Designing: My Needs vs Resale

July 5, 2019

Just curious for those of you building custom, how much do you design for your own needs, and how much do you consider resale potential? Supposing you intend to live out your life there - but also recognizing you never know what life may bring years down the road.

A few personal examples - I don't watch TV. I haven't owned a TV in 40-<mumble,mumble> years, and I don't intend to go out and buy one now. Do I consider potential TV placement in my living room design? Or do I do what works for me?

Another is a master shower. I know most people go the opposite way, but I take baths about 350 days out of the year. It's my evening meditation/relaxation/wind-down time. The only times I hop in the shower is when I'm particularly dirty, and then I wouldn't really want to drag that dirt into the master anyway - so could shower in the guest bathroom or even hose off outside. Do I put in a master shower anyway, in case I ever want to sell? Or make a space a master shower could go but leave it empty? Or just put in the fancy bathtub I want and let future buyers do a redesign after they buy?

And the dining room table. I want to put in a kitchen island with room for seating. I have no need for a separate table. Another thing I haven't owned in my entire adult life, and I've done just fine without it. So for resale it seems it might still be good to have a space - but on the other hand, it might be an awkward space for me if I'm not actively making use of it.

But besides my specifics - I'm really more interested in the philosophical discussion: what's been your general guiding principle in designing for things you like that are outside of mainstream, and might affect resale? Do you sacrifice and follow more traditional approaches, or just do what you want and if you ever have to sell, buyers will just have to figure it out?

Comments (156)

  • bry911

    I can put in a shower now - I'll never use it, but good resale. Or I could rough-in a shower but not have it fully built.

    I don't mean to throw cold water on this discussion, but resale is a financial metric. We shouldn't discuss resale without discussing cost. It isn't simply add a free shower that you will not use for a better return. You are going to have to design where that shower goes, build a roof over it, cover the floor where it will be, etc. Whether you add it now or design a bathroom for a later shower, it is probably going to significantly alter the flow and design of the bathroom.

    While this makes sense if you need it in 10 years, it is a lot of money and design considerations for something you don't want. That doesn't mean it is a bad idea, but that depends on factors we can't know. I would suspect that in a modest home a later tub to combo, or tub to shower, conversion would see a better return.

  • robw1963

    I think people are overestimating the hit the OP would take on trying to sell the house later. If the house could reasonably see a price of $300,000 fully furnished, is the lack of a shower going to drive it down more than a few thousand? Will a profit be unlikely? Hardly. Also, I think too many are projecting their own feelings here. Just because you wouldn't buy a house that doesn't have the features the OP is considering eliminating, that doesn't mean others wouldn't. It also doesn't mean there aren't a large number of people out there who still would be interested. If the location and price are good, the house will sell. The only homes around me that don't move quickly are rat-trap investment properties or homes above $750,000.

  • hummingbird678

    I'll also mention something I didn't upfront (because I really didn't intend to get into the weeds on my three specific examples - but since we did, this may be relevant) - where my house is located and the style it will be, it could also have a lot of potential buyers who are looking for a vacation home/weekend cabin/that sort of thing. So some things that might make people overlook it as a primary residence, might not be as big a factor as a second home.

  • Denita

    ^Even more reason to build what you want since the property appears to be in a vacation home location. As you mention, vacation home features are typically different from those in a primary residence.

  • Helen

    I would think a shower in a vacation home is probably more desirable because of the lifestyle most vacationers would have especially if it was going to be rented out. I can't imagine willingly only being able to bathe in a rental property.

  • D E

    this is what designing for resale looks like.

    there a millions of houses available for dont have to go with the crowd.

    if you are designing your own house, design it for YOU, and not the next owner. who knows what will be in style tomorrow, and who CARES?

    there is absolutely nothing wrong with designing for you even if it means losing out on some resale value. if it were all about dollars we wouldnt be putting in 50k worth of windows or 50k worth of appliances and cabinets in our houses.

