes in very handy

    16) have at least one keypad or smart lock on your house that can be controlled by your phone or by entering a code on your keypad. Really nice if you forget your keys. The ones with smartphone access are good for allowing people to enter your house if you’re not home. They don’t always look great, so maybe put on a side door instead of main front door.

    17) either a whole-house generator, or a generator that only powers specific electric panel(s) - but know this in advance so you can wire the panels properly and have the essentials all on a single panel

    18) if you have an in-ground pool, an automatic safety cover is amazing. Safer, keeps pool clean, keeps pool warm.

    19) consider running the wiring for an electric car charger to your garage so that you can easily add one in the future if needed.

    20) consider the WiFi coverage in your house and make sure you have a sufficient number of access points to provide coverage. Include your outdoor spaces as well so you have WiFi when you’re in your backyard

    21) Nest thermostats or something similar that can be controlled remotely

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Some of the things important for us (we live in rural western Canada on a farm):

    good insulation everywhere, including basement floor and garage floor

    wide doorways

    wide stairways

    lots of windows, large windows

    kitchen/living room/dining room with southern exposure

    full bathroom with shower in garage

    full bathroom with shower on main floor

    all the necessary provisions for range hood

    recessed fridge in kitchen, recessed all-fridge/all-freezer in pantry

    ample closets and storage space

    blocking/backing for curtain rods (as well as for bathroom towel bars)

    wide window frames for houseplants

    provisions for hardwired towel warmers in each bathroom

    ample outlets, esp in the kitchen (don't forget the island), and a dedicated switch and outlet for Christmas tree : )

    We decided against an overly "smart" house.

  • taconichills

    I went nuts searching for all the must haves because it is so cheap and easy to incorporate during construction.

    The one that I read about and never followed through on is putting a lot of thought about where you will be hanging things...such as pictures, curtains, and towel bars.

    Go around rooms and put wood between the studs around eye level, or wherever you thing you might hang something, so it's an easy sturdy process rather than fighting sheetrock and anchors.

    Most of all the other must haves have been covered in the various thread above.

  • D E
    must have : no mortgage
  • bpath Oh Sophie

    Good traffic circulation, good flow.

    I have a thing for paths in the outdoors, and have always loved homes with a glass walking space, whether a hall, or a loggia-type space.

    Front-facing kitchen, but also with view to the back yard.

    Something intriguing, whether it's a hall that makes you wonder where it leads, or a wooden doorway in a stone wall beside a fireplace leading to a paneled library, like that.

    Utility room with double concrete sink, side porch, bathroom, drip closet.

    On top of these, my desires are now different than they were 15 years ago. Our current house (we didn't build it) met my desires at that time, except for the glass space. Oh, and the double concrete sink, but it does have a couple of okay utility sinks. But now that the kids are out of the house, the extended family structure is changing, and we are not entertaining as we used to, I'm looking for a different arrangement of spaces and different number of rooms.

    PS, I don't believe in "forever homes". The fellow we bought the house from told us he always thought he'd be carried out of the house feet-first, and he was about the age I am now. My parents have kept their house, but now they can't live in it. Had they moved to a different type of house, they might still be in that one.

  • opaone

    "must have : no mortgage"

    Too few people think about this. Less footage, same or better finishes and no or a much lower mortgage (and insurance and utilities costs) and the lower levels of stress that come with it are worth a fortune.

  • bpath Oh Sophie

    It's a snowy day, so I just remembered: a heated garage with drains under each bay (if allowed by code; if not allowed, then a channel to carry the melt out under the garage door) and, a deep eave over the garage door. So I don't open the garage door and face a wall of snow!

    Eaves above all walls and windows, to protect the house from the elements.

  • D E
    "must have : no mortgage"

    "Too few people think about this. Less footage, same or better finishes and no or a much lower mortgage (and insurance and utilities costs) and the lower levels of stress that come with it are worth a fortune."


    correct. I don't think it's ok to pay for 30 years for shelter and my quality of life is vastly improved in a mortgage free house than one that's perfect but mortgaged.

    this I'm sure will be an unpopular opinion
  • bpath Oh Sophie

    I agree. We worked hard to be mortgage-free and it's worth it.

  • Lindsey_CA

    Think about the house you're currently in, and what you don't like about it. That should give you a head start on what you should have in your new home.

    Lots and lots of electrical outlets, phone jacks, cable/satellite outlets.

