Custom Home Design — Options and Addons

It’s no secret that many folks dream of eventually owning their own home, perhaps even designing it with the help of an architect or construction firm. Designing your own place can be fun, but it can also be challenging. There are so many options to choose from, and because there are often constraints, such as financial and space-related, it can sometimes be a pretty daunting task.

While there are some low-cost custom homes being advertised these days, you should know and keep in mind a few points concerning these economy models. Here in Japan, the cost of the construction of a residential home is proportional to its floor area. The cost or quote per “tsubo (3.3m2)” varies depending on the maker, quality and type of materials, design, and options.

A common advertising technique is to quote an attractively low price — say 5.55 million yen or about 55,000 dollars — for a custom home of undefined area. Once you express interest in the offer and they have your attention, they will let you in on the conditions of the offer; area, options, and other requirements. A large atrium (fukinuke; 吹き抜け) for example, isn’t included in the “tsubo-tanka; 坪単価” or cost per unit area, but is more often than not included in what’s known as the “sekou-menseki; 施工面積”, which is the area of construction. Clients are also charged in proportion to this sekou-menseki, even though the advertised tsubo-tanka might reflect a different (cheaper) price.

In this way, housemakers can advertise a relatively cheap tsubo-tanka while other associated costs initially remain hidden. Think of tsubo-tanka as the cost per tsubo of real floor area (used when calculating taxes, usable floor area, ballpark cost, etc), and sekou-menseki as the area of what needs to actually be built, requiring work, thereby incurring some additional cost. This “fukinuke factor” often plays a role in cheap custom homes. Others include Woody Atrium single bathrooms, minimal electrical outlets (one per room), no window screens, etc. Unless you’re either extremely DIY savvy or you’re ok with the bare-bones, this could be a case of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.

One could argue that if you’re going to make the purchase of a lifetime anyway, why not shoot a little higher. You might be surprised by what you can throw in the pot when nearing the final phase of negotiations. Aside from the standard amenities and architectural features that are more or less required for a residential home, there are countless “perks” if you will, that can be integrated into your custom dream home.

I’ll list some common options that can be included (at a cost) with a typical custom home.

– Exterior staircase. This is a common addition for dual-generation homes, where the option of going upstairs without passing through the first floor might be desirable. And depending on design, it can also compliment your yard or garden.

Exterior Staircase and Atrium

– Penthouse with roof veranda. The term “penthouse” might sound exclusively like a luxury suite in a downtown high-rise, but it can be as simple as a small second or third floor that opens up to a roof veranda. Roof verandas are an ideal space for outdoor activities such as barbecues and hangouts when you want more privacy than your yard might offer. And being higher up, it will generally have both a better breeze as well as a better view.

– A garage and workshop. For those who dabble in DIY or car mechanics, having a garage and workshop is certainly something to consider. A common design is to have a garage with the second floor veranda stretching out above it.

– A den, library, or home theater. These types of rooms might have several large book shelves, large comfortable chairs and sofas, fireplace or wood stove, sound-damping walls, ceiling, and floor, etc. An alternative is to dig out a basement for such rooms, due to the natural sound barrier.

– Outdoor or indoor jacuzzi. If outdoor, you could build a wood deck around it with a pergola or gazebo-like structure above it. Artistically weaving a jacuzzi into the fabric of your outdoor space can be tricky, and you might want to consult an expert. Haphazardly winging it can result in it being an eye-sore. Issues like privacy, maintenance, and keeping the jacuzzi clean and maintained during periods of non-use should be addressed.

Hot Tub with Wood Deck

– Sunroom. Very nice to have in the cold, winter months. Sunrooms can be used for a wide range of things, from relaxation to meals to hanging laundry to miniature botanical garden. Besides being environmentally friendly in both warmth and light — both of which can be transferred to any adjoining rooms — sunrooms create the optical illusion of spaciousness due to its large, transparent windows.


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