Archive for October, 2007

Happy Halloween

Have a great Halloween! Watch out for ghosts and goblins and stay away from any tricks!

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Universal Design: how it can work for all of us.

It has taken many years, but housing designers have found a way to create barrier-free homes, and make then attractive. It’s called “Universal Design.” Homes that have universal design features look like other homes, but they can sometimes be better than other homes because they are much easier to use and to live in. Universal design is getting popular. They look appealing. People with disabilities don’t feel like they are settling for a house that was retro-fitted with things that are necessary for them. The homes were designed specifically to meet their needs, but still keeping in mind the aesthetics that people want. People who don’t have disabilities think that universal homes look just as a “regular” home does.

But Universal Design is not just for the disabled! The Baby Boomers are planning for their future: retirement, smaller homes, etc. Universal Design is for them too! While it may not be a concern now, that house that a 50-something couple just bought will be their retirement home, their home to grow older in, their home to be in for the rest of their lives. They are active and mobile now, but who knows fifteen years from now? A one-story, easy-to-use home with amenities like a first floor laundry and wider hallways are nice now, but could be a necessity down the road.

Features for Today

What makes a home “universal“? It’s simple. Here are some of the more common universal design features:

* No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.
* One-story living (ranch homes or two-story with first floor master suite). Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
* Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
* Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
* Extra floor space, open spaces. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn. Repositioning load-bearing walls to create open areas.

Features for Comfort

Some universal design features just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. For example:

* Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
* Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
* Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
* Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to knobs or standard switches.

Features for Later

Universal design gives you great home feature you can enjoy now. It also helps you plan for the future. Take closets for example: when you build a closet, add some adjustable brackets. Later on, you can use those brackets to move clothing rods and shelves to a better height. This tiny investment helps a closet grow along with a child and it also means you can use the closet even if you start using a wheelchair. This kind of planning can help you make sure every part of your home will adapt to your changing needs.

(Excerpts taken from: http://www.aarp.org/families/home_design/universaldesign/a2004-03-23-whatis_univdesign.html)

Being married to a home builder, we are always looking at the “next” home. Our next home, ideally, will be built using many UD features. This is a must for us as I have MS. But that is not the only reason. We want to utilize UD to make living that much easier: A sprawling ranch. Wider doorways and stairs. No barrier shower. An area for a small elevator if it is to be a 2-story home. Wider areas between the sink and island in the kitchen. All of these things, plus many more make the home more “livable”, and not just for someone with a disability.

Fixing Hard-to-Use Homes

You may have your own ideas about universal design features that could help you. Take a good look around your home. Make a list of the things that bug you. Tired of bending to plug in the iron? Sick of stretching to reach your favorite platter? Can’t stand carrying laundry to the basement? Talk to some contractors to see if there are some UD options to help you.

For someone like me, I can definitely see the need for Universal Design. I have MS. I am still mobile, I still get around without the use of a wheelchair or even a cane. But I can see down the road how some of the features of UD may be beneficial for me. Wider doorways and staircases are necessary for a wheelchair, but they are also nice to have when carrying a laundry basket. So some of the features that are necessities for some are also a luxury for others.

From the MS Society Website:

“Universal Design enables everybody-not just people with disabilities-to navigate, manipulate, and appreciate our world. Non-slip flooring: It’s safer for all sorts of feet. Curb cuts make things easier whether you’re pushing a stroller or a wheelchair. Think of a grab bar in the shower. It’s seen by many as a “disabled” thing, but who wouldn’t want one when their eyes are full of shampoo?

Universal Design makes products, communications, and the built environment not only aesthetically pleasing but also more usable by more people-at little or no extra cost. There’s just one little problem: Universal Design is not exactly universal. Not yet. If it were, many special accommodations for people with disabilities would disappear. They wouldn’t be needed.

Thankfully, product and space designers, heeding the needs of people with disabilities as well as a population with an increasing number of older people, are slowly beginning to solve problems using the principles of Universal Design. New technologies augment their efforts. Examples slowly entering the marketplace include adjustable kitchen sinks and vehicles with more power assistance.” http://www.nationalmssociety.org/site/PageServer?pagename=HOM_LIB_imsoct04_universaldesign

Other Resources

Meet a Universal Design Architect
Because of a genetic disorder, Architect Karen L. Braitmayer uses a wheelchair. Her disability has shaped her career.

BabyBoomers and Universal Design
This article, published by Realty Times, suggests that demand from Baby Boomers is making Universal Design more popular.

Books

Find this book online at www.barnesandnoble.com:

The Accessible Home: Updating Your Home for Changing PhysicalNeeds, Bryan Trandem (Editor), Creative PublishingInternational, Inc., January 2003.