    Electrical run above windows rather than under, so if you decide in the future to put a door there instead of the window, you won't have to re-run the electrical.

    Pre-plumb for a central vacuum even if you don't think you'll have one. Later when you decide it would be nice to have, you'll be ready for it.

    Pre-wire for stereo everywhere.

    Electrical outlets for Christmas/holiday lights and Christmas tree, with on/off switch in easily accessible location.

    No fiberglass bathtubs/showers. Porcelain or tile only.

    Lots of windows everywhere, and make sure there are functional windows in the bathrooms, for ventilation. Our master bathroom has 8 windows, 4 of which open (the four that are located up high do not open).

    Although our house is a production/tract home, we had a must have/can't have list when we were looking at model homes. This house checked all those boxes. Items included were:

    Breakfast nook at the back of the house (so we can sit there barely dressed with the window coverings open and no one can see us).

    Formal dining room

    Fireplace in family room

    Fireplace in master bedroom

    Separate soaking tub and shower in master bath.

    Double sinks in master bath (we also have double sinks in upstairs hall bath)

    Large master walk-in closet

    No fiberglass tubs/showers

    Master bedroom at back of house so neighborhood kids playing out front on weekends (when we want to sleep in) won't disturb us

    Laundry room that doesn't require walking in front of the washer & dryer when entering/exiting the garage

    Because we purchased during the framing stage, we were able to add extra electrical/phone/cable outlets. We also had a central vacuum installed, and surround-sound stereo wiring. We had the wiring installed for a whole-house intercom system, although we've never had that installed.

    Also, because we had an exterior outlet and light put in outside the largest window in the master bedroom (for a future balcony), the electricians were bright enough to run the wiring above the window so it wouldn't cause an issue in the future when french doors were put in. We hadn't though of that, so we were glad that the electricians did!

  • whaas_5a

    If central vac do hide a hose.


    We plumbed for central vac. After the fact we said what a waste now that we have this little robot zooming around.


    If in a cold climate agree with drains in the garage. You can squeegee the snow melt right down the drain.


    The challenge may be the drain outlet location (if daylight) and the burn it can cause with vegetation.



  • Mrs Pete

    A full bathroom on the first floor. Non negotiable.

    Attached to a master bedroom.

    Don‘t skimp on milkwork and windows ... Take your time. When you’re ready, stop, then take your time again ... The majority of your common spaces should be south facing.

    Agree with all of these.

    The system allows us to customize and control home technology, such as lighting, A/V, window shades, etc. It also allows you to combine multiple light switches into single switches by using scenes, and we can use our phones or tablets to control everything.

    Eh, all I see here is stuff that'll be cool for a couple weeks, then will never be used ... and stuff that'll become outdated quickly.

    It’s hard to explain but it is definitely the future of how homes will be managed, and it is hard to retrofit a house with this type of system.

    It's not hard to explain. The concept is that all your lights (and perhaps other things ... your window treatments perhaps?) are connected to a "smart system", so you can just push a button that says "Morning", and your lights /curtains /whatever else will ALL bump to your morning preferences. It might mean kitchen lights are all "on", and your curtains are open. "Evening" might close the blinds and dim the lights.

    I really don't think this is the wave of the future. I don't always put the lights, etc. to the same settings in the morning. It just seems unnecessary ... even cumbersome when you don't want the standard choices. The whole thing feels like a negative to me.

    @sammy- what do you mean by “no goofy windows”??

    Mayhap the other poster means only standard-sized windows? Standard sizes (not just windows) are a money-saver.

    Incorporate a mudroom - have it go from the garage or side door into the kitchen. Our old mudroom was off the family room, and it didn’t feel efficient

    I think most people focus too much on the "obvious things" like the living room and bedrooms ... way too much on finishes ... and not nearly enough on the "functional spaces" like mudrooms, laundry rooms and parking. These heavy-use spaces are "make or break" items in terms of comfortable living.

    11) bench in master shower

    I agree with a sitting space (especially for aging-in-place), but I'd rather go with a moveable teak stool. If you're injured (or old) and need help with, say, washing your hair, the stool can move to the middle of the shower. If you need a hospital bathing chair, you can remove the stool.

    13) agree with earlier post about trying to get your main entertaining spaces with some south light. Evening entertainment spaces (such as a living room) should get south/west light, morning spaces (such as a kitchen) should get south/east light. Rooms that you don’t use frequently should get the worst light.

