test drive it first

1 March 2012

If you’ve been hanging around my blog long enough, you know I think about things in often strange ways. Well, yesterday at an AIA CRAN meeting, a colleague of mine made a comment about someone who was interested in buying a home, but wanted to stay the night in it before buying it. (BTW thanks Mary for the idea I totally ripped you off for today’s post. Yes, it’s that forgiveness permission thing).

Now you’re scratching your head thinking what? Why would someone want to sleep in a house they don’t own that someone else is living in at the time? Think about it. Everything we purchase that has lasting value we test drive first. We test drive a car before we buy it to see if its qualities align with our expectations. When considering a new TV don’t you look at the picture quality in the store? How about clothing? Can you say fitting rooms? So whether it’s a new phone, shoes, furniture, or anything else where the quality can’t be fully appreciated by merely looking at it, we have some opportunity to ‘test drive’ it…except for houses.

With our largest investments we can’t fully appreciate what it is like to live in them until we move in. Then is it too late? You’re probably walking around with your real estate agent talking about the strengths and merits of the house. The room sizes and closet space are common topics as are the kitchen cabinets and bathrooms.

But what does it FEEL like to live there? What will it be like to live there with your stuff? When you wake up in the morning and head to breakfast, how will the house greet you? (not literally in some paranormal way…sheesh, too many scary movies). Can you imagine it?

OK, sleeping in a stranger’s house is creepy. So don’t ask and I’m not telling you to ask. However, how are you going to be able to judge what your life will be in this house you’ve just looked at for the third time? It goes beyond thinking about where you’ll hang your pictures and what colors you’ll repaint the walls.  What is my suggestion? Take an architect with you. For a small consultation fee an architect will think through the intangible elements of the house with you. They may even sketch for you on the spot. She will be sensitive to which direction the sun will rise and set as well as how that plays out on the yard. He will be able to explore possibilities for altering or renovating the house. This is done BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. You just might change your mind after the meeting or jump for joy that you’ve found the right place.

I believe most architects can give you similar technical information as a home inspection, but this goes so much deeper than the age of the roof and does the furnace work. Will you adapt your established lifestyle for your new house or can it adapt to yours? These are very important questions that should not be taken lightly with this much cash on the table.

You know what to do now. Ask for the keys and take it for a drive.

photos are from Bill Anderson’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

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6 Responses to “test drive it first”


  1. Interesting point of view. I agree. I think you should take a look at the Books written by Donald Norman. Emotional design to be more specific. He believes that every object that is designed should pass a prototype stage. Homes included. But in the real world you can’t taste a home before it is built but i think you can taste it before you move in.

    Grettings from Mexico City and sorry for the mistakes.

  2. collier1960 Says:

    Who knows, with BIM design technology, coupled with augmented reality devices, we may one day get to live in a space before we ever build it.

    (I see “additional service” revenue potential here, no?)


  3. Wow, I love finding things I’ve never considered before. It’s why I keep coming back to this blog.

    Great suggestion about bringing an architect along for a consultation.


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