Julio and Estelle Rodriguez, Nebraska

Julio and Estelle Rodriques, Nebraska (PDF)

Julio and Estelle Rodriguez, Nebraska – Property A

Julio and Estelle Rodriguez, Nebraska – Property B

  • James Scott

    Good morning, here are my thoughts.

    Both properties have great potential, wide lots, possibly nice big back yards. Great southern exposure, decent bedrooms.

    Property A


    Decent entry storage
    Adequate bathrooms
    Decent storage
    Separate area for kids to play and adults to entertain


    Tight entry
    Awkward kitchen
    Cramped dining area
    Main closet in the master bath, ich. May work since they have somewhat conflicting schedules but I’d be afraid of my clothes never smelling just right.

    Property B


    Good sized entry & closet
    Nice back entry
    Wide home, may mean a bigger yard
    Main floor laundry
    Great storage throughout
    Basement offers future possibilities as family grows
    Good separation of living and sleeping areas, especially if someone is sleeping during the daytime, kids hopefully are in the other end of the house (but we all know that kids call your name as soon as the head meats the pillow)


    Angled walls in kitchen, dining, breakfast and rear entry
    Tight master bath
    Two sets of doors to master bedroom
    Odd layout in second bath

    Assuming no funds for major renos I would pick property B. It just seems to have more going for it particularly regarding conflicting professional schedules. The south east room may act as a study office and the master bath seems to have enough disconnect to leave the other partner undisturbed.

    If money was available for renos property B would still get my vote. I would reconfigure the entry to deal with winter weather. Organize the east wing to open the kitchen and dining to the main living space and create a more controlled office/study. Maybe even a 2 pc bath. The bathrooms certainly need help as well. Who knows what is possible with the basement, den, guest suite, outdoor access, etc.

    Haven’t really looked at the connection to any garages or the size of the yards. A busy lifestyle may mean one can be discouraged with having to cut that much lawn.

  • Brad W

    Tough choice. Property A has additional living space while property B has a better kitchen and master bedroom. Property B also has great potential in the basement.Both homes will work. Location and yard size could change the decision but I would pick property B if the basement can be developed.

  • Paul C

    There are some peculiar things happening with doors in these homes. The door swings into the secondary bedrooms in Prop A are backwards, as does one into a secondary bedroom in Prop B and there is an extra door into Prop B’s master. I don’t think taking a door off its hinges would classify as a reno so that would be an easy fix for property B master . The half bath in A also looks backwards as typically the vanity is closer to the door, not the wc.

    Regardless, based on the assumption that each home would be taken as is, Property B would be my recommendation.
    An actual mudroom, close to the kitchen is paramount for a family with 2 young children, better master closet, main floor laundry, except for the smaller vanity the main bath is larger, one less bathroom to clean, safer and less stairs, due to the projecting living room creating an inside corner there is potential for an outdoor room, potential for a larger developed basement, a little architectural whimsy in the kitchen/nook via the angled walls.

  • Belle, Toronto

    I think Property A meets their requirements more than B. They said they wanted informal dining rather than a separate dining room, place for the children to play and office space for weekends.

    Even with money to spend for renovations, I would still prefer A. In house A they could update the kitchen and bathroom to improve it, but with B to make it the house they want, they would have to get into removing walls as well as the upgrades. Dollar for dollar at the end of this, I dont see it being a better house than A.

  • Doug Roberts

    This comparison is made more difficult by the “apples to oranges” factor — as Property A is a split level, we get to see what development exists on 3 of its 4 levels, or roughly 75% of its total floor space, whereas for Property B, which is a bungalow with a basement, we only get to see what development exists on the main floor, or 50% of its total floor space, and are left to guess what development may exist in the basement. As a result, we know for sure that Property A has a place for the kids to play on the lower level, but have no idea of whether Property B might have a similar place for the kids to play in its basement.

