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The McMansions

I was visiting Idaho recently, just outside Boise, in a suburb called Eagle, a somewhat more affluent town than most of the Boise area, where an agent told me the ‘beautiful people live’ and you’ll have frequent Mormon missionary visitors trying to collect funds as the stop by on their bikes.

I started to count the churches surrounding the area, nearly 8 in a short drive through Eagle, from Mormon to various Christian faiths. But what really caught my attention were the McMansions.

These are homes not as big as say the The Queen of Versailles, the home being built by time share mogul David Siegel, but you get the idea.

Yeah, those enormous homes sprawling along as if they were some sort of empire themselves, church like in their ostentation.
Not three bathrooms but six. Not three rooms but thirteen. Not a tennis court but indoor racquet and basketball courts. Not an entertainment room but a theater. You know, homes verging on MTV’s Cribs, where they flip open the fridge to show just how much food you’ve stocked up from Costco.

Comparatively though, these homes are set in Idaho, and the amount of space you get for your buck, compared to say if you live in San Francisco or New York, where a million dollars might get a you a condo, is tenfold. Yards turn into orchards and small farms.

The McMansions look more like a collection of homes rather than just one home, with extensions that are in themselves mini-homes. How do they heat and cool these places? What’s the purpose of such a large home? It’s not the normal pattern of these families to live with their relatives, from grandfathers and grandmothers, as is more traditional in other cultures.  For the majority, these are just big sprawling homes for small families, who most likely spend more time in the mountains skiing than in any of the rooms.

Now, with the market crashing, you’re seeing enormous homes that aren’t selling.  But for investors, coming in from New York or parts of California, the opportunity to buy so much home is hard to pass up. However, do you really want, or more importantly need this much space to take care of?

I live in San Francisco, and go to Idaho to visitor my sister on a regular basis, who’s living room is as big as my apartment, with ceilings twice the size as mine. It does give you a feeling of openness after the stark contrast of the compact space that is San Francisco.  It's awesome.  Then, the mountains are a stark contrast too, as the jump out of the earth with their tops covered in snow. I can understand the want for more space--believe me. And, behind my sister’s house, just down the way, about 100 yards, is a trail where people walk their dogs. The trail is lined with trees and a small creek, you feel like your in the woods.

But what got me thinking is when I read an article in the New Yorker about how Manhattan was the most energy efficient city in the United States, and the homes in New York were ideal in terms of their use of energy, from the small spaces they needed to heat and cool, to the use of public transportation rather than SUVs.

The utopian community was Manhattan. Most Americans think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, but in comparison with the rest of America, it is a model of environmental responsibility… New York is one of the greenest cities in the world… 82% of Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit.

Further, the site SustainLane shows you the top green cities.

What I wanted to get across though in this article is both the beauty of Idaho, and the amazing amount of land you can acquire with your dollars, but also the purpose for your property. Why buy a huge house with rooms you don’t even use?  The best thing about Idaho is being outside.  Why not buy a house that’s big, gives you the openness you want, but isn’t a waste of space and energy. Why not buy a big piece of land and split up the parcels?  Sell one parcel or build another property on that land and rent it out.  Or, setup a small farm or orchard, where you don't have to be concerned about the production levels of the farm or orchard, but one that gives you a purpose or something to do when you retire.  

Sure, if you have the money to buy a big parcel your concern might not be making more money, but rather than build a McMansion, why not contribute a park to the community, which will actually raise the valley of your property rather than add another eye sore to the landscapte that's already beautiful with less.

And not to say all communites or developments are excessive in this area.  There are many developments that pride themselves on energy efficency and know that less is more in a way.  Know that homes are part of a community and not small communities themselves.

Read more...City Life or Country Mouse

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