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The Grammar police

I had a previous post regarding photography, the do’s and don’ts. Now I am here to really focus on some personal pet peeves: grammar and spelling. I just read a listing by an agent and it made my skin crawl. I will put a few of the whoppers here:

From the exterior and color coordinated siding enhanced by the lighting selected to make this home special for you!” << What?

To your left & right is the parlor & dinning room,” <<I guess I was absent in class the day they discussed the dinning room. I only learned about dining rooms.

Covered in solid surface counter tops with stainless steel appliance. ” <<I’m not quite sure what is covered in solid surface. Too bad only one appliance is included.

For breakfast, lunch or diner there plenty of room for everyone to dine in sun room. ” << Once again, What? And there is a diner in there?

“. . . and a over sized walk in master closets.” << No comment.

. . .leads directly to the first floor laundry & onto the kitchen.” <<I guess there must be some kind of landing on top of the kitchen?

Each bedroom has their own bathroom sink & an inter connecting private bathroom” << I’m glad each bedroom has their own bathroom sink. Bedrooms appreciate a sink. I’m not even sure what an inter connecting private bathroom is. I guess it is better than a public bathroom.

Truly this home was designed for you & the years to come.” <<Truly. I hope the years appreciate it.

Oh, I love this one, “Up your oak stair case . . .” << Up yours too, buddy.

Ouch! Between the grammatical errors, the spelling mistakes and the poor wording, this makes my head spin. All of these phrases were taken from ONE listing and the kicker: it is for a $550,000 house.

If you aren’t a writer, please, please, please, have someone write for you, or at least have someone proof it.

So if you see spelling errors or poor grammar in any of my posts, feel free to point them out to me!

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Agent attitude, or lack thereof?

OK. I post this out of curiousity. I am interested to hear what others have to say on this topic.

This past weekend I was doing an open house on a new build (I represent the builder). A couple came in loved the house, and want to meet again to discuss building. I asked if they had an agent they were working with. They looked at each other and said, “Well, we have someone we have been working with, but he really hasn’t done much with us. He showed us a few pre-existing homes, but we couldn’t find anything we liked, so he gave us a list of ranches to go look at on our own. We have been driving around on our own for a few weeks. We decided to stop here and we love it! He is a friend, but to be honest, he has not done anything for us except give us a sheet of paper with a few addresses on it.”

I told them that they were still working with him, regardless if he was with them that day or not. One thing with being a builder’s rep, I am always very careful to immediately ask if potential buyers are working with anyone.  We get numerous people through open houses who are just driving through or live in the neighborhood, and I always clear the air with that question first. (When agents come through, I always have them register).

But let me give another example:

There is another realtor who came through one of our open houses a few months ago, to preview it for potential clients. He then proceeded to bring some clients to us who ended up building. We don’t require an agent to be present at all of the meetings pertaining to the building process, but they are welcome to attend. Most do not, knowing that we will be handling the details on our end, and we are fine with this. We keep them posted of pertinent dates, etc.  This agent was very interested and asked that if he couldn’t be there, could we fax him notes from the meetings. Just so he could stay informed on the progress and be there if his clients had any questions or concerns. They built a lovely home and their agent was fantastic to work with. Last week I got a call from this same agent and he had another couple he is bringing our way. They came through open house (with the agent) and they are also very interested in building.

The difference I am seeing: the complacent agent who just hands off a handful of pages printed off the MLS to his clients and they are on their own versus the hands-on agent who is there every step of the way. This is not the first time I have seen this. Is it because we are new builds and agents don’t feel the need to be there? Assuming that I can and will help their clients? Or is this a trend on existing homes as well?

I look forward to some insights on this.

HG

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Raining cats and dogs (but mostly dogs)

This weekend the local animal shelter here in Rochester, NY had its annual Barktober Fest. Yes, you guessed it. It is a dog extravaganza. I don’t have a dog, but promised my son I would take him there. They had bouncy houses, doggie dress-up,you name it. I get my son all organized, we drive down the road toward the shelter as I watch the sky getting blacker and blacker. Now, the shelter, Lollypop Farm is about 3 miles from where i live. As I am approaching the turn-off into the parking lot (which is filled with about 200 cars), the skies open. And I mean waaaay open. It is the worst rain I have ever seen. And then the lightning. The thunder. I told my son, “We aren’t stopping. This is unbelievable.” So I drive past as I watch about 400 people running, with dogs of every size and shape, and too many kids to count toward their cars. I turned the corner to go about and head toward home. I realize there are cars parked for about a mile down that way too! It was utter chaos!The rain subsided about an hour later and we went back. Most of the dogs were gone, so I guess you could say the day went to the dogs!

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