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North Hills Monthly

Don’t Let Resale Value Compromise Home’s Comfort

Sep 01, 2017 08:34AM ● By Matthew Schlueb

When I work on a renovation or addition with a homeowner, the subject of resale invariably comes up. Most homeowners want to avoid a design decision that would reduce the chances of selling their house or spending money on alterations they will not recoup.

My answer to these questions is typically the same: if they are planning to move out of their house in two or three years, then these issues need to be taken into account. However, if they are not planning to move out for five years or more, I believe resale should be the least of their concerns.

In five years’ time, the marketplace changes quite a bit. Trying to predict where it will be or what style will be in fashion is anyone's guess. Even a recently remodeled house will likely have some minor changes made by homeowners moving in, such as painting walls a new color or changing out light fixtures. For these reasons, design decisions made based on one’s own tastes are best, so that during the five years or more before reselling, the house can be thoroughly enjoyed.

Why go through the inconveniences of construction for a homeowner that may move in some day? Shouldn't you benefit the most from all the money and effort you spent on the renovations? If materials and fixtures are selected anticipating some buyer's preferences, whose house are you living in? You are merely a temporary guest in the home of a future owner.

Five years ago, a house on the market was more desirable with a big Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom. Today's buyer, however, prefers that the precious square footage in a bathroom is allocated toward increasing the size of the shower. Massaging water jet sprayers have become an active showering experience, no longer valued for rejuvenating in a reclining tub.

Then again, was the master bath whirlpool ever truly used? A new home may be christened by a candlelight soak on the first weekend, but too often it is rarely used again. The pace of modern life does not afford the time, has forgotten the luxury. The tub has become a perpetually empty vessel, holding only imagined experiences.

These are the places we inhabit. We do not meditate submerged in water; we live in ‘possibilities’ and ‘someday’ doings. A whirlpool is not a white, acrylic tub with polished chrome knobs and faucet. It is a suburban rite of passage to unfulfilled promise, containing our mind more than body.

The objects that fill our houses acquire us, rooms are created for antiquated traditions. The thought of a relaxing soak is the only use for a tub, the actual act of untangling tense muscles is never experienced. The tub provides metaphor, aspirations, fantasy, not device.

The spaces we occupy speak to our emotions, of conservation and safety. Environments crafted to provide insurances, more than possibility. Before a house becomes a home, it is first an investment, a mortgage, a milestone.

Under this measure, a house is not a vehicle for living, life is barely sustained. It is entropic, thinning and dispersing toward invisibility and phantom space. Bathroom tubs that don't hold water, they are human scale vessels disappearing in plain sight.

We are reselling the American Dream and by remodeling the master bath with an empty tub, we are participating in the American experience of living within conventions and expectations. And by building houses in a culture of resale, designed for the typical buyer, suburbia has become a uniformity in which everything is neither here nor there. Houses without measure.

What is to be done for the homeowner with an independent mind and the conviction to follow his or her own tastes?

Can such a person exist in today’s housing climate of quick flips and maximized return on investment? In our race to conformity, appealing to the common pool, the trendsetters and tastemakers seek dissonance to differentiate and find new ground. Any hope for the suburban homeowner is no different.

In the end, when asked about resale, I advise my clients that it is a personal decision which comes down to comfort. Do they draw more pleasure from the idea of a rejuvenating tub or the actual act of drawing a bath?

After that question has been considered honestly—understanding why you feel inclined to include a new Jacuzzi in your master bathroom renovation—the question of resale value takes care of itself.

Matthew Schlueb is a registered architect and owner of SCHLUEBarchitecture. For questions or comments, contact Matthew at This article is part of an ongoing series addressing architectural issues for homeowners.