  • J Williams

    I guess you never have visitors? I would think if you live in a popular vacation area, you might have people dropping by? I’ve found that, although I never use our shower, guests always prefer it over the tub. Over the years we’ve hosted a lot of people and some have ended up staying for months and even years. We Iive in a popular city people want to visit, and even to rent can be difficult.

  • bry911

    there is absolutely nothing wrong with designing for you even if it means losing out on some resale value.

    With respect, whether or not resale is important depends on an individual's situation, financial and other. Ignoring resale is often a poor decision. That doesn't mean it will be important to everyone, or even most people, but for those who need to consider resale, it may well be the most important thing.


    There is this property I drove by for many years. In this area there is a nice brick colonial home, probably about 2,500 square feet. The house faces a lovely little brook, which is what I feel sure the owners had in mind when they turned the house sideways so it would face said brook. So as you drive down the street, there are all these stately brick colonials facing the street and one house right in the middle of them turned sideways.

    It sold some time ago after being on the market for 2 years, it ended up going for about half of what they paid to build it. Apparently, the new owners overpaid because they tried to sell a few years later, and after another 9 months on the market the bank sold it at auction for 55% of what the new owners paid.

    All told, the newest owners paid about 27.5% of the cost to build the house. Spending money today to get more money in the future is usually a bad idea. Having said that, spending money today to make a house appeal to more people isn't always the same bad idea.


    Remember the house you linked and stated, "should not have any trouble selling," has been on the market 10 months and already seen a price drop of 13.5%. If they needed that money 6 months ago, resale would be important...

  • D E

    I would like to see pics of this house that sold for 27.5% of original cost. thanks

  • bry911

    I removed the picture after 25 minutes, as this is someone's house and I am not comfortable leaving it up. It showed very little after removing distinguishing characteristics anyway.

  • Oliviag/ bring back Sophie

    I've thought about this since my initial posts.
    Here's some background.
    My Mom, 84, is a lifelong tub person. My siblings and I have done our best to accommodate her preferences over the years. we got the bench that sits half tub, half floor so she could sit and slide in. (don't remember the technical name.) Extra grab bars. Nonskid flooring. These worked for a long time.
    Now, she's in a 2 bed/ 2 bath condo. Sold the old house .
    She still has the tub/bath bench in the hall bath. But, with lesser mobility, and better safety, she has (finally!) decided it's better to use the shower bench in the shower. Where she has grab bars everywhere ( thanks to my nephew, a contractor) and she feels safer.
    I'm just saying, its all well and good to personalize, but if you want to stay in your own home, as long as you can, think to the future. One of my senior friends said about ten years ago, "They call them the golden years. They should call them the rust years."
    So far for mom, I wouldn't call them the rust years, but aging isn't for the sissies.

  • hummingbird678

    J Williams - as stated earlier in this thread, if I want the option to use a shower I can use the guest bathroom. Guests will have their own shower/tub. I would never let a guest bathe (bath or shower) in the master, anyway.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Reading the comments, it seem folks are divided along the following lines:

    1. If initial building expense is unimportant, and future resale return and time to sell are unimportan, then do exactly what you want and don't worry. About anything, present and future.

    2. If initial building expense is important, and future resale return and time to sell are important, pay close attention to the local real estate market and what sells.

    3. If you don't know, or can't make up your mind, re-read all the postings.

  • hummingbird678

    Virgil, I think that is a pretty good summary :D

  • roccouple

    There's a house near me that was built for 1-2 million about 15 years ago (it's almost 8k square feet) and recently sold for ~$580k. It's way overbuilt for the neighborhood and the luxury market around here is competitive. Plus it's very stylish for 15 years ago (traditional, elaborate, somewhat rustic), which is exactly what many people don't want today.

    New builds are not lucrative here, especially since they are seen as "dated" somewhat faster than older homes.

