New Construction

Lately, I’ve witnessed repeated resistance by residential builders to the continued use of existing homes. Construction professionals face unprecedented challenges lately and I can fully appreciate the need to market both their business and new product. However, many of the arguments offered in support of new construction are specious. One builders’ representative has tautologically suggested “smaller, distinct rooms make it difficult to entertain guests in one large space.” “Likewise the lack of a swimming pool makes it tricky to invite friends over for a quick dip. And, people living in an urban apartment might find difficulty hosting a cookout,” he did not add.

The unspoken implication is that a Great Room is the only option for a party. The builder continues, “While you are in the kitchen preparing dinner, you can still interact with guests enjoying conversation in the family room without feeling closed off.” For many hosts, a large room works just fine and, unchallenged, one might think it is the only acceptable solution. Of course, it is not the only option and it may not be the best option. Very large rooms deny the opportunity for quieter conversations, as every square foot of available space is exactly the same as the next. There are no quiet corners, nor a mix of light and dark, just identical, featureless space, and lots of it.

We recently threw a party on a pleasant summer day. Many guests sat on the sunny grass in lawn chairs, while others hung about the grill, offering advice to the cook. Some ducked into the garage to escape the sun, while still others retreated into the cool comfort of the house. Even inside, some preferred the din in the Family Room, while others chose the busy Kitchen or the relative quiet of the Living Room. A choice was avalable and people sought the place they preferred.

The builder implies that it is always better to start from scratch to get what you want, rather than making modifications to an existing structure. Builders were recently joined in this error by an ostensible economist, who noted that new homes are “laid out better” and “have better kitchens,” suggesting that, once the house was complete, no changes could be made. It is as if these individuals, in the aim of advancing their world view, have forgotten that existing homes can be remodeled to accommodate modern preferences, at a cost less than that of a new home.

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