Sunday, May 19, 2013

Light House Home--That's For Me

I probably look at 25 to 30 houses a week, which may not sound like so very many for a long-time Realtor, but honestly, at the end of the week, they pretty much all run together. What makes one different or more memorable than the rest? Sometimes what is the most memorable is some drastic issue, a horrible kitchen or a tiny room, or a strange colors and decorating plan—but these memorable features are really just cosmetic, today I want to approach real estate design.

What is there is design that sets one home or property apart from all others? Why is a ranch house better or worse than a castle? What makes a condo built by the ABC company different and more memorable than one built by the XYZ firm?

I have recently had the good fortune to see (and show) new homes in Venice. And to be fair to the one-at-a-time builders, I've been keeping this search to the multi-unit builders. All of the homes we have looked at have three or almost three bedrooms, a few had more. They are all very nice, with state-of-the-art bathrooms and kitchens, some had crown molding (others would for a fee), some had huge garages, others saved space by keeping the garage small. A few were two-story, with the bedrooms up—shades of New England. But mostly they are all “snorkel homes” (meaning what you see from the street is a smallish front door, and a huge garage) some even come with some unimaginative ankle-buster gutter drains coming down right at the main entry.

With apologies to the various architects involved, the main difference in these homes isn't the plan or layout, they all have the same bedrooms and great rooms. The real difference between them is down the street--it's  the included club house, swimming pool and other amenities--and their HOA fees. The homes are all pretty much alike, the lots are tiny and the landscape promises to be trim but boring and maintained by crews whose names you will never know.

There are differences available to the buyer who is willing to pay and explain that he or she wants something out of the ordinary, sometimes it's just an extra door or bathroom, sometimes more. I have seen a (2 family) in-law home built by the folks at Lennar. It's really one of their larger single family plans with a second entry, a second kitchen and an additional garage space making the home into a main house and a private second dwelling area for a lucky family member. Whether this member is mom or dad (or both) or a child who wants to live at home forever is really immaterial, the point is when you want something different, new home builders could accommodate you, so long as the zoning and municipality is willing to go along.

So let's say that a new 2000 square foot home is one end of the spectrum, if that's one end, what's at the other? If you are really adventurous, and willing to be different, there are a few homes out there—or at least buildings that could become homes—that are for sale and will set you apart from the rest. What could be more memorable than a lighthouse? Oh the beauty of such a building, and the locale. Remember what we all say, location, location, location—and light houses are almost always waterfront, they can be pretty tall, and usually they are well built. The GSA (Government Services Administration) has quite a few available right now.

My wife discovered these listings at I know the average person probably would not consider recycling a government building, but on the other hand, a lighthouse...I mean what is more noble or more memorable than a lighthouse? And there are quite a few of them available. Granted they are not usually near a supermarket or a school, but if you are curious or willing to go afield, these could be for you.

For folks used to ranch style homes, remember most of these homes are 5 story, accessed by spiral stairs, plus you have to appreciate vertical living, with room over room and very few corners. Still the views are spectacular, and your guests would have little issue with finding your home—they could either use a marine GPS or just drive down to the beach and then look out by the rocks...perhaps you could set the big light in the attic to blink a special code to tell them when you are ready for company.

Would a lighthouse work for me? Nah, probably not, although I once knew a family that bought one on the Hudson River—it was quite the place and very memorable. And I have a friend—not particularly outgoing—who took a psychological employment test and found he was best suited to become a lighthouse keeper. The test showed he didn't like people and was happy working alone...that's just not me.

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional, you can reach him at 941-681-0312 or at See him on the net at

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