Offsetting Home Ownership Costs

Offsetting Home Ownership Costs

Since 1980, the number of Americans living in multi-generational households has been on the rise to where today, one in five U.S. households have at least two adult generations in the home, and usually children, too. Younger adults find paying rent to their parents and moving back home frees up some cash for repaying student loans, while newlyweds move in because the lower rent allows them to save faster for a future down payment. Changing economic times such as the Great Recession that began in 2008 and the job losses resulting from the 2020 pandemic caused many families to choose to pool their financial resources. Multiple generations under one roof is commonplace among some cultural backgrounds. And there’s the familiar scenario of moving aging parents in rather than the assisted living alternative.

Homes designed with multi-generational living in mind are in demand! A main floor bedroom suite is almost always a prerequisite, avoiding stairs for the elderly household members such as in the Wilks Manor (#9165 - below) with its Guest Suite behind the garage.

Wilks Manor - #9165

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Wilks Manor - #9165 ml

But increasingly popular are designs with two bedroom suites having comparable accommodations. Often, both suites are on the main floor, though designs such as the Dillon Park (#42477 - below) provide more separation and privacy, with suites on different levels of the home.

Dillon Park - #42477

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Dillon Park - #42477
Dillon Park - #42477

Relatives splitting housing costs does not always involve differing generations. The suddenly single widow, other siblings, or even cousins are moving in or purchasing homes together, out of economic necessity. As with moving aging parents in, it is best to have a clear understanding of the shared financial responsibilities. Are necessary maintenance and repair expenses shared equally, or the responsibility of only one party?   

Some homeowners expect to rent out part of their home from day one. One builder who purchased the Cedar Pointe (#42389) told us his primary market is younger, single, professional women. He went on to explain that affordable homes with two suites provide the rental income opportunity his market wants. Several reports have been published recently that Millennials are renting out bedrooms and even parking stalls in their garages.

At less than 1400 sq. ft. and with a second bedroom suite up front, the Cedar Pointe is a natural layout for young single home buyers looking for rental income to reduce their housing costs.

Cedar Pointe - #42389

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Cedar Pointe - #42389

Tax deductions. If you itemize deductions on your income taxes, you may be able to deduct mortgage interest paid. And if you work from home, you may be able to deduct other expenses as well. According to the IRS website, If you use part of your home exclusively and regularly for conducting business, you may be able to deduct expenses such as mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation for that area. You need to figure out the percentage of your home devoted to your business activities, utilities, repairs, and depreciation.”

You work from home and frequently have clients, colleagues, and other business associates stop by your house. Built from the Leinart (#29336 - below), you can use the entire right side of your home (423 sq. ft) exclusively and regularly for business. A convenient shipping zone just off the front porch, with its private yet secure parcel drop, is ideal if you frequently ship or receive packages.  So, slightly less than ¼ of your home’s finished square feet devoted to business activities and may be deductible. Consult your local tax professional to discuss your home office tax deductibility.

The Leinart’s home office wing to the right side plus its shipping zone account for 22.9% of the home’s square footage, providing a significant tax deduction when those spaces are used for working from home.

Leinart - #29336

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Leinart - #29336

Sharing housing related expenses. Renting out a part of your home. Tax deductions. You may be able to offset a significant portion of the cost of owning your home, especially if it was designed for how you want your home to live!

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Flexible Living: You Have Options

Flexible Living: You Have Options

“Have it your way,” wasn't just an advertising slogan; it's evident throughout our homes, showing up in our priorities. That’s why you sometimes see layout options highlighted alongside the original design’s presentation floor plan artwork. When the plan was being created, our designers recognized that suggesting a particular modification would appeal to a significant percentage of new home buyers and therefore included that option on the construction drawings.


The Teglia Place (plan #42481) provides a good example. As originally designed, the split three-bedroom plan offers a powder bath, highly prized by people who love to entertain, adjoining the staircase. However, some home buyers would be willing to forego the powder bath in favor of spacious walk-in closets for both secondary bedrooms. As both configurations are shown on the construction drawings, the option is also illustrated with the presentation artwork.


As originally designed, the second floor of the Dillon Park (plan #42477) shows a two-story high front entry and owner’s suite with dual-sink vanity, linen cabinet, toilet area that provides privacy without the claustrophobia of having a door, and 6’-4”’ x 7’-8”’ walk-in closet.

Some homeowners prize “me” space around the sink they use in their bathroom. In the “Alternate Owner’s Bath” rather than one vanity with two sinks, two separate vanities provide counter space for items each person uses. (This also helps when one wants to keep the vanity area clean, but that’s not important to the other.) And to avoid the door into your bathroom swinging against the vanity, a pocket door is suggested instead. A bonus is being able to peer into the mirror and see how you look from behind, as reflected in the other vanity’s mirror.

