It’s not easy selling a unique home. For many agents, the task can be daunting. Unusual landscape or design may be a killer in a down market because it usually takes a specific buyer, but there are times that it actually can work out for the best. My neighborhood is unique, but where we thought the market was set to decimate values around us, we have found the unusual architecture has worked to our benefit.
Touring my neighborhood, any aficionado of contemporary architecture would immediately recognize the 1950’s-modern contemporary style of architect Eichler, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, and later developed his own unique style of single family home development in the mid-1950s. Built as a lower-cost alternative to other homes being built during that period, Eichler built mostly single-level homes that surrounded a landscaped courtyard entrance. His style, though not immediately well received, was developed by considering and designing the outside spaces as an extension of the house. Each room facing the courtyard was built with sliding glass doors and large panes of floor-to-ceiling glass to allow for this outside living concept. To help enhance the grandeur of the outside space, Eichler purposely left window coverings and shades off the list of home accoutrements when designing his homes in hopes the people purchasing these homes would see how the concept worked once they moved in.
To continue with his unique design, Eichler also included either a one or two-car attached garage, usually with a sliding garage door, as opposed to the familiar bottom-opening garage door systems we see today. Each home was also fitted with a radiant heating system as its central source of heat, though the standard fireplace design was also a nice compliment during the chilly winter.
With an Eichler floor plan averaging about 1,800 square feet, each four-bedroom design was built upon a piece of land that measured slightly less than one-quarter acre, allowing for a decent sized back yard for entertaining or even an in-ground pool. Once again, Eichler was not shy about the use of floor-to-ceiling glass to incorporate the backyard as a primary part of the home. A sliding glass door leading to a covered patio and a landscaped yard was the standard when it was built, and the concept still resonates with Eichler fans even today.
We were not looking for an Eichler when we stumbled across our house. In fact, I had never even heard the name until I read the marketing spec sheet from the listing agent that was selling the house. It was my expanding family that forced us to begin our search, and the good schools and additional bedrooms that finally caught our attention when we purchased the Eichler in which we currently live.
But as I mentioned, the homes in my neighborhood were built as a lower-cost alternative to other blossoming neighborhoods in that area. Most people that bought these homes did not put much into them, and as a result, many buyers today are forced to repair or replace systems or features that have long since stopped working or have faded into the past.
The beautiful floor-to-ceiling glass that creates the perimeter of the home is all single pane, which is not only dangerous, especially with little kids around, but has absolutely no insulation. To replace the glass with an updated pane is cost prohibitive, as each pane would need to be custom made to fit the large openings. Additionally, most Eichler’s still have the original radiant heating system, and in most cases, in non-working order. Those lucky to have one that works oftentimes find their heating bills will skyrocket since the home is so poorly insulated in the first place. Summers at my house are hot, there is no air conditioning. Winters at my house are cold! We wear sweatshirts to bed…really. We installed a fireplace insert in our living room, which is our main source of heat, while all the other rooms have space heaters plugged into the walls.
But while not perfect, our Eichler neighborhood seems to have withstood the test of the current housing market. The agent listing one Eichler just recently listed on the market insists it is simply the unique product that has allowed for the prices to remain somewhat even over the last year, and while uniqueness can work against many sellers (see my blog from last week about the people trying to sell their cave house), Eichler has developed a home that can withstand both time and market…no matter how cold that market is!