You may have heard the term "customization" in your research for your new home. It's a word that's typically used to describe the process of making alterations to the floor plan or exterior appearance of a home so that it reflects your particular tastes, current lifestyle, and location.

But there's a more subtle yet equally important variation on that term that's emerging within the home design and building communities. Simply, that new homes today are — by design — better able to adapt to the changing needs of their owners after they've moved in and for years to come.

This kind of customization has its roots in areas like the Great Room and so-called "flex" spaces that many builders offer these days. But true customization requires a more thoughtful approach to the floor plan, materials choices, and future lifestyle changes than simply a room or two that allow some flexibility in their use.

Obviously, rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms are dedicated spaces. But there's no reason that a dining room can't eventually become a home office, then switch back or become something else down the road, depending on what the family wants and needs.

More dramatically, consider a back room — properly designed — that could eventually evolve from a simple bedroom into a family or TV room, a home office, a rental apartment, or a first-floor master suite as the owners age and tire of climbing stairs to their bedroom.

Similarly, a seasonal or long-term storage area adjacent to a second-floor master suite could, over time and if properly designed, become another bedroom or swap with the master bedroom, leaving the former as an upstairs family room or office; the space could also become a private sitting room or home gym for the owners.

These examples are not only practical, but generally inexpensive to provide … if your builder has the forethought to "rough in" plumbing and other mechanical systems. This level of customization could set the stage for a small kitchen and a private entry to serve as a future rental apartment. Another option: leave sufficient room for a staircase or design the roof frame to accommodate skylights or dormer windows to finish an upstairs area adjacent to the master suite.

The benefits of being able to "customize" a home you already live in are inspiring. As much as we want to build new homes (it is our business, after all), we also like the concept of creating communities of people that are able to live in their homes longer and build tight neighborhood bonds — which proper design and planning allows.

We also like providing homes that serve our clients now and in the future, reducing their on-going maintenance and extensive remodeling costs. This type of 'built-in' flexibility also helps make the house easier to sell when the owners are ready to move on to another new home.

Finally, given the current economy and changes in construction and mortgage lending that has limited the ability to buy and sell homes quickly, we recognize and respect that families are looking for homes that they can enjoy over a longer period of time.

This kind of "customization" works best in new homes. As builders, we can direct the floor plan and construction process from the beginning to accommodate your family's changing lifestyle needs.

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