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Friday, May 15, 2009

Smaller is Greener

The house
Excessive resource consumption in oversized homes is obvious but, until the current recession, our median home size increased every year. What size is “oversized” is open for debate and rightly varies with family needs. A NAHB research report two years ago showed that a 2500 square foot home takes three times the materials of a 1250 square foot home to build, even though the size is only double the area of the smaller one.

One of the most potent drivers of over building is the real-estate value equation that values the lowest cost per square foot above all else. True values, such as: the quality of materials used, superior design, or outstanding craftsmanship are not considered in appraisals. RS Means Company, the most respected resource for building cost data in the United States, shows that, while a 1000 square foot home may cost as much as $215 per square foot to build, a 4.000 square foot home costs as little as $115, a full $100 per square foot less. (1/4 the size but only 1/2 the cost) This is understood most clearly when you choose one cost item, such as a $7,500 water tap fee. These fees are often the same no matter the size of a home. That tap fee contributes less than $2 per square foot to a 4000 ft2 home but adds $7.50 per square foot to the 1000 ft2 home and no real quality. This kind of spread occurs with many things on a builder’s cost breakdown, such as the heating system, the kitchen, or the cost of the electric service. Although expensive on a square foot basis, the small home still costs significantly less, in this example $215,000, while the 4,000 square foot home has a price tag of $460,000 for construction. And yet, we cling to the convention of value by the square foot and teach buyers that the true value in their homes is how cheaply it costs per square foot.

posted by Custom Blogs @ 4:13 PM 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cities Helping Familes

Granny Flats, Carriage Houses, Pool Houses, Party Pavilions, Caregiver cottages, Casitas, are all names for an affordable housing choice some communities are making possible for their citizens. Accessory Dwelling Units, or (ADUs) is the term used to encompass these various local and regional names. ADUs are small independent homes placed in the backyard of a larger home. They provide room for an expanding family, an aging parent or parents, a young married couple needing help in their first years together, or an ADU can just be a fun complement to an existing home as a guest suite or office. Some cities also allow ADUs to be rented providing additional monthly income for a family.

The personal stories are numerous and varied, but they have a common theme. Families are moving back together. Sometimes the reasons are financial, other times it’s to be together, or to be close by in order to provide care for one another. According to the latest U.S. Census data, the number of households with three or more generations living under one roof grew 38% from 1990 to 2000, vs. 8% for families with just two generations and 16% for singles. It is also reported that the three-generation households have increased in number by 62% since the year 2000. Some family members are moving into mom and dad’s larger home, while other families are having the kids move to the basement making room for parents and grandparents on the first or second floors. Others are selling their house and their parent's home and using the extra money to purchase a larger single dwelling for everyone or building their own family compound.

Our Research of the ADU regulations adopted by some 30 cities revealed several similarities:
1- All city or county regulations limit the size of Accessory Homes in some fashion. A typical minimum is 400 square feet and a common maximum is 800 square feet. Sometimes maximum size is expressed as a percentage of the primary home’s size.
2- The number of bedrooms is often limited as well as the number of residents, usually one bedroom and two or three people max.
3- Parking regulations usually require 1 additional parking space in addition to that required for the primary home.
4- Lot size minimums are often established for the inclusion of an ADU.
5- Some simple statement such as “compatible with the primary home” usually regulates design, though some cities require formal reviews.
6- Renting is most often permitted, but some cities do not allow the rental of an ADU.
7- A few communities regulate the concentration of ADUs in a particular neighborhood, but most do not.
8- From there on, one or more municipalities probably include anything you can imagine: full public hearings, revocable permits, height limitations, use restrictions, construction methods, etc.

We took the most common restrictions as guides and designed a line of small homes that can either be constructed in a modular plant, panelized or stick-built depending on the physical limitations of a homeowner’s property. We market the homes on our website and through our national appearances, and partner with a local builder to construct the homes. That way the ADU cost will be comparable to any new construction in the area, from a low of $70 per square foot in the South to over $200 per square foot in California. We are developing a network of builder-partners in the locations that are currently friendly to the idea of ADUs. Each of our Sidekick qualified builders is a recognized expert in Green technology, Universal Design for accessibility, and small infill construction.

If our extensive offering of standard home designs doesn’t quite fit a family’s needs we will soon offer a “Design Your Cottage” page on our website that will let homebuyers design their own ADU and have that design in their hands in less than 5 minutes.

Mike Kephart
Founder of Kephart Living and Sidekick Homes

posted by Custom Blogs @ 2:55 PM 




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