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Friday, October 17, 2014

When A House Has Good Bones

I overheard my Realtor talking about a house with good bones. What's that all about? Like many other professions, the real estate professions has developed a language of its own. What you Realtor was likely trying to say is that the house is, in his/her opinion, basically sound and has features that make it worthy of consideration. Most houses have something in their decor that potential buyers would not like in their home; however, those are mostly cosmetic or fairly superficial  things that can be overcome with modest fixer-upper projects or maybe even just some new paint. Some homes would still not be all that appealing if you replaced all of the flooring and painted every room. They might not have good bones to begin with.
So, what constitutes “good bones” in a house? That has to do with the overall structural integrity of the house, the layout of the house and the build quality of the materials and workmanship in the house. A house with good bones is not all chopped up, it has nice big rooms that flow nicely into one another and it may have the extra features that come with quality materials and finished – better natural wood flooring and woodwork, perhaps crown molding, perhaps some built-ins, perhaps a large kitchen with an island, perhaps a large master bedroom, with a nice on-suite bath and walk-in closets. These are the kinds of things that make up the underlying structure of the house – the bones. They may include and updated furnace, maybe a high basement ceiling or an extra wide garage. They are things that could not easily be changed, but which work to make the house more valuable, no matter what state its current appearance may be in.
The “bones” of the house is what you start with and upon which you plan to build. If you have good bones to start with, you can more easily get the house to the state in which you would like it to be.
Starting with a house that doesn’t have good bones may result in an on-going frustration, since it is the underlying structure of the house itself that prevents you from getting it just right. Think of it this way. There is no amount of work that you can put into a 1976 AMC Pacer that would turn it into a cool street rod that you would want to drive in the Woodward Dream Cruise. On the other hand, even a totally clapped out 1976 Camaro convertible could be the starting point for a great cruiser, if it isn’t all rusted out. Why? Because the Camaro starts with good bones and the rest can be fixed.
Having good bones has nothing to do necessarily with the age of the house. It may have something to do with condition, since even a house with good bones can become so worn out and bedraggled that it’s not worth trying to rescue. In those cases it is the land content (perhaps in a great location) that may make the house still worthy of a look-see. You’d have to be planning for a total gut job or tear-down if that is the case.
So, when you hear your Realtor tell you that a house has “good bones”; ask them to elaborate and explain to you what they see that you may not be able to recognize. I think you’ll be surprised and begin to appreciate what they are looking at that you don’t even see. Maybe their explanations will start to inspire you to look beyond the clutter and paint colors and other superficial things in the houses that they are showing you and to start seeing the “bones” of the houses that you visit. You really do want to start with a house that has “good bones” if you can find one.  

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