Dillon Park - #42477 Opt LaundryThat two-story entryway is a “Wow!” feature many buyers like or even expect; however, other buyers look at that space and wonder how much it costs to heat, considering it “wasted space.” For these buyers, instead of the two-story entry, they could opt to add the 6’-4” x 8’-8” “open to below” space to the walk-in closet, plus have a convenient seat for dressing (natural light is great for discerning colors in your wardrobe!).

Still another option in lieu of the two-story high entry is adding an upstairs laundry room. This home plan also has a first-floor owner’s suite and was designed with the laundry room on the main floor. Note: two-story high space is counted only one time when calculating a home’s square footage. Finishing off that space upstairs adds 58 square feet to the home.

Home Offices

People who work from home, whether that’s a full-time home-based business, telecommuting two days a week, or just finishing up a project at home, typically need dedicated space for where they’ll do their work. The Slater (plan #29333) suggests a couple options, starting with the traditional home office at the front. This location is popular for its convenience to the front door when clients and/or colleagues arrive, for its relative privacy, and proximity to a bathroom. Also, a private entrance into the office could be added from the front porch. Depending on your household size and preferences, we’ve also seen Bedroom 2 converted into a second home office or even a conference room.

Notice also there’s a Pocket Office off the owner’s suite. Most people have strong opinions against working from their owner’s bedroom, feeling that area must be set apart, a respite from work life; therefore, the pocket door is essential, closing off this ideal space with its sizable work surface, storage, and natural light.

Just under half of the homes built in America are built on basement foundations. So, the presence (or absence) of stairs going down to a basement can make a significant difference in a home plan. For the one-story Pelham Gables (plan #42446), no basement stairs can mean a much larger office space.

Kitchen Pantries

Even two-story homes are affected when eliminating basement stairs. In the Bassett Terrace (plan #42241), deleting the staircase going down off the kitchen means you can double the size of the kitchen pantry!

Garage Spaces

It’s even possible to turn garage space into living space. The Windsor Cottage (plan #42226) includes the option of a first-floor bedroom suite rather than the original design’s tandem third-car garage space.

Pre-configured floor plan options, included on the construction drawings and shown accompanying the standard presentation artwork, help you envision some of the popular ways plans can be tailored to your preferences. Please know that Design Basics also offers individualized Plan Customization, providing you the opportunity to have our design team modify the plan you choose so that it lives exactly how you want!

Join us next time for Changing Households and Lifestages.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

Flexible Living: Home Office or Guest Room?

It's both!

One of the reasons for the popularity of Flex Rooms is the ability to tailor areas in your home to how you want your home to live. Equally popular is having rooms that can serve multiple purposes.

The Kingsley (plan #42047 below) provides a flex room off the front entry, the most common location for a home office. Many people will opt to add doors for privacy from both the entry hall and near the stairs. Doing so makes having a space-saving Murphy bed (also known as a wall bed because they fold up against the wall when not in use) an attractive, practical option. With the Murphy bed, this space easily doubles as a main-floor guest bedroom, served by the bathroom just a couple steps away.

Murphy Bed - Closed

Murphy Bed Closed
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

Murphy Bed - Open

Murphy Bed Open
Photo Courtesy: Closet Factory

Scrapbooking, jewelry making, even jigsaw puzzles – flex rooms are prized when they can be home to projects-in-progress. The alternative is having to clear everything off the breakfast table. Where in the home can you leave your activities undisturbed? And, what special amenities would make such a room perfect? Do you need specialized storage to organize supplies? Would hard-surface flooring be beneficial, in terms of cleanup? How about a sink for washing out paint brushes or hard-surface flooring for easy cleanup?

The Kenosha (plan #50024 at right) exemplifies flexibility. To the left of the entry, a flex room with Murphy bed. Just off the entry from the garage, a multi-purpose flex space with drop zone and lockers for organization, walk-in closet, pet center, and shower, plus cabinets, counter top work surfaces, and a sink for cleanup. What a great space for pursuing your favorite hobbies and crafts!

Kenosha - #50024 Hobby

In recent years, laundry rooms have become targets for flexibility as well. Like the Kenosha plan, the Harmon Haven (plan #42366) incorporates a hobby/craft room with the laundry area. Or, with plumbing already running to that room, adding a private toilet area is an option, especially if there’s a sink. We’ve even had some folks ask for a planning center/desk in the laundry room, which often shares its workspace with a folding counter.

Importantly, both the Revenna Springs (plan #35079 below left) and the Harmon Haven (plan #42366 below right) have windows for natural light in their laundry/flex areas, making those areas more inviting.