    Yes, Southern light is best, but add this: natural light from two sides /from two walls.

    16) have at least one keypad or smart lock on your house that can be controlled by your phone or by entering a code on your keypad.

    Again, I'm just not into things controlled by my phone. I'd rather have a keypad that requires you to punch in a code ... you don't need the phone to operate those.

    wide doorways ... wide stairways ...

    Within reason. Being very short /having proportionally short arms, opening an over-wide door can be problematic.

    blocking/backing for curtain rods (as well as for bathroom towel bars)

    Good one ... and I'll add grab bars in the bathroom to the list.

    and a dedicated switch and outlet for Christmas tree : )

    I currently have a light switch that controls the outlets on my back porch and a light switch that controls the "Christmas tree light switch" in the living room. Love that feature.

    must have : no mortgage

    Excellent point. I've been mortgage-free for about 15 years now, and the concept is so ingrained in me that I didn't even think about it as a list item.

    this I'm sure will be an unpopular opinion

    I don't think so.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    I don't always put the lights, etc. to the same settings in the morning.

    And where we live, morning light in the summer is very different from morning light in the winter.

    wide doorways ... wide stairways ...

    Within reason. Being very short /having proportionally short arms, opening an over-wide door can be problematic.

    That was my mention, and yes, I meant standard sizes and within reason. So that anyone who might need crutches, a walker or wheelchair can get through a doorway, and so that moving furniture in and out is easy, too. Most of our interior doors in the new house are 36", except for one bathroom door. In our old house, a 1950s bungalow, most of them are 32" and the bathroom door is 28".

  • shead

    I didn't read all the other suggestions but think hard about where to place water spigots on the exterior of the house so that you aren't running long hoses around. Also, think of exterior electrical outlets. If you hang Christmas lights or string patio lights, an outlet under the eaves or porch ceiling would be nice so you don't have to run extension cords.

    Also:

    -wide doors (36" wherever possible)

    -wide halls (4.5-5')

    -"parking" space for draperies

    -10' garage doors

    -large pantry with space for an extra fridge and/or freezer

    -lots of drawers in lower kitchen cabinets

    -lots of windows

    -think about house orientation and light exposure through the seasons

    -at least one full bath on main floor (separate from master bath), and preferably a secondary bedroom with ensuite

    -if a one level house, at least one secondary bedroom with ensuite and larger closet

    -we like our master closets attached to our bathroom (not a popular opinion, though) as it makes DH's early rising hours more conducive to sleep for me ;)

    -On that note, DH and I have separate closets (one of the keys to a happy marriage, imho ;) )

    -Wiring for video security systems and speakers

  • Migraine Craftsman

    Love this thread! lots of valuable info in here.

  • tiggerlgh

    After doing my driveway multiple times this weekend I would say a heated driveway (if money wasn't an option).


    I will say honestly just think through how you live and your wants/needs/future plans. We all want different things in a dream house.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Well...there's a substantial and long-term difference between characteristics such as thoughtful site design and development; creative architectural design involving not just floor plans, but all of the three-dimensional aspects of interior spaces and exterior massing/style; thoughtful budget-conscious decisions; and quality construction techniques, compared to added "features" and "fashion" for a new home.


    The former consideratkions provide long-lasting quality of living and the latter may often result in trends which come and go in amazingly short periods of time.


    The challenge with threads like this is that often encourages folks to devlop a laundry list of features and fashions without understanding and considering the true fundamentals and durable elements of good residential design and living.


    Pick and choose wisely...

  • bpath Oh Sophie

    My parents custom-built their house, and included some features useful to them,including:

    Hidden storage in the dining room for table linens, china, crystal, silverware, and accessories. They entertained a lot and it was invaluable storage. There was also a small passthru to the kitchen...I know, passthrus are so "dated", but it was behind the hidden doors, and had a little door of its own. They also sized the room to accommodate a particular rug and the table with all its leaves.

    The wet bar in the family room is discreet, not huge, but a boon for parties and even everyday. When we would eat in the family room, no one had to go into the kitchen for beverages, or rinse out a glass.

    The laundry/utility room has a 2-section hamper drawer, and a cabinet sized for dishpans, one for each child, where our clean laundry waited for us to put it away, until we started doing our own. It also had a drip closet with a drain in the tiled floor for the bucket, mop, and for hanging drip-dry clothes and wet bathing suits. Afterwards, mom wished she'd put in a louvered door for ventilation instead of having to keep it ajar.