    That being said we are knocking down a 900 square foot house and rebuilding 1900 sq feet. We know this is more expensive than buying existing, but we hope to live there for awhile. We lived in the 900 square feet many years so we know the lot. The plans appraised for exactly the building costs today, which we like. We are choosing somewhat not-on-trend decor according to our own tastes (and the limitations of our existing foundation)

    Maybe that's a tip - it's possible to have your plans and lot appraised in advance of the build. It' probably not 100% perfect but you can have a professional let you know what it's worth in theory, and compare that to building costs, or even have 2 separate plans appraised to see how much you are risking with a specific choice.

  • One Devoted Dame

    Maybe that's a tip - it's possible to have your plans and lot appraised in advance of the build.

    This is how we built our current tract home 2 years ago -- We took local existing-home sales and created our "budget" based on those numbers. We plan to do the same thing with the custom house. :-D

  • J Williams

    Ok, it sounded like you were aiming for an eccentric fortress of solitude/a tiny house for one. Vacation homes here, aka cottages for the most part, can run from bare bones affairs, like water access only places with outhouses and bathing in a lake, to places where a large dining area is required and expected to host large family reunions or big gatherings of friends, be that a separated formal space , an extension of the living room, or just a large screened in verandah.

  • barncatz

    Reading this, I suddenly realized we built an "eccentric fortress of solitude", lol.

    1200 sq ft, located on 30 acres in a popular/beautiful river front area -farms but lots of weekend homes. Walkout level -screen porch, guest bedroom/office mudroom, small bath with the only tub and separate shower. Main level - windows on four sides, kitchen, laundry with toilet and sink, table, living with non-negotiable window seat. TV in closed cabinet - you are sideways to the view if you are watching during day, which rarely happens, Upstairs - bedroom, 1/2 bath. Open area to below could be covered to add master shower and tub - the floor joists are there but exposed.

    We used it on weekends, then added a barn for our two horses so now full time. Having a shower on walk in level is really practical because...barn and horses. We just don't think walking two sets of stairs to the shower/tub is a big deal especially with only a grown daughter who visits from the coast. It's probably as far to the shower in a small house as in some of the McMansions I see.

    I recently tore my knee. I recovered rather quickly because the doctor said my legs were really strong from all the stairs and my outside work. Meanwhile, every day I've worken in the last 14 years, I've thought how much I love this house.

    hummingbird, I knew someone who built a house then garage then riding arena then horse barn, connected in kind of a swooped out upside down V. That's quirky!

  • hummingbird678

    barncatz - I'm starting to contemplate whether I can use my barn to create my courtyard :) House on two sides, garage on third side, and finish it off with the barn on the fourth side. I'd still have to go outside to get to the barn - but at least it would be just passing through the protected courtyard area... oh, the ideas...

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Or build in a square "U", with the house on one side, garage on one side, and barn on one side. One side would remain open for maintenance access in the courtyard.

  • hummingbird678

    I was thinking the barn and garage wouldn't quite meet, and there could be a gate to the external world there.

    But in any case, the full interior courtyard is just one of my quirky dreams. I'll wait to see what my architect comes up with based on my actual needs and wants, not some proposed layout.

  • ritasj

    I think interior courtyards are a dream...if don’t have land or privacy enough....but on the practical side they only make sense when you have almost year round good they need to be a good size... so you can have a garden...not just a patio with a view of the walls surrounding.....And also direct sunlight for only an hour or so around noon ....don’t know how much land you have but we have 4 outdoor living spaces...3 are small in size to give us a shady or sunny spot at any time of day...and one bigger one ...covered ...with more comfy furniture... a tv...dining...and room for more people...

  • hummingbird678

    I have plenty of land, but I want a courtyard to serve several purposes - go between house and barn in a protected environment, create a place the cat can wander outside without worry of escape, have a garden and bird feeders that wildlife (other than birds) can't get into, and have a place to sleep outdoors that has no risk of people or wildlife getting to me.

    There are other ways to create that space, I just think a courtyard would be cool. And again, I acknowledge upfront that my ideas/dreams are quirky and outside the norm.

  • One Devoted Dame

    Or build in a square "U", with the house on one side, garage on one side, and barn on one side. One side would remain open for maintenance access in the courtyard.

