Sunday, November 28, 2021

Special Publications

What Our Homes Are Saying About Us


Trends are peculiar phenomena. It's the kind of thing that typically can't be directly observed—only forecasted or recollected. It takes an expert or at least a keen observer to be able to identify it while it's happening. For an architect, this ability is tantamount to business. Where the restaurateur must comprehend that millennials won't order salami in aspic, so must the architect understand that size no longer matters.

"Gone is the huge master bedroom, Jacuzzi, open-plan great room, and double-height entry," says Duo Dickinson, a Madison architect with more than 30 years of experience. The notions of open space and just thinking large in general are no longer a pivotal focus of long-term development. In fact, homeowners may even be seeking to reduce their personal living space whenever possible—even on the fly.

"Towns and clients have expressed interest in accessory dwelling units, or ADUs," says Justin Hedde, associate principal at Centerbrook Architects & Planners. "Young adults in college may use these units to gain a little independence as they grow into their career and then empty-nesters may move into them to rent their oversized main house."

This is referred to as a "role switch" between parent and child. Older couples are willing to forego the emotional attachment or prerogative associated with their longtime residence in favor of more practical arrangements.

As homeowners are looking for ways to use their home to bring in extra cash, architects are beginning to think about a home's business potential when they design.

"Airbnb and other short-term rentals are also attractive to both young homeowners and retirees as a way to bring in extra income," says Beth Hedde, associate principal at Centerbrook.

Micromanagement is key to fast and easy access for renters: "the ability to easily secure certain spaces...cuts down on the lengthy preparation required when renters are expected." (See sidebar on how to Airbnb your home.)

"Cities on the West Coast, like Portland, have had ADUs for years, and with the tiny house revolution, the trend is starting to grow on the East Coast," Justin notes.

Here in Connecticut, the focus has been on reconciling the old and new while trying to anticipate future realities. With so much history in New England, it's reasonable to assume that people don't want to completely tear it down.

"Fewer new homes, smaller renovations, strategic thinking on par with buying a car," Dickinson observes. "Kitchens and baths are used to the point that they do not function without renewal," he later adds.

"But a new reality is becoming evident: [Connecticut] is a very nice place to live, so people are more willing to phase home improvement, do long-term planning, and think about what they value versus what is the price tag of their home immediately after renovation or building."

"Real porches and three-season rooms versus prefab," he observes specifically.

Undoubtedly, homeowners want to use the space they save in construction to let nature breathe. But when buyers do go big, they often take advantage of the space in forward-thinking ways.

"Many clients are now looking for two of everything—even the bed. Often, couples operate on completely different schedules and we now know, more than ever, the connection a good night's rest has to improved health and well-being," says Justin.

Ultimately, the customer is always right. And embracing technological advancements—both hardware and software—is necessary to stay relevant in the trade.


Thinking of Airbnb-ing Your House?

By Jen Matteis

Maybe you're not looking to rent out your home for months at a time, but you've heard about Airbnb and VRBO and you're wondering what you could earn for renting it out for a few nights. Ralph Guardiano, owner of the Homestead, a bed and breakfast in Madison, has a few tips on how Airbnb works—though he points out it's better for people renting out their home, or a room inside their home, than it is for a bed and breakfast.

"Being able to use [Airbnb] as a marketing channel is great," Guardiano says.
"I went to the site, uploaded pictures—they take you through it step by step."

Guardiano recommends writing about local amenities and attractions in the description as well as details about the home. Payment is easy—it goes directly into your bank account. You can choose between instant booking, where an applicant is immediately approved, or choose to respond to people who are interested before accepting their request.

"It handles the financial transaction, the marketing for you—everything," he says. "You just have to list it properly, have nice pictures, and they take care of the rest."

However, Guardiano emphasizes that it's not for everyone. "You're suddenly in the hospitality business," he says. "People can be pretty demanding. If they don't like something, they're going to complain about it or leave a review about it."

To improve your ratings, you likely won't go as far as the Homestead in what you offer—such as a record player in every room—but adding a few touches such as high-quality sheets and plush towels can heighten the experience in any rental.


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