    In the kitchen and hall, shallow pantries for food, and such, so nothing gets lost behind other things (actually, two shallow pantries that back up to one another), and a deeper one for big or long stuff. A peninsula with access to storage on both sides, including the corner.

    Deep eaves, so they paint only every 20 years or so.

    The garage I referenced up thread with heat and drains. Also, you can have two cars in the garage and open the doors on both without dinging the other car. Raised area around the perimeter keeps dust and debris away from items stored on the sides, and away from the door to the house. This was also helpful when they started using walkers, as they could step up once to the ledge, move towards the door, then once more into the house. The ledge accommodates walker, user, and caregiver.

    Paid attention to sun movement (but not enough to seasonal sun movement) and to views (but the view changed, and the rooms weren't sited to take full advantage of the new feature).

    All this is to say that they thought through how they lived, and what they needed. They measured for storage. They accommodated items they wanted to use. Not everything worked out: Mom is petite and loves to cook, so her kitchen counters are an inch or two lower than standard. That would be okay except that the dishwasher has to sit below the level of the floor. Think about that: how do you move it for repair or replacement? Thank goodness that it lasted 47 years and that we had a stellar repairman, until the thing just couldn't be repaired anymore and now serves as a dishdrainer.

  • Heather N

    Regarding the smart systems - I’ve lived with it now for over a year and it is incredibly useful. It also depends on the size of your home. I don’t think it is as necessary in a small apartment, but nice in a larger home, particularly with any open floor plans with connected rooms where the light from one space impacts the next. As for not doing the same things at the same times every day or things changing by the season - you can choose to have things on timers or you can manually turn things on. And you can have the timers based on a specific time or a relative time based on sunrise/sunset. For example, 1 hour before sunset at our house, all of our common area lights dim a bit to get ready for the evening.


    I was saying it’s a little hard to explain because it isn’t just lighting, but combines so many different aspects of controlling your home and it is hard to appreciate it until you live with it.


    The original poster asked about their dream home - they wouldn’t even have to put in this type of system now, but I’m saying that they could wire the house with the chance that they would POSSIBLY do it in the future. We are only able to retrofit parts of our house because we had a massive flood and had to rip out rooms down to the studs. We aren’t able to put the smart system in rooms that weren’t damaged by the flood because we can’t access the wiring.

  • Heather N

    I mentioned the keypad or smart lock on the doors in the building process just because you can’t put them on doors with mortise locks. I would like to have a door like this at our house, but all of our exterior doors are mortise lock doors, so we would have to replace the entire door to get a smart lock or keypad lock. Just something to consider when you’re picking our doors for the home.

  • PRO
    Anglophilia

    Plenty of storage space for cleaning supplies/vacuum, linens (bath/bedroom/table) in various places, big coat closets (we all have SO many coats these days!), a dumb waiter from basement to 2nd floor, room for an elevator even if not installed at time of build, good separation of space, a basement that has a tall enough ceiling that it can later be finished if so desired, an extra long, extra wide garage for all the "stuff/wheeled goods" that goes in there.

    These the the things I wish I had.

  • bry911

    I hate to wade into this particular discussion once again, but...

    All debt is not equal. Mortgages are kept artificially low and are a good idea for most buyers. Too many people conflate buying things you can't afford with financing, and they are not the same thing.

    I have quite a few mortgages, and I don't worry. My $500,000 of cash from refis in 2013 is now at $900,000 even after taking a beating lately. So I could have had no mortgage and $0, or a $500,000 mortgage and $900,000... You pick which is better.

  • Anita
    Small bedrooms with big closets, big enough for the dressers. Much easier to keep bedrooms neat when the mess is in the closet.
  • D E

    you did better because you made good investments and we are coming off one of the longest bull markets in history. but you didn't do that much better. and certainly not 400k better

    you borrowed 500k, you have 900k 5 years later: rate of return 12.47%

    at 6% interest on your loan you paid 179880 to service the loan . and you still owe 465k in mortgages so 900-180+35=755k net

    if you had not gone in debt you could have invested the monthly pmt of 2998 at your same return and have your 500k house free and clear plus 243k in your investment account .500+243= 743k net

  • bry911

    Full disclosure... I am an accounting and finance professor, although really I am more of an economists these days.

