It’s interesting how fashion — the current styles of home features — has come to be all-important to us and far outweighs functionality. Perhaps that has always been true, but it seems to me that it has grown to the point of absurdity. Functionality, to me, is whether or not a room meets its intended function.

Consider, for instance, bathrooms. The creation of the indoor bathroom with a tub, toilet, and sink was a major improvement over an outhouse, and for decades we were satisfied, if not delighted, with that. But then, somewhere around the late 1900’s it all changed. A mere bathtub does not suffice. We now need whirlpool tubs. No longer can the tub and shower be combined— we need a separate walk-in shower the size of a small car that is entirely tiled, preferably with multiple shower-heads, steam, and wired for sound so you can sing along to your favorite tunes. One sink absolutely will not do! We need two sinks because two people cannot possibly share a sink. The floors must be ceramic tile or perhaps even marble and certainly they must be heated. Then came improvements in toilets. If the basic version doesn’t work for you, consider self-flushing, heated, self-cleaning ones. Sinks, faucets, cabinets, and counter-tops? I won’t even go there!

And kitchens? Kitchens have evolved into “great-rooms” — a combination of kitchen, living room, and dining room that practically negates the need for most of the rest of the house. Yet we still need a “formal” dining room and “formal” living room as well. (Because we almost never use those “formal” rooms, they are at least easy to keep clean.) Kitchen fashion now dictates that we must have acres of granite countertops, must have only stainless steel appliances, and must have cabinets to accomodate enought dishware to serve a small village.

So how does all this affect the value of a home that is more than a few years old? The word is “dated”, and it is definitely a negative. Even though a home is immaculate, perfectly maintained, and completely functional, if it has not been “updated” within the last two or three years, buyers will declare it dated and absolutely need to completely gut it and start over. They cannot possible cook on a white stove or put their food in a white refrigerator or use a white dishwasher. That Corian countertop installed ten years ago now must be replaced with granite. Vinyl flooring — no, no, no. That must be replaced with tile or wood. All of these absolutely necessary “updates” diminish the value of the home. Perfectly functional cabinetry — that is probably “dated” as well.

Is the home functional? Of course it is. Does it serve its intended purpose? Yes. Is it or can it be decorated attractively? Yes. All that no longer matters.

Today buyers look at a home and determine its value by the amount of money it will cost them to “update” it. No longer is painting, repairing, and replacing whatever is broken sufficient. All must be “updated” to conform to current fashion. And guess what? In ten years it will all need “updating” again!

I don’t mean to say that anyone should be denied luxurious homes. It is great fun to have a gorgeous home, so if you want it, go for it. What I mean to do is to put it all in perspective. There is a big difference between “need” and “want,” and I think fashion should not weigh so heavily when it comes to value. But that is just my opinion.

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