    In addition to the other pros and cons already mentioned, I would add the following:
    1) Even though both houses are notionally both the same size, once you take into account the basement levels, Property A (which likely only has a basement below the living/dining/kitchen level) would have a total of about 2,600 sq ft of interior floor space, whereas Property B (which likely has a full basement) would have a total of about 3,900 sq ft of interior floor space.
    2) It would be easier to supervise the kids at play from Property A’s kitchen. When the kids are outdoors in the back yard, Property A’s kitchen is at the back with a window facing the back yard, whereas Property B’s kitchen is at the front. When the kids are indoors, the play area in Property A is right next to the kitchen, whereas Property B’s play area, if any, would be in the basement. Of course, as the kids get older and their music gets louder, more separation might be a good thing.
    3) The likely (if not only) spot for a home office in Property A would be in the NW corner of the lower level, which would be right next to (if not part of) the kids’ play area. This would make it easy to supervise the kids while working, but may not be conducive to getting work done. As mentioned above, the likely spot for a home office in Property B would be the kitchen nook area, which would likely be quieter but more difficult to supervise the kids from unless they were playing in the back yard.
    4) You would constantly be climbing and descending stairs in Property A, whereas Property B is all on the same level. Laundry from the bedroom level in Property A would have to be lugged down at least to the lower level, if not all the way to the basement (unless the closet next to the lower level bathroom is where the washer and dryer are supposed to go).
    5) Property B would have a better connection to outdoor garden spaces than Property A, where the living/dining/kitchen level is half a storey up from ground level and the living room faces the front yard.
    6) The bedroom level in Property A is very efficiently laid out, but would also be very difficult to make any meaningful changes to. For example, it would be a challenge to give the master bedroom more closet space, or a closet that did not open into the bathroom, and virtually impossible to incorporate a laundry room or area into that level without taking out an entire bedroom. On the other hand, it should be possible to come up with a better configuration for the bathrooms in Property B — do both bathrooms really have no window? — what the heck is currently in that bump-out in the kids’ bathroom?

    Based on the above and the other pros and cons mentioned above, I would go with Property B.

  • Terri

    Everyone has pointed out all the factors I considered to make my decision here. I was suprised after reading Doug’s that he came out for B, cause he seemed to make many positive points for A. Anyway, I choose Property A as I believe it will best satisfy the family’s current needs for these reasons:

    -The main reason is the separation of the living spaces and sleeping spaces, as they are now. Being able to either entertain in the living room or hang out in the family area without being too close to a kid’s room is good (B has a bedroom right next to the living room wall).
    -easier supervision of little ones in the family room
    -easier creation of an office area, right off the entry
    -easier creation of a more open situation between the kitchen and dining area (could just remove the one little wall on the NE end of counter)
    -double-duty entry, with bench as well as a closet.

    Yes, there are a few stairs to go up to get to the kitchen, but the kitchen isn’t that far from that entry really.
    Yes, the master bedroom closet is an awful arrangement, but the master bathroom in B leaves much to be desired too (more open to the bedroom), so I believe those two master bedrooms cancel one another out.
    Plus B has a totally weird bathroom for little kids (whirlpool tub?)

    In general B requires more renovation, and it’ll always offer a rather uninspired bowling alleyway all the way down the middle of the house from master bedroom to the mudroom.Some major renovations may help with that on the kitchen end, but the bedroom end can’t change.

    I agree that in future, the separate space of B’s basement could be converted to a teenager’s hangout and bedroom space. But since that is about 9 or so years away…Property A it is.

  • John Brown

    It is nice to see that there is a finally some difference of opinion in this week’s version of the exercise. It is not an easy choice.

    Good eye about the doors and bathroom fixtures. I had did a double take on them as well but these are actual as built floor plans – you just can’t make up something like that.

    I also appreciate your comments about only seeing 50% of property B because of the lack of a basement plan. It points out that we always need to remember that the floor plans are just one way to look at the house.

