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Ready for the Sharing Economy?

Ready for the Sharing Economy?
Building a house with an in-law suite or casita (see the one-bed
Unless you’ve been hibernating for the last couple years, you’ve probably heard about the new sharing economy. It’s a whole new set of transactions facilitated by web-based services for people who want to make money by sharing their assets with others.

People are sharing everything -- their cars, their cooking skills, their power tools, and even their houses. The trend could have implications for the kinds of homes people want to buy.

Few people, except maybe those living in tourist-heavy cities such as San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York – would probably buy a new home just to share all or part of it. But they might like having the ability to do so as a back-up plan. The happy coincidence is that facilitating a home or room that people could share would add flexibility to the home’s design that might come in handy for other purposes.
Several big production builders took an early position on the sharing economy before it was even in vogue. Lennar, for several years, has been marketing something called the NextGen suite (in communities where it can gain approval) that gives you a home within your home. Though Lennar positions the suite for an in-law – it has its own entrance, kitchen, living area, and bathroom, and is separated from the main house – it’s also ideal space for a short-term rental.

So are the stand-alone casitas that builders have been selling in Sunbelt markets for the last 10 years. (Plan

892-5, at the top of this post, and here, has one, left of the front gate.) In most cases, these little buildings are marketed as home offices or guest bedrooms. They would also work very nicely as short-term rentals, though you may not want the neighbors to find out. Here’s a pleasant contemporary plan with a casita bordered by an interior courtyard: 449-8.

An even better option may be the over-garage suites that were seemingly born again 10 years ago after a long disappearance. Again, these spaces are often marketed as refuges for boomerang children or as second-story man caves. But once those children leave, or grown-ups decide they’d rather travel than play pool at home, the spaces can easily segue into tourist traps. Here’s a classic traditional design with bonus space over the garage that could be built as a guest suite. 48-105.

Some people are going all in, renting their entire home or condominium through services such as Airbnb. They don’t seem creeped out by having complete strangers occupy their house and look in their closets or drawers. Even so, they could probably use a garage or attic space to lock some valuables away when they vacate.  A plan such as this would work for that purpose, 137-138; note the storage room off the garage.

There are other seemingly more practical ways to skin this duck. A house with a second master or in-law suite could work well for this purpose. That would be like turning your home into a bed-and-breakfast.

A plan like this one, 892-8, isolates the second master from the body of the house.

The beauty of these arrangements is that these spaces – even if you didn’t want to rent them – could come in handy later. Once your knees get tired of climbing stairs, you might want to move into a first floor master bedroom on a permanent basis. It could also be a marriage-saver for a couple with a spouse who snores or gets ill.

Bonus living space over the garage – a very popular feature in house plans – could serve innumerable purposes depending on your stage of life. It could be used as a big play space for young children, a home office with storage for a start-up business, or an in-law suite. And if you wanted to rent it, you could. Casitas are great places to stash young adults who finished college and are looking for a job. They are great for in-laws who want privacy. And they make ideal office spaces for professionals who need real quiet to do serious work or meet with clients.

Ready for the Sharing Economy? Inspiration

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