Real Estate: Is Your Home Functionally Obsolete?

The definition of “functionally obsolete” pertaining to real estate is: A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. This applies to many houses currently on the market here in Newton and all the western suburbs of Boston.

An early-to-mid 20th century Colonial usually has a center staircase and a living and dining on either side of the foyer. The kitchen is generally located behind the dining room and a sunroom located off the living room. In addition, most pre-war Colonials were built with a powder room under the front hall stairs, blocking the ability to open up to the kitchen and living room to each other. Relocating a bath is not inexpensive, and removing the first floor powder room is not desirable while living in the home (or for resale).

For many years the sun room became the family room and everyone was delighted to have that extra space. Of course, the living room wasn’t used as often when family rooms and dens became common. These houses were built when hosts didn’t want people in their kitchen while they were entertaining. Company came over and were led into the living room to have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The cook ran back and forth between the kitchen and the company.

In the days of yesteryear,
women got tired of being in the
kitchen and missing the party.
So the living room got shafted.

Victorians are another issue. Extremely popular 10 – 20 years ago, they have high ceilings and beautiful wide foyers. Those wide foyers and intricate staircases can sometimes make for little rooms and difficult (and expensive) renovations. Over the years many people have added beautiful family rooms in the rear of the house off the kitchen. 

But today’s buyer does not really want a right parlor and a left parlor and a dining room and a family room and a sun-room…They don’t want to pay for rooms they don’t use.

These days, gathering in the kitchen while cooking is not only common, but an enjoyable experience. Guests WANT to be in the kitchen with their hosts! A desirable first floor today in the average home consists of an open concept living, dining and kitchen, with perhaps a separate office and a mud room. On the second floor, the preference has become four bedrooms and three (or four!) bathrooms. 

Not sure why siblings can’t share a bathroom anymore?

(Hint: the 1:1 ratio)

What will they do when they have to share with 20 people in college?

So what does all this mean? It means that the price of your home depends on how desirable your home is perceived through the eyes of a buyer. Buyers have always determined the price of a home, not the seller or their agent. Often there are creative ways of modifying these spaces, opening up the first floor to connect unused rooms to the kitchen. Above all, have faith that every house is salable! The price melts away objections and gives buyers an opportunity to bring a home into the 21st century.

This guest post contributed by:

Margaret Szerlip


Email: Mobile:  617.921.6860

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Author: Margaret Szerlip

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