October 13, 2015

Weekly Book Scan

Reimagining Home

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 12:58

I graduated from college in May of this year.  After moving back home, the thing I immediately missed the most was living with a few close friends and within walking distance of the rest.  While many friends have stayed in the Chicagoland area, spending time together now takes much more scheduling and effort.  I missed my close-knit community.

Credit: hrikken

Then I picked up Bella DePaulo’s book How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century and learned that intentional living communities are no longer restricted to the college experience.  Nor is a traditional household, such as the one I was raised in, a requirement for a happy and successful life. In her book DePaulo, who holds a doctorate in social science from Harvard, breaks down housing stereotypes and presents the stories of many people who are finding alternative housing solutions to cater to their specific needs and desires.  The stories were incredibly varied:

  • Families defining new ways of multi-generational living. Parents with grown children who help with household costs, grandparents living with grandchildren, or even grown, married siblings sharing a home.
  • Friends committing to living together for an extended period of time, forming their own chosen family and community while cutting the cost of housing.
  • Co-housing communities, which are places where neighborhoods are structured around a shared common house and intentional relationships.
  • Married couples choosing to live in separate residences.
  • Older women finding security and companionship by sharing a home.
  • Single mothers becoming roommates to support one another in their parenting.

The situations were as wonderfully diverse as the people DePaulo introduced us to along the way.

I spoke with DePaulo to better understand how her insights into these changing housing desires can be met by real estate professionals. She suggested her book as an educational resource offering a glimpse into new ways homeowners are dreaming about their residential lives. These are dreams that, in the coming years, real estate professionals may more and more frequently be asked to meet.

I asked DePaulo if she felt it was the responsibility of real estate professionals to become educated about these movements and DePaulo took it a step further.  She said it is not only their responsibility but is actually in their own interest to have information about these options. Homes occupied by traditional nuclear families are currently only 20 percent of the market, she said, while alternative options are the ones that seem to be growing.

Throughout her book, the stories of individuals were united with two common themes that showed what people are truly looking for as they search for a place to call home. Whether they were living alone or living in a large community, almost everyone that DePaulo spoke with expressed a desire to have both community and privacy.

How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century is also an excellent tool for networking. It provides many names of the people and organizations who are the leaders of grassroots housing movements. It would be a great way to start conversations and begin building bridges, DePaulo said, between organizations and professionals who are all seeking to provide the right type of home for individuals and families.

Personally, I found her book to be an excellent way to overcome initial stigmas I felt towards alternative housing.  While the overview of housing options I hadn’t ever imagined left me skeptical, DePaulo’s wonderful way of weaving personal stories with facts, statistics, and the history of these movements not only eliminated my skepticism but left me dreaming in new ways about how I could see myself living in the future.

With many different living situations available, in the end DePaulo emphasized that there is no one right way or right choice when it comes to making a home. This excellent resource will be a great way to start helping your clients, and perhaps yourself, dream about a new way to live.

Real Estate Reading Guide for Fall

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 16:13

Now that summer is officially over, it’s time to spruce up our reading lists with something a bit more businesslike than the average beach read. And what a better way to do that than looking forward to the 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego this coming November?

Credit: Alice Hampson

Here’s some reading material inspired by speakers at this year’s conference:

Smart Design Advice From Real People

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 16:17

Growing up, I always wished I had an older brother or sister who could tell me what was cool. Back in the day, I wanted someone to explain which bands were awesome and which ones were “posers,” as was the vernacular at the time. Now that I’m about to purchase my first home, there’s a part of me that wishes I had an older sibling who was working on making their second or third house a home. What disastrous remodeling project would s/he warn me against? Is my DIY idea going to be a homey improvement, or cheesy and impossible to resell? Is wallpaper a natty way to dress up a nook, or is it a literal pain in the neck that will be outdated by the time I’m done Instagramming it?

Sure, there’s Pinterest and Houzz and a million other home improvement blogs I could consult with my specific design queries. But what if I want to have a conversation? What if I wanted to page through the potential of my new home, room by empty room?

Sherry and John Petersik (©Todd Wright)

Well, I’ve decided on adopting Sherry and John Petersik as my know-it-all older sibs.* Not that they’re arrogant (quite the opposite really) but they have much more experience than I do at this sort of thing; they have three home purchases and countless upgrade projects under their collective belt. The couple started blogging about their home adventures some seven years ago, and continue to do so at Young House Love. Now they’re on their second book (Lovable, Liveable Home: How to Add Beauty, Get Organized, and Make Your House Work for You, due out from Artisan publishing on Sept. 22) and reading it, I can guess how the first one found its way onto the New York Times Bestseller list. Their advice is eminently approachable and chic while always keeping cost considerations as part of the conversation. Among their own step-by-step project instructions and case studies from home owners around the world who conquered their own design issues, they sprinkle in snarky asides from their dog, Burger, poll results of their sizable readership on trends and common home conundrums, and realistic but flexible rules you might glean from an interior design class.

Burger the dog (from Lovable, Livable Home).

My favorite part is the Petersik’s approach to infusing personality in one’s home. Because, please: Who wants to actually live in Martha Stewart’s house? No thanks. Instead, the guiding principle of their advice is to try for the perfect blend of form, function, and meaning. Having the most efficient, workable house (function) is no better than having the most beautiful one (form). Then again, no one picks up a home design book with the intention of wallpapering the whole place with their children’s amateur artwork (meaning). The key, say the Petersiks, is to marry these three ideas as best you can in each project.

Above all, this is a practical read. The Petersiks include considerations for families in all stages of development and often make note of the most durable, easy-to-keep-nice options available to each project. They’re keen on helping home owners make a good use of the space they have (whether that’s too much or too little).

I’ve been trying to read it slowly, because we haven’t moved in yet and I think it’ll be more useful when I’m actually in our new space (can you tell I’m counting the days?) But I can’t put it down, so I guess I’ll be reading it twice. It’s the most addictive home design guide for new-ish, young-ish home owners I think I’ve ever come across, and I highly recommend it as a closing gift, or even a staple in your office. Because we all need a big brother or sister’s advice from time to time.


*I should mention here that I draw plenty of inspiration from my little brother and sister-in-law’s adorable home in Minneapolis and my husband’s brother and sister-in-law’s super cute Salt Lake City home, and I wouldn’t give any of them up for the world!