    First, the market rate isn't 6%, and it certainly wasn't 6% in 2013. Currently the mortgage rate is 4.3% and a 30 year was 3.35% when I locked in, although I did the 15 year at 2.675%.

    Next, the actual accumulation of $2,998 per month (which is far higher than any actual payment) over 5 years is about $198,210 (using the S&P 500 as an index to the market).

    The real numbers using today's rate on a 30 year loan and the previous 5 years of the S&P 500... The total to service the loan would be $148,500 and your initial investment would be valued at $902,000, and your house would have gained $56,000 in equity. So your gain would be $902,000 + $56,000 - $500,000 - $148,500 = $309,500.

    Were you to invest the payment, your house would be paid off and you would have $209,740. Essentially, this means that smart use of debt created $100,000 of marginal wealth in 5 years.

    Just for the record my actual results are $100,000 in interest payments, for $402,000 of wealth.

    You also have to consider the tax benefit of a mortgage. I am not including that currently because the new higher deduction makes calculating the marginal benefit a bit more complicated, but many people building a custom home will get a benefit from it.

    Finally, and most importantly, houses are not great investments. Liquidity is king, as you move away from liquidity you increase risk. You can't eat your shingles and doctors don't take bricks for payment. If you have highly liquid assets you can always pay off your house, but your house can't replace highly liquid assets.

    Debt is a tool and like any other tool when used well and responsibly it can build amazing things, when used poorly it can do amazing harm.

  • David Wilson

    I always dreamed of moving to live in a modern home. Not necessarily similar to those from space films. Where all surfaces are so smooth, as if in general there is no furniture in the apartment. But I like geometry in the style of facades and furniture. But in the furniture I still prefer the corners to soften and look more comfortable.
    In the design of the external case of the house I like the play of forms, if it is appropriate with the general stylists around this, the choice of the area is also important. I like the game of textures, but in color I would like bed shades to dominate and preferably natural materials.
    I have nothing against glass, I like its use and there is always more light inside the rooms. From examples I can show http://www.hardman-de.com/contact.html .
    In this style, they make houses inhabited. Long paid attention! And in general there are many beautiful pictures on the Internet. New complexes are often made in this style. I like it

  • opaone

    I was saying it’s a little hard to explain because it isn’t just lighting, but combines so many different aspects of controlling your home and it is hard to appreciate it until you live with it.

    @Heather, can you talk more about this. What system do you have, what all is controlled by it, how do you use it, what do you find most useful, anything really frustrating, what would you do different next time? Perhaps a new thread?

  • J Williams

    I wish this house had a few things:

    I wish we had proper cross ventillation, the front window is fixed in place, that we had a coat/storage area by the front door, that we had an outdoor electric plug by the front door, as well as a hose spigot, and that there was a proper place for garbage cans (ours have gotten huge), I wish we had a laundry sink, and that our washing machine was NOT in our guest bath, it is always always messy and dusty, I wish we had proper storage in our bathrooms, currently our storage cupboards are over our toilet and things just kind of fall into it, also a main floor bath would be ideal, I wish our stairs weren’t so narrow/turning a corner as nothing moves up and down the stairs easily, I also wish our back stairs weren’t creating a clusterf—— because they also turn and when you try to get in you could push someone down the stairs/have to push the door against shoes left there, I also wish we had a real functioning woodburning fireplace or stove in case of emergencies, and that we had an entrance to the basement from the front so it could be seperated if needed. I also wish we had a better place for houseplants as nearly all of them are crowded into 2 small places (we have limited window placement), like our kitchen, and I wish I could have gotten the seperated kitchen I wanted as we are not tidy people, and there is always mess. Our backyard has always been too narrow for oversized kids toys or having kids run through a sprinkler and the like. I am sure there are others things lol.

    The good things about this place are the deep basement, and our big front bedroom in which we vaulted the ceiling. The biggest bedroom became my studio which I love. Our living room is too small for a normal sized sofa, it is a wasted space. Also our old clawfoot tub, I love baths. Having a laundry line is good, and it’s not too far from our washing machine. I love having a gas stove, it’s useful when the power goes out. Oh yeah, our pantry in the kitchen is good because it’s the only place I can store broom, vacuum, dust pan etc.

  • D E

    bry911

    Full disclosure... I am an accounting and finance professor, although really I am more of an economists these days.


    so you would know that leverage increases risk. you had a good run in the longest bull market in history but it could also have gone the other way and you could have lost your 500k investment and now the bank owns your home.


