Design: Modern or Traditional? 875 Dellwood

by Osman Parvez

Modern design is eye catching but is a modern looking house for you?

In the world of design, fresh concepts usually prevail except when it comes to houses.   Instead of experimenting, most builders stick with the tried and true, giving their creations a traditional look.    

Would the iPhone sell well if it looked like an old fashioned, traditional telephone?   Would you be interested in a BMW if it looked like last decade's Chevy?   

Obviously design matters but why are houses different?   Perhaps it's because they are built to last a very long time.   If history is a guide, what looks modern today often looks dated tomorrow.  Some modern designs will probably not age gracefully.   Yet for some buyers, modern is what they want because it's a reflection of themselves.   It doesn't matter that in 20 years, the house might look like a futurama exhibit from the World's Fair.   They aren't interested in living in a relic from the past any more than they're interested in dressing in clothes from the 1950s.  

A listing caught my eye this morning:  875 Dellwood.   It's a modern looking house and although the photos are mediocre, I think it has potential (look past the photography).    For starters, various aspects suggest clean, open design and efficent use of space.    For me, the lack of color inside is somewhat alienating - but I know many buyers of modern design like the starkness of fully white interiors (think Apple Store).  

Here's where it get's interesting.   The house was originally listed in February '08 for $2.3MM and withdrawn in August.   It was relisted (with a new agent) for $1.95MM in October '08 with a different sales office.   That listing expired in March '09 and it was put back on the market for $1.85MM a couple of days ago (May 20th, 2009).   This is the seller's walk of shame and an indicator for a value buyer to take another look. 

Now let's step into the groovy way back machine.  In 2002 the house was listed for $1.55MM and looked like this: 

It's not clear what the current owner paid, but they did a lot of work to freshen the property's look.  The new listing says it was built in 2004 and the old listing says it was built in 1996.   It's obviously no longer the pink monster that it was.    

The value of this information plays out in negotiation.    I won't venture too far in this direction (counter-productive to our clients), but the history of the house suggest a seller nearing psychological capitulation.    A few other things I unearthed in my intial diligence are also encouraging for a buyer's potential negotiation.  If our current clients were interested, I'd help them to take it further.     For obvious reasons, there are limits what I can discuss regarding our negotiation strategies and tactics.  

If I have time in the next few days, I'll set up a preview and post back with more observations. 

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  1. I'm glad you touched on this. Money simply doesn't buy class. I've lived all over the world and I must admit, Boulder has the ugliest conglomeration of homes on earth. It's not a Colorado problem either. Denver, Telluride and Aspen have some fantastic neighborhoods.

    This recent trend of Ikea-looking/curved sheet metal/contrasting eye-popping colors is outdated before the buildings are finished and it will show in resales. It drags down the whole neighborhood. People move here for the mountains and the weather, but certainly not for the architecture or the city council. The mountain house look can work here and should be a part of Boulder, but for the other stuff Boulder builders should travel to Great Britain, Italy and Charleston, for that matter, to pick up some style points.

  2. Boulder builders? Blame the Boulder patrons and architects, not the builders, anon. Builders build the plans they get, and are not usualu responsible for the monstrosities in neighborhoods like Newlands (where this house is locates, 8th and C or D. All cities have their share of ugly buildings, including London, Rome, and Charleston(?). You are responding to history, not modern design. Boulder has a shallow history, and - in my mind - is still searching for an architectural identity. The cities you allude to have 1000's or at least 100's of years of a head start; an unfair comparison.

    As for this atrociaous and ungainly home in Newlands, I would be hard pressed to defend it as an exemplar of "modern" architetcure. What is popular in Boulder is this vaguw idea of "comtemporary" design, a meaningless amalgamation of styles and formal maneubers without an cohesive organizational structure, sort of like a rock band with no cojones, or a dancer who lacks passion. Boring.

    Osman, I am intrigued that you have decided to enter into this sort of critique. Boulder needs thoughtful folks to step forward and push the design community in a better, more meaningful direction. With all the money floating around you would think we would be lucky to have a rich architectural dialogue instead of a staid, played-out, unimaginative and bloated built community. Dig deeper into this vein, call out the patrons and designers who are not interested in excellence, only opulence. As the high-end homes turn the corner and prices fall in the next year or two ( to match the lack of financing and dearth of "move-up buyers" who don't exist due to employment cliff diving and as yet unrealized sinking home values ) it will be entertaining to see the pink elephants of Boulder fall to earth: 2.3......2.1.....1.8.....1.6.....1.4....


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