The Value of the Intangibles



Weighing what you value most in a home

In a market where appraisers, brokers, and realtors are constantly putting a price tag on a square foot, some of the most important pieces of a home get lost. Vertical volume, layout, outdoor living space, views, sunlight, and the “feeling” a home gives you are examples of the intangibles that make the difference between a house and a home. A house can be valued by dollars per square foot, but a HOME cannot.  A home’s value is a complex algorithm between function and love, much like art. One 8”x10” painting could cost $50 while another 8”x10” painting could cost $5000. Why would a home be any different?

Chris Rhodes, owner of Soda Mountain Construction & Design, is all too familiar with this tension between the builders, real estate agents, appraisers, and buyers.  Over the years of building custom homes, he has found himself in consistent conversation with real estate agents and appraisers about the “intangibles”, the pieces of the home that can’t be quantified, because they are valued differently for every single buyer. The intangibles are what makes that house a home.  

Those intangibles aren’t what most buyers know they are searching for when they start looking for their new home; it’s the unspoken whispers that they hear as they start looking at houses. The houses they view might be similar on paper (4 bedrooms, chef’s kitchen …), but each one speaks differently when you walk through it (“Josh would just love that view from the guest bedroom when he visits”). Just ask Chuck & Carrie Reuben, who found their perfect home when it was already 75% complete. They bought their home as a Soda Mountain Construction & Design spec home. Rhodes said that he and Travis Mathey, Soda Mountain Construction & Design’s in-house designer, designed and built this home based solely on their own imagination and intuition. They knew there would be buyers looking for something unique to Steamboat and took the risk to build this home without a buyer. They built the home based on how “we would build it for ourselves as if we were the owners”.  And if you ask the Reuben’s, it was the intangibles that spoke to them and made them feel at home.  

In homes that are built out of love and passion, intangibles are often considered just as critical as the livable space.  Although the home very much suits their functional desires, it was the intangibles in this house that spoke to Chuck & Carrie: outdoor living space, vertical volume, connectivity, energy efficiency, and reclaimed barn wood from Iowa where Carrie grew up.  

Chuck & Carrie love the Steamboat outdoors and don’t want to spend their days inside. To them, outdoor living space is just as important as the indoors. While appraisers might only look at the 5,039 livable square footage, they miss the 706 square foot deck that boasts 270 degree views and hosts a party of 60 comfortably, the remarkable 250 square foot fire pit living room that would be perfect for roasting marshmallows with future grandchildren, or the 740 square foot lower patio where guests could enjoy their own private sunrise. And how do you put a price tag on those areas that could only make those memories? 

Like so many empty nesters, Chuck & Carrie also wanted a home that fit them comfortably everyday but was suited for guests just as well. They wanted what Chris describes as a house that “lives larger than it is”.  What Chuck & Carrie fell in love with was that magical combination of grandiose and comfortable, which can be delivered through vertical volume. High ceilings with architectural intrigue draw your eyes up and into an entirely different space of a home, making it feel much larger. It adds space without adding actual square footage. It also begs for design elements that can only be used in vertical structures. In Chuck & Carrie’s home, their 26’ great room vertical allowed for a 9’ castle-like entrance door, a 35’ rock wall open stairwell, and locally owned Mountain Window and Door created 765 sf of window display in the living room alone. None of those elements would impact a typical real estate evaluation though; it only charms the socks right off anyone stepping foot in their home.  

Chuck & Carrie, like most of us, also prioritize connection – with others and each other. So naturally, they craved a home that allowed for abundant connection opportunities. With this exact purpose in mind, three outdoor living spaces that were all visible to each other were designed so that guests would have ample room to roam without losing connection to the greater group.  The master suite evokes tranquility and reconnection to ones’ self with its remarkable freestanding bathtub, airy layout, double-sided floating vanity for sufficient personal space, and cheerful natural lighting. Chuck & Carrie spend most of their time in the home with just the two of them so there are several nooks & crannies where they can sit down and enjoy each other’s company again, such as the quaint sitting area outside the master, a cozy den downstairs ideal for tv viewing, perfectly placed windows in the master so all sunrises can be seeing lying in bed, a pub table downstairs perfect for a game of cards, and a picturesque kitchen ideal for morning coffee together. How can you put a value on the magic of never feeling too big or too small, but always just feeling cozy?

These intangibles are what make Chuck & Carrie feel at home here. Even though a mathematical evaluation system will always be needed in some respect, it’s important to consider your own intangibles when dreaming of your next home. Whether you build it or buy it, knowing what only you put a value on is critical.  While it’s easy and safe to stand solidly on the dollars/square foot rationale, easy and safe rarely leads to complete fulfillment. Choosing a home might very well be one of your biggest investments, financially and emotionally, and choosing wisely means weighing all aspects. When you do that weighing, don’t forget the value of the intangibles. 

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