    Your strategy can work for some people - imo most people would be better served doing it the slow and steady way and being debt free. There are also several advantages to that.

    It allows one to take be more aggressive with their investments, and in a downturn they are less likely to make the costly emotional mistakes that those who have invested with borrowed money are likely to make.



  • opaone

    I wish we had proper cross ventillation, the front window is fixed in place,


    Add a screen door to your front door and leave it open?

  • J Williams

    When we bought this place I had no idea that the original front window was painted over, so that it can’t be opened. On top of this, a storm window was permanently attached to it. Maybe they were fine not opening it for security reasons. We could put a screen door in, currently I tie the door open on very warm breezy days which is a weird thing to do here but you you do what you gotta do. One thing I really liked about our very old place we used to live in was an over the door window, it was unsafe to leave a door unlocked there.

  • bry911

    so you would know that leverage increases risk.

    This is not true. A levered firm will be more risk than the same firm unlevered. However, that is different than saying that leverage increases risk for several reasons. Essentially, the overall risk of adding debt to a firm depends on the overall risk of the underlying assets.

    For example, $100 invested in Enron stock in September of 2000 was more risk than having $100 invested in Enron and $100 invested in Apple, even if your marginal debt is $100.

    Moreover, this is largely not true for highly liquid assets. Essentially, having $100 and owing $100 is the same financial position as having $0 and owing $0. Looking at our example, you have added $500,000 of debt, but you have also added $500,000 of highly liquid investments.

    you had a good run in the longest bull market in history but it could also have gone the other way and you could have lost your 500k investment and now the bank owns your home.

    This statement is incorrect for several reasons.

    First, I have been doing this for 25 years now so the recent bull market isn't really relevant. Since the 1929 collapse (when the modern market was introduced) there has not been a single down five year period, and only a couple of small down three year periods. I put money in the market in 2003 and after 2008 I was still in the black. Meanwhile my house wasn't liquid at all. So had I needed cash, I would have had it available, the credit freeze didn't bother me at all. Additionally, the equity market recovered much faster than housing, two years after the collapse the market was back at 95% of pre-crisis value.

    Next, properly diversified investment portfolios don't just go to zero. They may lose some value, but it isn't like one day you have money and the next day you don't. One day you have money and the next day you have a bit less.

    Finally, houses are riskier. It is much more likely that your house will decrease in value than it is your investment portfolio will decrease in value. Above you mentioned a scenario where I could lose my house. However, in reality it is much more likely to lose your house or health from a maintenance issue.

    The house that is across from one my rentals has a foundation problem, the owner who purchased it in January of 2011 for $210,000 cash just sold it for $130,000 in November of 2018. Had he financed $168,000 and invested that amount he would have had $401,000 in investments and maybe fixed the house instead of giving it away because he can't afford the $80,000 to repair the house.


  • taconichills

    Where is Sophie when you need her?

  • bry911

    I don't want to further derail this thread, so I am going to not respond further to this particular line.

    I will end my part in this line of the discussion by saying, that financial advice is not one size fits all. What is right for some people is not right for others. Whether to build a house today with a mortgage or save until you can pay cash is a complex question specific to individual situations. A real answer is going to look at everything from schools for kids to likely housing cost increases in your area and a mountain of other information.

    The idea that a mortgage is bad is predicated on the availability of suitable alternatives. Personally, working in higher education, I would accept an uncomfortable amount of mortgage debt for the right school system for my kids. Right now both of my kids are in college with good scholarships, and there is no doubt the excellent school they were in played a significant role in that. That amounts to hundreds of thousands in savings. Other people might find other quality of life and/or other parental responsibilities more important, and a mortgage may or may not be necessary to achieve those goals.

    I understand the importance of managing debt and that is great advice, but what is the total opportunity cost of a no mortgage philosophy and is that price really just too high?

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    A home that responds to its site.

  • cpartist

    If you could custom build or build your house all over again, what are they? Any awesome organization ideas or cool features would be great too!

    We just moved in in April. My house is everything I expected it to be and more.

    1. Fabulous flow

    2. Lots and lots of natural light in every room except the powder room

    3. A well thought out kitchen with excellent work flow

    4. Lots and lots of closets

    5. Lots of built ins.

    6. Great indoor/outdoor adjacency

    7. Home responds to the site as Mark mentioned.


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