Keith, Real Estate Pro in Berkeley, CA

Why are most of the new homes in the Bay Area so unnattractive design-wise?

Asked by Keith, Berkeley, CA Tue Jul 24, 2007

Doesn't anyone care about design aesthetics? Or does everyone just care about building a house and then trying to make a buck selling it? Most of the homes I've seen developed are aesthetically challenged (to put it mildly). Incoherent designs, McMansions, just plain boring boxes, etc. Don't people hire good architects anymore? I've even seen a lot of this poor design in Berkeley and SF.

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I totally agree--most of the new developments are tract housing, very typical, very boxy, very safe. I guess it depends on the perspective; there are always going to be some people who like the safe, minimal lines and then there are going to be the ones that like homes with a bit more charm. But who's to say that someone's own personal interior design tough can't change the whole feel of the house?

I'm thinking that the custom-built, beautifully designed homes just aren't prevalent in the Bay Area anymore just because it's so unaffordable. Just like you said, people want to make a buck and if you combine the fees for architects, interior designers, consultants, engineers, land lots, permits, etc., it probably just costs way more than it can be sold for. And like Michelle mentioned, there are many cities that are very strict with what they allow to be built. The property has to look a certain way to fit in especially in areas of historic importance. But all in all, I completely agree. Great question!
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2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Hello Keith,

Couldn't agree more with you, although we are not looking in Berkeley or SF, but rather in Silicon Valley. We noticed that many of the new constructions is what they called "cottage" style. They are basically 1500 sq ft houses sitting on a 700 sq ft of land - what I call "mini rises".

First, these houses don't have a backyard, because that space is taken by the garage. Second, in order for you to move from one room to another, you need to take climb steps. You start with garage, then go up a few steps to a living room, then you need to go up another set of steps to get to the dinning room and kitchen, then a few steps up to a bathroom, and then finally more steps to the bedroom. And these houses are suppossed to be "starter" homes, for families with young children. How could one put their kids in a house full of steps and hazards and no backyard to play in?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 27, 2009
Only about 5% of homes in California are actually designed by an architect. California does not require an architect to design a home. Therefore anyone that believes that they can design, draft and construct can build a home.
The most prevalent type of home in the Bay Area built since the 1970s are built as large tracts intended for immediate sale and are focused on the pure statistics to get a home sold. Builders spend a lot of their design budget in staging the model home to be as attractive as possible. Often, not including these design elements in the final home. The least expensive of materials tend to be used as they are only concerned with the home lasting as long as the structural warranty of 10 years requires.
Economics is truly the driving factor in most housing in the Bay Area. With the cost of land at a premium here (historically), it is a very difficult task (but not impossible or unfeasible) to design and construct pleasing, well-built and environmentally friendly homes. Most builders have found that the research and development of this in the past has not been worth it. But there is hope...the general public is beginning to demand that new homes are better designed and environmentally conscience.
Existing housing will just have to be improved one lot at a time. That's what I try to do...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 27, 2009
Jennifer Kre…, Home Seller in 95124
MVP'08
Your first answer to your own question is probably the right one. However, lots of times designers & builders are required by the cities to submit multiple versions of their plans until they feel the new homes "fit in architechturally" with the neighborhood. Sometimes the trend in "design fashion" is ridiculous, too. So many homes get painted inside with dark depressing (but "impressive" colors) that few could live with. That said, I have also seen way too many homes that also looked like the designers must have been colorblind as well--peach with green, russet with pale yellow.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 24, 2007
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