Beach Reading for Housing Impaired

by WOHe

Patrick O’Toole

The new State of the Nation’s Housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies is summer beach-reading for the truly housing impaired. And by impaired, I am referring to people who tend to be overly focused on building and remodeling.

If you are housing impaired, you might be traveling to a lovely summer getaway on Cape Cod and let your mind drift back to work. You may wonder how many vacation homes are transacted each year in that part of Massachusetts. Or you might marvel at how quickly house prices are appreciating there. Then you might contemplate the market potential of all the well-heeled remodeling customers who occupy those pricey vacation homes for only a few short months each summer. And despite having never set foot on Cape Cod, I plead guilty.

I recently pulled out a copy of this report on a sun-splashed June day. I promptly disparaged my wife’s choice of a Lindsey Lohan edition of “Us” magazine, at which point she shot back a look that seemed to say, “Speak not, you geek.” It’s the kind of look you become accustomed to receiving when you are housing impaired.

So here is my first annual summer reading list along with a brief review.

  1. The State of the Nation’s Housing 2007 (Harvard University JCHS)
    The work that must go into these biennial reports is staggering. This year, the authors rightly focus on root causes of the current housing slowdown. Remodeling figures only tangentially into the report, but the demographic information and the implications for remodelers are hugely relevant. In particular, the report cites the impact minorities will have on household formation. Of the 14.6 million additional households that will be formed in between 2005 and 2015, the majority will be formed by minorities, many of whom are first-generation Americans. You can download the report for free at
  2. Defensive Estimating: Protecting Your Profits (Builder Books) By William Asdal, CGR
    Many of you have undoubtedly heard Bill Asdal speak at various remodeling seminars over the years.
    His message is usually 100 percent profit focused and this recent work is no different. Asdal advises remodelers to examine their business processes and modify them to meet financial goals. He also suggests ways to create and protect profits, and defend each estimate line so that planned profit is bankable.
    To obtain a copy, go to
  3. Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature (Natural Home & Garden) By Carol Venolia, Kelly Lerner, Sarah Susanka. In this summer of “Green” Sarah Susanka of Not-So-Big House fame collaborates with fellow architects Carol Venolia and Kelly Lerner in a book that focuses on the lost art of green building from the not-so-distant past. This surprising book is full of building concepts that used to be commonplace, like how to properly position rooms to maximize natural sunlight. The large photos and the clear writing make it a beach-book pick that the not-so-housing-impaired may also appreciate. Available at

Once you’ve read these books you’ll be rested, relaxed and ready to get back to the office, where a housing/remodeling fix is perhaps too readily available.

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