The major factor holding me back from owning a weird house is the idea of actually living in it. It’s something that sounds better in theory, rather than in practice, and I’m just not sure I’m up for the commitment. It’s not like you can live in a replica hobbit home but have an Ikea couch or a stainless steel kitchen, you know?
Just in case you’re the type of person who’s up for the challenge of owning a unique home, I’ve gathered a bunch of information. Here are some things for you to consider when you’re in the market to buy that crazy house of your dreams.
One of the most overlooked challenges of owning a unique home is its maintenance. Is your dream house a large-scale version of the Nautilus from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Disney World? Does it have portholes instead of windows? If one of those suckers breaks, you can’t just run on down to the Home Depot to get a replacement window. Chances are you’ll have to special order it, wait it out with a broken window and hope a bad guy doesn’t take that as an invitation to break into your home.
And not only will you have to wait for special-order parts for even the most minor of repairs, the cost of the custom-made pieces will more than likely be twice as expensive as a standard part. In other words, it’ll be harder to replace and more expensive in general.
Another common issue is the neighborhood. Most unusual homes stick out like sore thumbs, and that can put people on edge.
Imagine that a developer buys the old house next door to your beautiful, but very traditional, home. Instead of keeping it as-is, or updating it within the standards of the neighborhood, the new homeowners raze it and replace it with a 3,000-square-foot concrete teepee.
Or even better, think what it would be like if the Deetz family from “Beetlejuice” moved in to your neighborhood. You might be pretty annoyed with their antics. You talk to other neighbors who are just as concerned about their unusual architectural choices, and you decide to file a petition with city hall to halt construction. This will set the Deetz family back on building time, cost them more money on construction and start them off on the wrong foot with everyone in the neighborhood.
If you move into your wacky dream house and don’t consider the neighborhood, you could be facing the wrath of an angry mob of neighbors.
You should also consider your lifestyle and potential life changes. The idea of living in a cave sounds awesome when you’re young and hip and full of life. But add 10 years and two kids, and you’re most likely going to get sick of the rock walls and cold, cavernous environment.
Conversely, you could be a huge fan of the tiny house movement. You sell nearly all of your belongings to live in 265 square feet. Then you get married, get a couple of cats and a dog, think about kids and realize living on top of your spouse with pets everywhere is stressing you out. You’ve outgrown your tiny house and need to upgrade.
In other words, buying a unique house is a lot like getting a tattoo – you have to be in it for the long haul. If you’re certain things are going to change in the next 5–10 years, you should reconsider your intense desire to live in a house shaped like a shoe.
Selling Your Home
This leads us to one of the most important things to consider – selling your home.
So you’ve decided your new home is going to look like a seashell. You’ve worked out the plans and weighed the pros and cons. You move in and it’s a dream. But those aforementioned life circumstances get in the way, and now you suddenly have to move. Selling your seashell home isn’t going to be as easy as listing it, holding a couple of open houses and waiting for the offers to start rolling in. With a unique home, you absolutely have to expect that your home will be on the market longer than the average home. The more unique your home, the smaller the pool of people looking to buy a home like yours. And typically, people who are into unique homes are particular about their unique proclivities. They may appreciate that your home is a shell, but they may think your choice of putting green shag carpeting in the living room to mimic grass is gaudy.
And not only could it take a long time to sell, you might not get the offer you’re expecting. If you put a lot of money into the customization, upgrades, design and decor of your unique home, the resale value may not be what you need to move on from the home. A buyer may have a hard time finding comps in the area in order to get approved for financing. An appraiser might have a hard time appraising the home for building code and quality because of the unique features you built into the home at the time of construction. These are all things that will factor into the process when you go to sell your home.
A perfect example of a great house that had a hard time selling is the story of the Ensculptic House in Minnetrista, MN. The home’s realtor, Dayna Murray, said that the home generated a lot of interest from all over the world – even from places like MTV – but it was really hard for interested buyers to get financing. In the end, they decided that the best way to sell the home would be for it to be a cash deal. The home sat on the market for 230 days.
These are just simple things to keep in mind when buying a unique home. If you’re considering buying a home that’s a bit on the non-traditional side, don’t let these guidelines deter you. A home is an extension of yourself, and buying one that reflects your personal taste and style should be a natural choice. If I could afford it, I’d buy a decommissioned missile silo and convert it to an epic home that’s comfortable for today and perfect for the post-apocalypse – but that’s just me. Go forth and buy up those crazy homes!
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