I am fairly certain that these are the questions I am asked most frequently in casual conversation. “We’ve been talking about this for a while . . .” “We’ve been looking at houses but haven’t found what we wanted . . .” “We love our street and don’t want to leave it.” Honestly, as an architect, I have the same questions and discussions with my husband. “Should we buy that house? We need to work on the master bath. What about a second story?”
These are hard questions, and in truth, many times there is no right answer, which is a frustrating concept for an architect, and probably even more so for a homeowner. Real estate appraisals can give us the monetary value of a house based on the current market, but, in most cases, that number is only a partial indication of the house’s real value. What makes a house a home can also be what happens inside that house: a home can tell the story of a family, and that is a very hard thing to quantify.
How can an architect help? Our processes start with listening to homeowners, finding out what they love, what frustrates them, how they currently live in the house, and how they want to live in the house. Based on all of that listening, we can help see what options are available based on the existing house. Sometimes those options meet the needs of the family, aligning with investment goals and planning priorities. Sometimes those options do not meet the family’s needs, or the cost of the improvements is too high, or the requirements of construction are too disruptive to the life of the family. I have drawers full of feasibility studies for clients, many of which resulted in the family’s purchase of a different, better for them house. And while these projects may not yield one of my job signs in the yard, they are no less successful than a completed renovation or addition as the result is the same: a family residing in a home that tells their unique story.