House vs. barn question at issue in renovation

Architectural compatibility can be arbitrary

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 4, 2011

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Architectural compatibility can be arbitrary

Barry Stone
Inman News™

Dear Barry: My home is located in Cheshire, United Kingdom, and was built in 1625. I want to put on an extension -- a sort of orangery. I believe you Yanks call it a sunroom. The building planners say that an orangery doesn't belong on a barn. That's a nerve. The house is in the shape of a barn, but it is far too sophisticated a building ever to have been one.

My vicar, who is very knowledgable on local history and geography, says it was never a barn! What do you recommend? --Christine

Dear Christine: Whether or not the home was ever a barn is not relevant to the question of whether to install an orangery. All that should matter is whether it suits your purposes and does not adversely affect the health and safety of occupants or the community.

Opinions on architectural compatibility are often arbitrary, rather than practical. Planners and their ilk should learn to think outside the box. If someone wants to add an orangery to a Spanish mission or a dog house, planners should determine how to make it work -- not discount it according to trivial standards of societal acceptability.

Hopefully, these planners are not disposed to enforce their starchy standards.

Dear Barry: We have a question about what to disclose when we sell our home. We bought it four years ago, when it was brand new. Within a year, we realized we had bought a lemon. Problems ranged from electrical to roofing, from plumbing to ground drainage, from dry rot to mold infection.

We were in litigation with the builder for over three years, and the repair costs eventually rose to $130,000. Now that this tumultuous chapter of our lives has ended, we're wondering what we should tell buyers when we sell. The house has practically been rebuilt, so none of the original problems remain. What do you recommend for seller disclosure? --Lira

Dear Lira: The best way to view disclosure is not on the basis of what is required, but from the perspective of avoiding possible contention. If the world were populated with reasonable people, reasonable disclosure would be sufficient. Since not everyone is reasonable, excessive disclosure can be a wise defense. On that basis, I recommend the following:

Prepare a detailed disclosure statement of the entire history of the property, and be sure to include photographs. Hopefully, the repairs were all done by qualified licensed contractors, with building permits and final approval by the building department. The entire story should be presented in a clear and concise manner. If you feel that some defects may have been missed when the repairs were done, simply state that the work was thoroughly done, to the best of your understanding.

As long as you disclose everything, you will have reduced your liability as much as reasonably possible. Regardless of past defects, there is someone out there who will buy your home, as long as they know what they are buying.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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