Building a home in the mountains?

Maybe you have a dream of living in the mountains, maybe it’s your ultimate retirement destination.  That dream may include building your “dream home”.  While you may have a mental or even written image of what that home would look like, I want to share a few practical considerations with you.

So, let’s say that the “dream home” is the place that you’re going to retire to… your forever home.  At that point in your life you may be downsizing into a smaller home than what you’ve lived in past years.  If you’re building this home for the later years in life these are some things to consider.  Since we don’t have a crystal ball we don’t know what the future holds for us. The mountain dream home may be for sale in the future, and for sale purposes these items also are worthy of consideration.  I have had many occasions when the feedback I’ve received at showing homes is that “there’s too many stairs.”, and it’s actually that feedback that prompted me to write this blog.

  • Access to and from your property.  In previous blogs I have discussed weather in the mountains during the different seasons.  If you already have insight about weather trends, then location of land to build a home should another consideration.  Do you need easy access year round?  Would it be a major inconvenience to your daily routine if you couldn’t get in/out of your driveway due to snow or ice? Of course these are things that you should have considered before purchasing land, but if you didn’t, you can try to work with what you  have in the best way to suit your needs.  If you don’t have to travel to work everyday, or multiple doctor appointments each week then access may be less significant. However, it’s worth thinking it through when you decide to build that dream home.
  • Building a home on a slab, crawl space, or with a basement.  Envision an above grade basement with one convenient level of living space above it. The basement could be used for storage, or finished for additional living area maybe for guests. But, depending on the lay of the land that you build on, how do you access your main living area?  I’ve seen many homes in the mountains that are beautiful in lots of ways, but one drawback often pointed out by a buyer is “there’s too many stairs“. This can be more common with exterior stairs as access to a home built on an above grade basement.  You could conceiveably have more than a dozen steps to walk up to get to your main living level.  In those instances when buyers are referring to stairs on the outside of the home, they’re already identifying an obstacle before they even step inside the home.
     Maybe you already have an aching knee, or you can’t see yourself carrying groceries up a long flight of stairs.  This is an important feature to give consideration to for yourself, and also looking to the future if the home ends up for sale.  
  • Inside access to different living areas Give thought to a floor plan with access that doesn’t require a large amount of stairs, if any,  inside the home, too. The presence of an expansive staircase is also often a common drawback to a buyer. Style of staircases in your dream home? While spiral staircases, custom ornate wood staircases can be aesthetically appealing, and even common place in mountain homes with lofts, are they practical for you?
    It seems that I’m focusing on stairs, doesn’t it?  It must be important!  Maybe it’s because I all to often find that with buyers that this one item can be… a “deal breaker”.
  • Garage- yes, no,  maybe?  Attached, detached, built-in to basement?  Another item to consider for practical use day to day, in inclement weather, and safety purposes.  You may not even be familiar with basement garages if you live somewhere at a low elevation.  It’s not uncommon in the mountains to have a garage built in to the baement level of a home.  Drive in when it’s raining, snowing, icey and enter your home from the inside.  It’s convenient, and minimizes slipping and falling outside in those weather conditions.
  • Access to basement of home- interior, exterior or both?  Again, this  has similar considerations to garage location. Consider weather, and stairs when designing your dream home.
  • Location of the laundry room again another practical consideration.  Consider it being located on your main floor living area negating the need to… go up and down stairs with a laundry basket. Tripping and falling is one of the most common household accidents.
  • Shower vs bath tub…. can be a safety factor.  As we get older we are at greater risk for having an accident occur in our home.  Whether to have a tub/shower combination, a tub only, or shower only are worth some consideration before final plans are drawn for your home. For sale purposes some buyers prefer the option of a tub or shower to use on any given day. This one small item could be a “deal breaker” to that person. Conversely, a buyer may not like the idea of climbing in and out of a bath tub when they’re thinking about their physical condition… today or in the future.  So, a simple solution,.. build a tub and a shower separately.
  • Electrical outlets… an item you may normally not give a lot of thought to. But, realizing that tripping and falling are also more common in later years of life, it’s worth contemplating.  We are so used to wall outlets to plug-in our lamps, t.v.’s and so many other items.  But, have you ever seen floor outlets? I have in more than one home, and I think they can serve a useful purpose. Depending on furniture placement electrical cords can be concealed for aesthetic reasons, and safety purposes to prevent someone from tripping and falling.

These are examples of some items that came to mind from recent property showings, if I were to take time to really ponder… I would probably expand this list.  Discussing these items with a general contractor is important. Get their input based on their knowledge and experience.  You don’t want to look back when you’re enjoying life in your mountain home, and say “I wish we would have done _________ differently.  Add these things to your list when you start thinking about building that dream home… only in the mountains.



*This blog is not intended to include all safety features that are required by local building codes, or suggested for any individual’s specific needs.

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