Happy New Year – Neighborhoods

How to define a “Neighborhood”? The Webster dictionary terms it as

A: the people living near one another and
B: a section lived in by neighbors and usually having distinguishing characteristics

When a house gets strip or gutted, it affects more than just the property value. It affects the community and the City surrounding that community. It affects the family that invested its blood, sweats and tears into the house of their dreams, only to see the vacant home next door get vandalized. It effects the City, due to the fact that the city needs families to move back into its neighborhoods to repopulate its tax base. The City needs a stable home market to maintain its communities.

How a neighborhood looks can be deceiving, just look at the one of most impoverished areas in the country the Brightmoor Community.


This community on the west side of Detroit has burned out shells of homes that was once populated with many families. Acres and acres of vacated land that is waiting to be repurposed.

There is a lot of blight, but if you look at the residences in this community, you will never know it. They are as prideful of their community as you will see in any community in this country. They have boarded up some of the homes and painted pictures of the board to make the blight not as noticeable. They started urban farming and they have made parks out of some of the empty lots. They have found creative ways to make where they live more pleasing to the eye. They have found a way to make a negative situation more positive. What they have done says a lot about the people who live in the Brightmoor Community.

If we continue to let the undesirables have their way in our communities and we don’t do anything to stop it, then you reap what we sow. Remember: Brightmoor did not look like this years ago.

From my point of view, a neighborhood is what you make of it. It’s about what people in the community think of themselves and what they think about where they live. I was brought up to believe that where you live and how you live is a reflection of who you are as a person.


Happy New Year

Is your home “Aging-In-Place” ready?

Part 2 – Inspecting your current environment

As a “Design Professional”, it is much easier to design an Aging-In-Place (AIP) solution for a newly created design home. For instance, the first thing I have to find out from this client is how long he/she will be staying in their new home and then all I have to do is incorporate an AIP design solution that will fit their needs.

For an existing home however, it’s very different…

Here is a case study: A client wants to stay in their 1940’s suburban bungalow home. It has two bedrooms, an entryway and a porch on the east side of the home. The kitchen, dining and living room are on the west side of the home. There is only attic space on the second floor. One family member has to move around in a wheelchair and needs to get around effortlessly. Their budget is modest and the client has not been in this situation before, so they are cautious. As a design professional, what would you look for when you inspect this client’s existing environment?

The Inspection Phase

During the inspection phase, we have to be compassionate, but honest with our clients. Their home has many memories that we cannot ignore. Our objective as design professionals should be to educate our client, not just selling them a product to stay in their home. Let’s look at the case study above. There are some questions that have to be answered in order to design a quality product. The first question, is it worth investing in the client’s neighborhood? The client needs to know if they will be able to recoup their investment if they need to sell their home. Second, look at the condition of their home. For example, the home may have hidden dangers, like termites or rotted wood? What if the home has a poor maintenance record or needs to have a lead mediation? These kinds of things will eat at the cost of the remodel.

Let’s look at another issue from the case study, the family member in the wheelchair. Coming up with a design solution for both, the member in the wheelchair and the client is another thing to consider, when deciding on whether to proceed with the project. Their input will give us design professionals more insight on how we can design a solution for them.

Investigating all possible scenarios is our job.

If it can be done, go for it. If not, then don’t do it. Do not be afraid to walk away from a job, when you and the client cannot see eye to eye. Coming up with a clear, viable design solution is critical.

In the end, pretending that we can save their home no matter what; may not be good for you or the client.

Is your home “Aging-In-Place” ready?

Part 1 – A familiar story…

As with many consumers whom decided to make that plunge to design and build your dream home, think about the number of hours you put in: to settle on a design, interview with various builders before settling on the one, getting financing and picking out the decorum, etc… Then after all of the process is done and the project is finally finish, and you get the keys to your “dream home”, do you think about how long you will stay in that home? At that moment you think “forever”?

But as we get older, we talk about converting our “dream home” into an “Aging-In-Place” home as a viable solution. However, by adding a wood ramp to an entrance or placing a grab bar in the bathroom and called it an “Aging-In-Place” solution is at best a short term solution. As most Design Professionals know, homes designed before 1970 that is not a “ranch” style home will have a hard time converting it into an “Aging-In-Place” solution.

A typical Bungalow can be a challange to create an “Aging-In-Place” solution.

Hard? Yes, but not impossible.

Working in an urban or an older suburban community setting, the possibility of staying in your current home can work if the consumer can be honest with themselves. This series of possible solutions will help the consumer focus on the following factors…

–          Inspecting your current environment.

–          Recommending a sound course of action

–          Pricing between a remodel, replacement or moving

–          Credit, credit and more credit

–          Types of financing (FHA, personal financing, reverse mortgage, where the home is going, etc…)

–          Endgame

This series can aide you to give an honest assessment on what the proper course of action you need to make before you comment to a life changing event. If you have any questions or comments, please post them.

Let’s us explore…

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