    I will resist giving you my opinion about the choice for another couple of hours in case there are more opinions out there or maybe a summer Friday afternoon won out.

  • James Scott

    It’s interesting how the discussion has evolved to look at the pros and cons of each option both with and without the option for renovations.

    It would be interesting to play on the options of moving and buying. When considering all of the costs such as legal fees, transfer taxes, moving crew, realty fees, bridge financing, etc., is it really worth the trouble to move when maybe renovations may be the solution. And don’t forget the personal transition costs such as new schools, friends, work travel, and other such anxieties. I know this has been popularized in television programming lately but it is an important consideration, one that has plagued my family for some time.

  • Doug Roberts

    Paul — Maybe the reason for the backward door swings in the secondary bedrooms in Property A is that the builder accidentally made the side-by-side closets a smidge too wide and did not leave enough space for a standard-width door to open fully without hitting the end of the closet, so instead of doing a proper fix he simply reversed the door swings. The only possible explanation I can think of for the extra door into the master bedroom in Property B would be to cut down on the amount of noise that would pass through the door into (or out of ;) ) the master bedroom.

    James — Good point about the many “costs” associated with moving. My wife and I are much more inclined to renovate that we are to move. We have renovated every house that we have owned, and have never moved just for the sake of changing houses, only to relocate to another city.

  • Gen

    I also prefer A for many of the same reasons as Terri. However, my main reason for prefering A is that is is a multi-story home. Instinctively, it feels right to me to go upstairs to go to bed. Maybe it is because it is what I grew up with but I have never liked the houses I have lived in with the bedroom on the same floor as the living space.

    I also prefer A as it has a private entrance. In B, any visitors at the door would have a clear view of the family’s living space.

  • Tina

    My vote is for Plan B, mostly for that wonderful dining nook. There’s nothing as sweet as morning tea with the sun shining in brightly. Those windows are great!

    Additionally, the formal dining room could be easily converted to a home office. And having laundry facilities close to the bedrooms is essential for a busy family. When the kids are a bit older, they will love hanging out in the basement with their friends. Even if it’s not finished, teens are delighted to have their own lounging spaces.

  • Cat

    I’d go for plan B, the bungalow, based mostly on closet space. Plan A’s master closet in the bathroom is small, and the corner of the closet tucked in next to the vanity looks mostly unusable. I also love having the mud room, and separate family entrance in plan B, but miss having the half bath.

    The worst part of plan B is the two dining areas and something the Rodriquez’s said they definitely didn’t need or want. But I’m assuming that it’s possible to remove the chandelier from one or the other (probably the formal dining) and turn it into an office/den.

    My first renovation to plan B, aside from the chandelier removal, would be both bathrooms. Both are really strange and awkward. In the main bath, what is that bump out? It sort of looks like a window seat to me, but I don’t see a window. Oddly enough the windows are behind the washer/dryer and behind the vanity in the master bath? Are they really high, or do they look out the window when shaving instead of at the mirror? And are there two mirrors in the main bath behind the strange corner vanity? Ack, just discussing the strange bathrooms has almost changed my mind back to plan A. But no, I could probably deal with odd bathrooms for a while, and I really need a place to hang my clothes.

  • Terri

    A late and maybe small point to back up my A bias: There is still a lower floor that could be used by teenagers. It’s just not as big as B’s is, but the staircase is more private since it comes from the family room side and not the central hallway.

  • Frances Grant-Feriancek

    Property B is my reccomendation to the Rodriguez family. The nook provides a better location for home office, as oppossed to locating it in the family room. The openess of the living area with views to the back yard is very appealing. The kitchen in plan A is too cramped. This plan provides limited ability to open up the living area…the living space is divided in two and located on seperate levels. The clincher is the master closet in the washroom! Add to this plan B’s mudroom and a main floor laundry and I believe porperty B would be a better fit for the Rodriguez’.

  • Grace

    I couldn’t drum up much enthusiasm for either house. A family with small children needs a play space visually adjacent to the kitchen; teenagers need a basement or some “away” area. A has lots of living space, some of which would need reconfiguring for office space, but very little closet space. B is weird on bathrooms and on space for little kids adjacent to the kitchen–the nook could work, but where to eat if the dining room becomes a study. In 10 years, it will work for teenagers, but not now. I’d keep looking, or reluctantly buy A, planning to stay for 5 years and then move on.

  • James Scott

    Much of the discussion has been anchored to the supervision of the children, particularly due their young ages. Looking back I believe there are many things not thought of. One example is day-care and school. It’s possible that other than weekends and evenings the supervision of these children is not at home. This may have a big impact on the at-home facilities required.

    That being said, child proofing a home isn’t that difficult. A few gates at the top of stairs, door knob slips, and cupboard locks may be needed, but on the other hand the youngest is 3, it shouldn’t be that difficult to keep this child out of too much trouble. And I’m sure the parents are well aware of what is required.

    I feel the suitability of the home should focus more on the children as they get older and assert their independence, not so much right now.

    As far as entertaining goes, it evolves as the kids get older. The activities of young hip newlyweds are much different than that of young active parents. By the time most of these kids have the constant stream of playmates coming and going their safety sense will hopefully be in place.

    And of course unless your children are as perfect as mine are (playing Chopin and reciting Yeats from memory) the 3 year old is going to be more or less at your feet the whole day anyway. Unless of course they are constantly fighting with each other.

  • John Brown

    My tally of the discussion so far has 7 votes for property B and 4 for property A (with one of those a reluctant choice by Grace).

    From my point of view the strongest aspects of A are the defined front entry and the separation of the main living areas, family room and bedrooms on different floors. The weakest areas are the enclosed kitchen and the amorphously shaped family room.

    The problems with Property B are the entry (or lack thereof), the small kitchen and the double eating areas. I do like the separation of the bedrooms in their own wing.

    My recommendation would be for Property A because of its potential to accommodate (through renovation) a growing family. That is still not enough to sway the overall popular vote however.

  • ersie

    For what it’s worth, I would recommend B. I like the lack of stairs, I think the front entry-way problem can be provisionally solved with a piece of furniture, and more permanently by making the apparently large front porch into a vestibule. I think the dining-living room would be better for entertaining. The extended southern exposure is likely a plus in Omaha. The breakfast nook could be made a little smaller (straighten the wall) to be used by Julio as an office space. The bathrooms are quite a challenge, but I think the rest of the positive features help to counter them.

    I’m coming into this a little late but I thought I would throw in a question/concern that I would have if I were deciding between the two. House A is from the 1960s, house B is from the 1980s. What is the energy consumption numbers for the two? I would guess B is lower, do you know if that’s true?

  • James Scott

    Ersie, that’s a great question which is all to hushed by the industry and invisible to prospective buyers.

    I wonder if the smaller footprint may have a positive impact, less exterior wall space, etc. Possibly a smaller lot, meaning higher density.

    There has been some discussion politically in Ontario, Canada, regarding the practice of home energy audits being a mandated component of real estate transactions. Similar to a used car manifest or profile. It would be nice to know what it’s going to cost to operate the home beyond mortgage and taxes.

  • ersie

    James: Your point about the lower surface area to floor area ratio is well taken, as is the higher density consideration. I just wonder about the level of insulation in the house from the 60s. On the other hand, we know nothing about what renovations might have been done to both houses.

    The home energy audits for real estate transactions is a great idea. I think it has already been put into law in Germany and here in Switzerland it is either just about to be, or is in discussion. Isn’t it true that one can request the previous years’ electricity usage records in the US when considering a house to buy? I seem to recall that it was true in Maryland when I lived there and bought and subsequently sold a house (with an electric heat pump and boiler).