Housing Market 2011 Forecast: Architect Sarah Susanka

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Housing Market 2010What will the New Year hold for the U.S. housing market? It depends on who you ask. That's why AOL Real Estate has assembled an all-star panel of real estate mavens and moguls to discuss the questions that matter most to consumers. Should you buy, rent, sell or renovate in 2011? Will home values improve? And which way will mortgages rates turn?

In this edition, we chat with Sarah Susanka, the best-selling author and leading proponent of the "Not So Big" architectural movement.

Sarah SusankaSarah Susanka is a best-selling author, architect and evangelist for the "Not So Big" design movement. Armed with the mantra, "build better, not bigger," Susanka has been instrumental in trumpeting the value of both sustainable and "right-sized" design in residential real estate. She has appeared on numerous programs as an expert in the field of sustainable design, including Oprah, Charlie Rose and Diane Rehm. Her latest book is "More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home" (Taunton, 2010). We recently had a chance to speak with Susanka during a phone interview. The following is an excerpt of the conversation.

AOL Real Estate: It's New Year's Resolution time. What should homeowners plan to get done in 2011?

Susanka: The improvement category is going to be of the most interest to people. I think there are a lot of deferred spatial improvements that have been put off for a couple years, and I think a lot of people are ready to take action...People would have done it prior to this but, with all the uncertainty [in the economy], the pause button is just coming off.

AOL Real Estate: How will you apply a "Not So Big" mentality to the current housing market? What should prospective buyers consider before buying?

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Susanka: There's two parts to this answer. The first goes to buyers of existing homes. Homeowners should look at what amount of space is right for them. Assess what you need as opposed to what you need to keep up with the Joneses. Before the recession, people were taking time to keep up with what others in their friendship circles or economic bracket were doing. The recession has brought a lot of reconsideration into people's minds. I prefer the term 'rightsizing' instead of 'downsizing'.

For consumers looking to buy new homes, don't buy space that is really boring. If you're going to have a smaller house--that is, just smaller than you thought you needed--it's really got to be inspiring space, or you won't want to live there very long. Make the house reflect you, so it's a place that you love to live. When something is tailored to fit, you don't need nearly as much square footage, and you will want to live there far longer. Beauty really matters, and it's one of the most sustainable acts you can make.

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