Friday, January 05, 2007

The Real Estate Knockdown

Our town is filled with knockdowns -- those unfortunate, less-than-spectacular but solidly built mid-century American homes that don't meet Americans' current definitions of real estate grandeur, success and the good life. In place of the older, more modest homes, owners, builders and speculators build McMansions, replete with farmers' porches, multi-car garages, gas fireplaces and a total lack of consideration for lot size, landscaping and even coherent roof lines.

On the lot next to the Quarter Acre, a quarter acre lot itself, stands a large house. It's not a bad looking house, and the interior is actually fairly nice. However, not six feet from the back wall of the house stands a retaining wall that holds back a hill that was cut into to make room for the foundation. As a result, there is no real yard in which kids could play. Yards, apparently, are no longer part of the American Dream -- just really large houses.

On a lot down the street some neighbors tore down their modest Cape to build a new home. The exterior is basically complete -- walls, glazing, roofing and siding are in place. The interior work is about to commence and from what we see as we drive by the new place looks to be a nice house. A bit of interesting back-story shows how common the knockdown and rebuild is in our area. When the owner of the house was sharing the plans with neighbors at a cookout, a nine year old girl looked at the plans and said that the house looked big for the lot. She had a point.

Another bit of startling commentary on real estate came this fall, from Child One. She mentioned that if you build a house and don't like it, you can always knock it down and start again. On some level, houses have evolved into disposable assets, even in the mind of a toddler.

When we were children we never saw a blueprint in person, much less understood how to translate what was on it to real world space. We also certainly had no idea that you could knock down a house. Kids who can read a blueprint and understand houses to be impermanent objects demonstrate a tremendous change in perspective. Obviously, not everybody knocks down their solid little house to build a big dream house, but enough do that they have altered the next generation's understanding of "House" -- and possibly even "Home." This altered understanding will transform further the American suburb as this younger generation grows up and buys property.

No comments: