Quick: what were your favorite parts of the house you grew up in? (And by “house” I really mean wherever you lived when you were little. Apartment. Whatever.) Did answers come to your mind right away? When I was first asked this question, my mind popped out immediate responses.
I loved the window seat in my bedroom, the biiiiig closet in my bedroom (which felt more like a clubhouse to me), and our screened porch. The window seat was a perfect little nook for reading and writing. The biiiiig closet was kind of carved out under the eaves, and had deep shelves and storage areas…plus a hard surface floor that was ideal for playing jacks with friends. (Hanging clothes was really beside the point.) And the back porch was a mellow retreat, even delightful as a vantage point for watching and listening to the rain.
What spots did you think of in your home? The question is useful because the answers are often the “heartstring” pullers that may draw you to particular homes now that you are a househunter. And these heartstring reactions are often surprising because when creating wish lists for the characteristics of a new house, most folks itemize much more “practical” items instead. Like…updated kitchen. Or large master bathroom. Or 4 bedrooms. Or updated kitchen. Or updated kitchen. Or (you guessed it) updated kitchen. And while these are all important, sometimes buyers find that even houses that match those criteria perfectly still don’t feel quite right to them. Buyers may experience that feeling of it-is-exactly-what-I-said-I-wanted-but-somehow-I-simply-don’t-like-it when the house misses out on the heartstring issues that can make a place feel “just right.”
Now, in my case, it doesn’t necessarily mean I would have to find a house that exactly replicated my beloved trio of window seat, closet/playroom, and screened porch. But I might want to focus on options that made me FEEL the way those locations made me feel. To me, it seems like the common denominator among my faves is coziness and the potential for a kind of retreat. I do love houses with big open floor plans, high ceilings and terrific spaces for entertaining…but I’d probably stand there thinking something just wasn’t right if the house lacked a cozy, private “get away from it all” spot. I’m sure it wouldn’t have to be a window seat. But it would be a nook of some sort that met the same needs. Maybe it would be a study. Or a loft overlooking the backyard. Or a charming little reading area in the bedroom.
Thinking back on our favorite home-based places can be so helpful since they became our favorites because they helped fill some of our needs. And those needs are as unique as each person! To someone, the back porch I adored would just have been a waste of space where a perfectly great pool could have been built…because she just wants to kick back poolside with lots of friends after work each day, and feel free of the confines of an office cubicle. (And maybe some of her happiest childhood memories are long summer nights like that, filled with laughter and companionship.) Maybe someone remembers having wonderful times in a big fenced backyard, where he could let the dog loose to run and play with him. So maybe he needs a fenced backyard now…or maybe the dog park down the street from a potential new home would work equally well for him. One person remembered rolling out cookie dough with Grandma on a long, long counter, and wanted to be able to have that kind of love-filled experience with her own kids. It didn’t have to be a crazy-long counter, but she did need to find a place that could comfortably accommodate a number of cooks, large and small.
When you have some time, think about those favorite places that come to your mind. Perhaps these were spots in your childhood home, or a friend’s house, or the old, drafty house you rented with friends during college. Think about the feelings these venues evoke, and pay attention to those heartstrings. Maybe, like me, you feel at home with coziness. Or maybe you need to feel the liberation of big outdoor spaces. Maybe you’re happiest if you fall asleep hearing only crickets; maybe you’re most content with a bustling street outside because it means you’re right near all the city amenities you love best. Focus on the feelings those spots bring to you, and house hunt with a mind toward meeting those needs.
And, I know, I know…if we can find a property with an incredible fishing pond to bliss you out (because it’s just like Grandpa’s), and the house just happens to have a fully updated kitchen, well, all the better.
On Facebook: Laurie Simon Goldman, Sibcy Cline Realtors