Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top 10 benefits to living in a new-construction house

When Dave and I were looking at homes in the Twin Cities, we were pretty open to different styles, eras, and parts of town. We made nearly 50 showings over the course of two weekends, and our list included a geodesic dome, a townhouse in a converted mansion, a modern pre-fab, and a 50s rambler that remained untouched since it appeared in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1955. We were looking for character, and I held the general belief that character comes with age. So imagine my surprise when we ended up with a house that was built in 2007, and nary a Spanish tile in sight. In fact, in a way what I love about this house is that is is a blank slate, a clean starting point. It has 10-foot ceilings and was designed to maximize light. It has wide-plank, light-wood floors, white and grey walls, and grey and white marble tiles in the bathrooms. I am a self-described maximalist, yet i have purchased a home with no flourishes. The kitchen cabinets do not even have hardware, and the backsplash is simply paint- that's like a dress without ruffles and an ensemble with no jewelry. Over the years, I have come to appreciate good bones, and the freedom of adding the flourishes with fabric and furnishings (and having the ability to change them without a contractor.) When we finally walked into the house after driving cross-country to the closing, I thought about the times that I have been displeased upon similar encounters: the tears shed over the tininess of my first new York apartment (a 300-sf one-bedroom walkup to be shared with a roommate); the sinking stomach upon entering the little brick rowhouse bought--at a price far too high--in the frenzy of the 2004 real estate market.

But this was more like entering my beautiful pre-war park slope co-op, or even our rental house in Boulder: it may not have been certainty at first sight, but it sure was love at second.

Another thing about me: I generally do things the "old" way, or go for form over function. While I'm not exactly a luddite, it drives Dave crazy--CRAZY--that I don't use quick keys to cut and paste. I suppose I am a creature of habit, and see nothing wrong with doing it the old way. So imagine my surprise as we get settled in and I find that the little short cuts and luxuries of modern convenience are a wonderful thing, to be embraced. Keep in mind that Dave and I lived without a dishwasher for 5 years, and when our dinner plates didn't fit in the dishwasher in the Boulder rental, we bought rimless salad plates to stand in. That I watched a TV through static for several years in Park Slope because the look of antennas just drove me to distraction.

So for the past few weeks, I've been mentally debating which shiny new "luxury" features are my favorites. There must be at least ten, which will fit into an inverted list and make a nice little outdated reference (does anyone still watch Letterman?) in keeping with the spirit of being set in my ways.

10. Automated ice-maker

Just in time for Eleri's favorite new declaration: "Cold water please! Ice. In it."

9. Central Air

Okay, we were lucky enough to have this is Brooklyn, but it was retrofitted to an old house, and the cold air came in surges so loud, watching TV involved a major volume control roller coaster. Here? Whisper soft. (This same level of quiet is less of a perk on the dishwasher, which I keep opening mid-cycle because I CAN NOT HEAR IT.)

8. Dedicated laundry room

Not the basement hallway, not a corner of the kitchen (using the dryer as a surface for both folding clothes AND cooling cookies (etc.) = unsavory), no: it's very own room. With cabinets big enough to store all the linens and towels, PLUS drawers and a utility sink.

7. Kitchen Island

The size of Malta. Is that an Island? That's what just popped into my head.

6. A walk in pantry

That you can walk into

5. Walk in Master Closet

Did I mention? You can walk in. To the closet.

4. In-floor heat in the bathroom tile

Okay, I admit, now I'm just showing off. But this is Minnesota, and I'm sure this feature will jump to number one on the list come, oh, February.

3. Basement Playground

Oh yes, it's true, there's a slide, monkey bars, climbing rope, and hanging swing chair built in to the basement. But shhhhh, don't tell the girls. We're saving it for a rainy day. Or, really, for the gym mats to arrive and save us all from the concrete floors.

2. Outlets

There are so many in each room, it's almost confusing to decide which to use for what. (Not always great with options over here.) In Brooklyn, our bedroom has ONE outlet, directly across from where the bed so obviously belonged. We had extension cords just ringing the molding along the floor (and cable wires ringing the crown molding.) Which leads me to the number one most awesome thing about buying a new-construction house:

1. Whole-house wiring

I have been known to nix entire stereo and media components because i didn't like how they looked. Imagine my delight to discover the house wired for a wall TV that was wired for a cable box or DVD player HIDDEN IN A CABINET. Do you know what this means? NO WIRES. We have forsaken our year of living TV free for a 50-inch on the wall, with no visible wires. That's like a his 'n' hers icing on this amazing cake.

Having just written all of that out, I feel like the luckiest girl alive where real estate is concerned. I also feel compelled to say that we got a GREAT deal on this house because it was built in the market surge but sold after the crash, and that we could only afford it because our fortunes went in the other direction with New York real estate. I imagine we'll only have the opportunity of going downmarket once in our lives, and I feel we did well in cashing in the chips.

if you can stand it, there may be a deluge of photos and decorating posts to come.

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