Revenna Springs - #35079 Laundry-Office
Harmon Haven - #42366 Laundry-Hobby

While there are an almost unlimited number of possible uses for flex areas, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out playroom opportunities. Often, in lieu of a two-story high entry, buyers will instead finish that second-floor space and when it’s sandwiched between a couple of secondary bedrooms, kids’ imaginations naturally gravitate towards playing there. Similarly, you may see some home plans that have identified this type of space as a storage area – but think about how much fun your kids would have!

Walnut Trail - #8110 Playroom

Imagine all the fun to be had by finishing off this modest bonus area between Bedrooms 3 and 4 of the Walnut Trail (plan #8110); especially with its magical sloping ceilings, this may be your children’s favorite spot in the home!

Leinart - #29336 Playroom

Toddlers want to be with or near their parents, and parents want to keep tabs on their kiddos. With the kitchen often the activity hub of the home, having a play area off the kitchen (but not the Great Room!) is a wonderful thing, as seen in the Leinart (plan #29336).

Coming next week: Flexible living and floor plan options.Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Cover photo courtesy of the Closet Factory.
(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)
Flex Spaces Save the Day!

Flex Spaces Save the Day!

COVID-19 in the Spring of 2020 ushered in a new appreciation for flexible living spaces in our homes as we adapted to having our entire families at home all day, every day. Suddenly our children were completing school online, and many of us began working from home. There was increased emphasis on home-based activities, such as crafts and hobbies. And amidst the blessings of more togetherness, a newfound recognition of the importance of “me” space.

Flex rooms became school rooms. While homeschoolers may have already figured this out, many households were thrust into the position of deciding the best places for learning and completing assignments. Often, this wasn’t the kids’ bedrooms, particularly when lessons were assigned, but the “teaching” aspect was unfortunately diminished even though textbooks and online instruction was available. When your kids did not understand something, getting answers on a timely basis was challenging – so they needed your attention. Adequate seating and workspace became primary concerns, along with internet and printer access (ruling out that flex room over the garage that just can’t get a good wireless internet signal), and even windows – we all learn better in sunny environments and daylight improves concentration while reducing eyestrain.

The Burlington (plan #43023) is a value-engineered, affordable two-story home that could accommodate such changes. Common default areas for schoolwork include the dining room table and kitchen island. There is also a flex room (Den) off the front entry, which might be able to double up as a learning center. Upstairs, there is a computer loft plus lots of available space over the garage that could be purposed for schoolwork.

At 6’-8’ x 3’-4” the Burlington’s wrapping island snack bar presents abundant workspace. The Den (flex room) up front provides the privacy and natural light conducive to productivity. Upstairs, the 6’-5” wide Computer Loft makes for another convenient study area. 

If working from home became your new normal, you quickly realized the importance of location, organization, privacy, and sunlight. You may have been fortunate enough to already have a den, or even a spare bedroom/guest room that you could office out of. Some companies provided employees with money to purchase necessities such as an ergonomic chair and/or workspace furniture to make the transition to working from home more efficient – their importance cannot be overstated. Privacy needs varied as much as the type of work being done, but being able to close a door (remember, solid-core doors block sound transfer better) as well as proximity to commonly used traffic areas and adjoining media rooms gained heightened importance. Windows provide a connection to the outdoors that our biorhythms depend on. Officing out of a basement or interior space without sunlight can adversely affect mood, irritation, and concentration as well as bring on eyestrain and even headaches.

As days stretched into weeks at home, parents scrambled for new ideas that would occupy and entertain their kids – going decidedly old-school. Increased screen time was pretty much a given, but from play dough, to coloring and innumerable other hobbies and crafts, spaces in the home for such pursuits became treasured.

Photo of Boys with Toy RocketsRocket men! Our tech-savvy kids of all ages began to experience the joys of new, offline activities. But whether it was jigsaw puzzles or model glue and paint drying, or even some board games, where could such indoor undertakings be left, undisturbed, to complete later? The multi-purpose laundry/activity center in the Aden (plan #42037) provides just such an opportunity and is particularly versatile with its island on casters for easy re-positioning!

Aden - #42037 Activity Center

Finally, personal space carved out new meaning as we were introduced to these different realities of family life. While people were designed to live in community, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., writes of the benefits of seeking solitude in Psychology Today, “Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.” She goes on to say, “You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you've spent some time alone.” 

You might retreat to your bedroom, especially if it is spacious enough to offer a sitting area. Or perhaps you can sneak away to an outside living area.

Where would you go for some alone time? The Carswell (plan #29317) presents a sunny bayed sitting area in the owner’s suite as well as a private rear deck off that bedroom. Or is the sun room more to your liking? Then there is the option of this home’s spacious patio under a cathedral ceiling!

Even with the added demands of responding to the pandemic, everyone needs to have a place they can go to be alone, even if that is just for a few minutes.

