McMansions

Why is it builders build big? 

(Sorry. No cool pictures here. Just a dose of sour reality. And a bright light a the end of the tunnel.)

We used to live in Plaza Midwood in the early 2000’s. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and my ethos running high, I bemoaned the entirely excessive size of homes with which they ruined the inherent feel of the neighborhood. Those builders. Yes, and I still think so.

After all, my particular set of hubris asks for efficiency. For being mindful, only taking as much as is necessary. And here houses were going up as if square feet are churned out in a real estate mill, killing the last hint of what makes a neighborhood have a feel of its own in the first place. In defense of these particular tentacles of my ego - None of this is entirely wrong or misguided.

However, here is what I have learned in the meantime. What drives the size of your home, no matter my preference, are:

- zip code

- and square feet

Well yes, you say. But here is the skinny. The majority of homes currently sold in Charlotte is financed by banks. There are mortgages or construction loans. If there is a mortgage, there is a real estate appraiser. Where there is an appraiser, there are 2 numbers. Zip code and square feet (Sorry Dale. There is much more to the stew. Yes. But here it is.). There is one more piece. Homes are sold on the cheap around here. So. If you look at building a new home, whether you are a hopeful home owner or a builder in the Queen City - You have to mind the zip code and the square feet. Both need to be of a certain scale to make it happen. Huh? you say? Here is how it adds up.

It costs money to build a house. And some things costs more than others. The kitchen, the baths, the HVAC system. Some cost less. The empty bedroom. When you divide that cost - say for the essentials: kitchen, bath, heating and cooling system, roof, and foundation - maybe $70,000 by 1,000 sqft, it costs $70/sqft. Tug three stories underneath the same roof and on the same foundation instead of one and you save money. If you divide that $70,000 by 2,000 sqft, you pay $35/sqft. If you can squeeze in 3 stories, it becomes indiscernibly small.

Still with me? Now add the real estate market. If you are in the zip code 28205, NoDa and Plaza Midwood, for instance, you look at homes prized at a certain level. If you live in the zip code 28216 an entirely different one. Say $225/sqft vs. $90/sqft. Roughly speaking. But there are other things at work, you might say. Amenities, quality, appliances, garage, whatever. Yes. But no. If you want an elevator ride truth. It's the neighborhood. It's what's desired. It's the fad. People will pay more for what they want. In the Charlotte real estate market it's in the where. No matter how well built it is or what goodies it comes with, a house can name it's prize based on where it is at an how big it is. I am sorry. Vinyl siding or not. And a bank will only finance what a real estate market dictates. After all they want their money back.

Now. One more stake in this simplification. Charlotte is cheap, while it is not cheap to build a house. You have to pay subs and material distributors, permits and fees. It ads up quick. So the build price and the sell price do not match up. Not in Charlotte. Not even with Plaza Midwood prices. So what is a builder to do.  It's easy:

- up the cheap square feet such as bedrooms and bonus rooms

- squeeze in those square feet and stack 'em high.

- use vinyl siding (well, or other inexpensive materials)

There  you go. It's easy as pie. If you want a new home in Charlotte. Build it big. Build it cheap. And stick it into the right Zip code. That's before we talk quality, needs, wishes, special features. style, a bit of cool. Yep. Forget it. 

You read all this and where is the bright light, you ask?! Well. here is my pitch. Bring in a creative. High quality and a cheap market? We can make it work. It doesn't have to be me. I have gotten to know a good handful of professionals in Charlotte over the years. They are all in tune with the real estate market and financing stipulations. If you ever have seen someone making lemonade out of lemons, these folks are it. 

And here is what I say. Live big. Enjoy it. Treat yourself. Do it right. A well designed space will raise your spirit, lift your soul. Day after day. You owe it to yourself. We are magicians of the built environment. And you can not only  afford us. We make it all cheaper for you. Our fees are but the cost of an unwanted dark hallway, we cut out on the first day on the job. A hallway you no longer have to pay heating/cooling costs and taxes on. Forget the mortgage. But a quality of life (any Charlotte bank won't pay a dime on and you'll get for free) - that will enrich your life for ever.

If you want to see the difference. Ask me. I will show you.

(While I ended my musings on a high note, isn't it telling that the etymological origins of 'mortgage' is in a 'dead pledge'. Yup. That silent 't' is not for free. It's what the quality of your family's home is grounded on. Yikes.) 

And just because you read all of this, here are two fun pictures for good measure after all: 

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This was a home in Charlotte’s Belmont Neighborhood I worked on. Here we learned the truth of the matter the hard way and had to give the client another 800 sqft they never wanted. Just to make the bank happy. 

They made the best of it, however, and now rent out a portion on Airbnb. 

In the interior shot you can see two of my daughters and I pretending to bake. We had to stand in as models.