    I'm considering this kind of arrangement, too... But part of me wants to make it a completely enclosed courtyard, even if I only have just a wall (with large gates) connecting the two arms of the U, lol.

    But in any case, the full interior courtyard is just one of my quirky dreams.

    I'm starting to think that full interior uncovered courtyards aren't all that quirky... Hmmmm....

    [*wink* at Lindsey]

    I think interior courtyards are a dream...if don’t have land or privacy enough....

    Which begs the question, what is "enough"? If I can build an atrium house on 1.5-2 acres, is that enough for the house and enough justification for privacy? (Probably.)

    but on the practical side they only make sense when you have almost year round good weather....

    I'm in Central Texas, I think our weather is fairly good, year-round, for the most part. I don't have a problem getting sprinkled on in the Spring, or getting a quick brisk chill in the Winter, should I need to shortcut across the courtyard. :-D

    plus they need to be a good size... so you can have a garden...not just a patio with a view of the walls surrounding

    Agreed! 36'x52' (for example, lol) seems pretty good to me.

    Edited to add:

    [...] have a garden and bird feeders that wildlife (other than birds) can't get into [...]

    I think other critters can definitely get into it. Snakes (which can either be accidentally dropped by birds of prey, either into the courtyard itself or onto the roof and then slide down into the courtyard), squirrels (which can fall from nearby trees, onto the roof, and slide down into it), lizards (which can climb walls/roofs/back down the other wall), etc.

    So, best to have a Wildlife Escape Plan, just in case you have to remove any animals you don't want Kitty or Fido to eat.

  • ritasj

    Sounds like a nice big screened -in sleeping porch might handle most of these needs..bird feeders outside the screened area for viewing...these have a broad appeal in a vacation cottage area...

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Courtyards and artist go back at least to Roman times in Pompeii and elsewhere.

    I think we can say that they have passed the test of time.

  • hummingbird678

    The bears pull down bird feeders here, so can't go outside the screened area unless there is bear-proof fencing around. Lots of my neighbors have had problems with that, and now there is an active movement in the community to stop people from putting bird feeders up so the bears will clear out.

    Also, to me it's not the same to sleep within a screen. I've been sleeping outside about 6 months/year for several years, and a screen wouldn't make me happy. Need to see the stars, and be completely open. Screens are also not normal in that environment, because there are almost no bugs. I'd be the only house in the county with a screen.

  • J Williams

    There are lots of examples of atria and courtyards, I’ve seen them here, in Paris, the Yucatan, and China. Some temples are partially open.

  • One Devoted Dame

    Courtyards and a[tria/triums] go back at least to Roman times in Pompeii and elsewhere.

    There are lots of examples of atria and courtyards, I’ve seen them here,
    in Paris, the Yucatan, and China. Some temples are partially open.

    Y'all aren't helping, lol!!!

  • ritasj

    Each time back and forth a little more info comes to may be worth adding a bear proof fencing brother had bear issues in his “Lake Tahoe” cabin..pretty scary...they rummaged through garbage cans and even broke into homes...if you will be living alone I would be pretty wary of that...his experience is the bears don’t clear out that easily....and wow...sleep out doors completely? What about bugs...snakes..mosquitoes...raccoons...even cats...never mind bears snuggling into your bed....we have a big pond so we never sit or lay down without shaking cushions...pillows....throws for little families of tiny frogs and wriggly bugs...

  • ritasj

    Well once again I missed your comment. ( about no bugs)...there seems to be a delay in parts of the postings that is beginning to frustrate me for quick response...where on earth do you live where there are no bugs?

  • ritasj

    We live in the mountain forest so no such luck for us...fortunately it is only worrisome at certain times of the day

  • hummingbird678

    No bear proof perimeter fencing per HOA. I could probably lobby them to allow a smaller enclosure with bear-proof fencing close to the house - which is most likely what I will end up doing, barring getting my dream courtyard.