Carswell - #29317

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Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Fifty percent of all businesses in the United States are home-based businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Forty-three percent of American employees work remotely (telecommute) at least some of the time. Whether operating a full-time startup, working from home three days a week, or simply bringing work home there wasn’t time to finish at the office, creating the perfect area for working from home can help alleviate some of the stress of that job.

The location of your home office affects stress levels. If you work alone, views and a connection to the outdoors may be important for relaxing, concentration, and even inspiration. We see creatives turning attics into wonderful studios, but if clients or colleagues will be dropping by, you may want a home office with its own exterior entrance, or one that’s located just off the entry foyer. Especially if a visitor would find stairs to be an obstacle, a no-step front entry welcoming everyone regardless of their mobility shows great consideration for your visitors. A third option is creating an entry vestibule, reducing the stress of having your visitors traipsing through your home. And if there will be frequent meetings, do you want them to take place in your home work space?

Privacy vs. Accessibility. Are other people home when you’re working? If so, balancing your privacy and accessibility are paramount. Older kids won’t need your attention like toddlers will. If you moved a parent in with you, realistically, what are the demands on your time as a caregiver?

Bath accommodations are also an aspect of location. It may be a mild inconvenience or even a welcome break to walk across the house to the bathroom, but the convenience of an adjoining or nearby bathroom can’t be overstated. And is that bathroom mostly dedicated to your home office? It can be quite stressful to keep your hall bathroom that’s used by your kids always tidy and presentable for business guests.

Design your work space with you at the center. It’s stressful when your back is to others. If your room layout dictates such an arrangement, consider having a mirror in front of you to see what’s going on behind you. Ergonomic seating, especially for longer tasks, can help alleviate body tension; while another, more comfortable seating option will be a welcome break and studies suggest may spur creativity.

Then there’s the question of how much space you really need? Running a successful home-based business may require storage for inventory or specialized equipment, or perhaps a dedicated meeting space, while a modest Pocket Office might be perfect if you occasionally bring work home to complete.

Lighting is surprisingly important, starting with sunlight. People who’ve worked from basement home offices without daylight report their biorhythms get messed up and that they feel less productive. Sunlight’s health benefits are well documented – including improved concentration, and reduced irritability and headaches. Still, too many windows can actually be a distraction, and may dictate where computers must be placed to avoid washing out those screens. Careful consideration of both indirect and direct/task lighting can help prevent eye fatigue; avoid fluorescent lighting in general.

Functional and fashionable task lighting for your home office. (Photos courtesy of Kichler®. Shown: Ellerbeck™ 1 Light Wall Sconce.)

Kichler Wall Sconce
Kichler Wall Sconce over Desk

Clutter sucks energy. The best types of storage will be dictated by your personal preferences. Open shelves, cubbies, and baskets can make finding specific items easier, while cabinets, drawers, and closets can provide discreet storage and organization. Visual organization and communication might also be aided through large wall calendars, bulletin boards, white boards, etc. A walk-in closet is a viable option if you need to keep a lot of supplies or product on hand, giving you a place to store and keep items organized.

Work area. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of people we’ve spoken with, and especially women, do not want a traditional desk as their work area. Modular units, storage amenities on casters for easy movement, and counter-top work surfaces (adjustable height if possible!) all garner more interest. Some people need lots of work surface to spread things out, while others find that the more work surface they have, the more that clutter is a problem. Items that inspire, from photos and artwork to trophies and memorabilia, can spur creative approaches and problem-solving – obvious stress reducers. Even the paint colors used can foster calm or add energy. A task chair on casters may not move freely on carpet, adding frustration, so flooring choice is often a trade-off between the warmth and sound-deadening attributes of carpet versus the vibe and feel of hard surface flooring options.

Leinart floor plan - shipping vestibuleShipping and Receiving. Hooray! Twelve online sales over the weekend – closing out your record-setting week. But you have to put your life somewhat on “hold” waiting for your shipper to pick up those items. Working around that driver’s timetable can be a thing of the past with a secure shipping vestibule, often located within your home office. Imagine opening a door and placing your shipments and shipping documents in a “closet.” Now you have the freedom to leave if you want. When the shipper arrives at your house, he/she unlocks the exterior door of that closet, retrieves those items/drops off the supplies you had ordered, and locks that exterior door. You come back home, unlock the interior door, and fetch the supplies. No longer are you bound by your shipping and receiving schedule.

The Leinart's (plan #29336) shipping vestibule at the front entrance provides a secure location for shipping and receiving packages. In addition, the home-based business configuration presents a separate entrance for clients, dedicated bathroom, and a conference or waiting room.

Coming next week: Storing solutions for all areas of your home!

Download our Home Office Planner to aid in the design of your home office space. 

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo: <a href="">Business photo created by yanalya -</a>

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