    Heh, I grew up in the wild outdoors. As a kid, 6-7 hours/day was spent outside if I wasn't in school. And I've lived in bear country for most of my 40 (or so...) years. There's little about the outdoors that bothers me. There are very few bugs here to begin with, and nothing that would be a problem. Bears are a concern while sleeping, but really people are the bigger concern to me - especially as the population of my community grows.

  • hummingbird678

    High altitude, desert, cold climate = few bugs

  • jmm1837

    I wouldn't want bird feeders in an outdoor atrium shared with a cat. Birds and cats don't mix. It'd be offering the cat an all-day buffet.

  • hummingbird678

    He's 18. He has been sharing a balcony with birds for years, and doesn't even open an eye at them anymore - even if they land on the balcony a couple feet away.

  • ritasj

    What about just fencing connect your buildings...thus...a sort of fenced courtyard...nice and big with solid fencing where privacy is needed..and
    /or ...see thru (bear ?) fencing where no privacy needed?this would allow a large courtyard with maybe even a water feature with a fountain ...we leave our huge slider door open at night to hear the fountains in our the fresh air and the zen sound of water splashing

  • jmm1837

    His successors won't be 18.

  • hummingbird678

    ritasj - as I said earlier, there are lots of potential solutions. I happen to think fully enclosed courtyards are cool, so that is my dream. That doesn't mean it's the only way to handle it, and it doesn't even mean it's the most likely way I'll handle it. But despite all the alternative options, it still remains my quirky dream.

    jmm - simple solution: Then I don't allow that cat out without supervision. Not really an issue.

  • ritasj

    Wow you keep surprising me..Desert?...then a closed courtyard makes so much more sense ..but what kind of bears live in the desert?..we live in Northern California one mountain range from the 2600 ft altitude ...not that different from 25 years in Aspen ...except we don’t have the snowy winters...we go to Palm Desert for the winter anyway...

  • hummingbird678

    We're considered desert because of the lack of precipitation we get. Altitude is about 8000 feet.

  • Lyndee Lee

    I like the idea of buildings on 3 sides of a sheltered space with a wall with access gates on the 4th side. I might split the enclosed space into hard surface access to the garage and the other part outdoor living area. You could use a retractable gate or a swinging gate with an electric opener to control access with a parking spot on the outside for guests and service vehicles

    I have been in a couple of courtyard homes in my area which were built in the late 60s, early 70s. I like the idea but mostly the courtyards are on the small side, probably 150 to max of perhaps 300 sq ft. I like the courtyards found in many cultures where all the buildings open onto a central area with access to the public through a single opening. That sort wouldn't work for you as typically there are some openings between the buildings.

    You might have some issues with local authorities depending on the rules for distance between buildings. Your architect should know how the area views such setups.

  • J Williams

    I had a dream that I’d live in a greenhouse when I was really little lol, hasn’t come true yet.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Years ago I spent a week in upstate New York (Greenville) for a painting workshop. I used to do 2-3 of these annually for many years in various locations. Imagine my surprise when we went out painting one day at a 1700-1800s farm outside Greenvillle only to discover a wonderful courtyard formed by an L-shaped barn, a free standing work building and a partial height wall, which together formed a wonderful courtyard for animals and working.

    Here's the painting of the L-shaped barn and the partial height wall. The work building is out of sight behind the large tree on the left:

    An amazing find in a historic farm yard.

  • Holly Stockley

    The courtyard structure is common in Swedish farms of a certain vintage. This is a nice piece on them:

  • Holly Stockley

    And one that's been made over rather extensively. The interior makes MY teeth itch a bit, but it seems well done. And the exterior photos convey a lot about the original layout:

  • One Devoted Dame

    From Miss Holly's first link:

    I was *just* thinking, "Well, shoot. I'll bet Tudor atrium houses don't really exist; climate may not be 'right' for one...." And then I see that lovely Swedish example! Wow.

  • cpartist

    Fully enclosed courtyards are quite common in Mexico and it was the inspiration for my semi enclosed backyard. I think they're a great option.

  • PRO
    Flo Mangan

    We have an enclosed courtyard now and we love it. Sort of our sanctuary. Just make sure your plan for drainage and watering system.

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