Home Investment with Moneca Kaiser :HomeEcology Podcast – Episode 1

Moneca Kaiser is a Philosopher, Carpenter and home designer. In this podcast we speak on the value of good and sustainable home investment. If you’re designing a home, one of the first tips is to make sure you include a ctv camera system to secure the building.

Liz:

All right. Okay. Let’s begin. We’re here with Moneca Kaiser of Moneca Kaiser Design Build, an expert in her field. We’re going to be specifically talking today about home renovation investments and methods of renovating, for example using something like Smart Home London to turn your house into a savvy sensation. Before I go any further, I’m just going to let Moneca introduce herself. Actually Moneca, can you talk a little bit about yourself and your background?

Moneca Kaiser: Sure Liz. I’m happy to be here. I came at this in an unusual way. I studied philosophy actually in university and I loved it. I wanted to go through and become a philosophy professor. A couple of years in, I found that … I don’t know. My head was so full of knowledge and I felt like a great big, big, head. If I fell over like a bug, I wouldn’t be able to get up again. The knowledge didn’t belong to me. It led me to wanting to work with my hands. That’s sort of how I came into carpentry.

Liz: All right. How did that lead you now to interior design?

Moneca Kaiser: There’s not really a life for a woman as a carpenter in this, at least there wasn’t 30 years ago. Sadly it’s kind of the dark ages in this field. There’s still very, very male-dominated profession. We don’t have anywhere near a critical mass of women. I always know I wanted to have my own business. I’ve always been an artist in my heart. I studied art, and tai chi, and meditation with a beautiful Buddhist teacher for the last 30 years.

Liz: Oh, wow.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah. That all came together with a deep understanding of feng shui, in an organic kind of way, my teacher taught me that. I have read about these things in philosophies. Ever since I left university, it’s been all experiential learning from this wonderful teacher. My business is another wonderful design challenge of creating something that’s harmonious, mutually beneficial, and kind to the people we work with. We call them our flients, friends plus clients, and kind to the environment, and kind to the community.

Liz: Okay. Speaking on that, you actually have a unique approach to home design. Can you touch a bit about on that?

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah. I think it goes back to my philosophical passion for building on very, very solid foundations. We have a concept of Homecology that I’ve articulated, that I guess I’ve kind of coined as a way of expressing being in harmony with our values, and designing our homes so that they’re in harmony with our values. I believe that when we align our lives with our values in a very intentional and conscientious way, our lives become more meaningful and we’re more happy, and we’re more generous. It’s sort of it’s not this endless dream of wanting granite countertops and then quartz countertops. Now, they have this new even higher-end countertop. It’s not always chasing the greatest countertop, it becomes more about, “Oh, my countertop’s durable. I built this house to last 200 years. I’m good to go. What can I give to my community now?”

Liz: Okay. Now, let’s get a bit into actual renovations and the investments in themselves. Renovations and interior design is often considered a significant investment. Can they be considered good investments then?

Moneca Kaiser: That is a really important question because they say we have less time than we did during feudal times. I feel like mortgages and home ownership is a bit of a scam by the banks. It’s making them very, very rich on the interest. We’re working very, very hard to pay off these homes. They’re the most expensive thing we’re ever going to own, unless we’re trust fund kids with the yacht or something. Basically, the biggest investment we’re ever going to make is this house, this home. We can be very cavalier, about people will add something on, or rip something off, or tear something out, or whatever without a master plan, and without any respect for the level of investment. It’s absurd to me. We really need to honor that these houses are valuable. They’re expensive, and they’re eating our leisure time. This is not just costing us money, it’s costing us time, and worry, and concern.

Liz: Okay. Speaking on that master plan, I’m assuming that there’s certain types of home improvements that you could make. What are the types of home improvements that are the best investments a homeowner can make?

Moneca Kaiser: It all starts with something we’ve never heard of, but as soon as somebody buys a home, they should buy a master planning session and do a complete master plan for that home. It’s okay to live in the home without the master plan, but before you almost hang a picture, you want a master plan. Anything beyond hanging a picture actually, because what has to happen is we have to start thinking about homes as systems, and understand that every time we affect one part of it, it affects all the other parts. We just had a client, you just did a blog piece on it. That’s the one we just posted the pictures of.

Liz: Yeah. I’ll add it definitely, a link on it below.

Moneca Kaiser: The homeowner spent $80,000 on renovating her basement, may be more. Then she did her kitchen which was about another 60,000. Then she called me to double the size of her house. I’m like, “Oh my God! We’ve wasted so much money already.” I had to rip apart the whole basement and I had to relocate the kitchen.

Liz: Oh, wow!

Moneca Kaiser: It was a lot more work because I couldn’t wreck those things. I had to conserve them and reuse them. If she would have just chilled out or had a good holistic visionary designer which I don’t know where they are, because they don’t teach this in interior design school this idea of Homecology and systems thinking which is anybody elevated today. Any, all of my heroes are using this language, but you don’t hear it in the design world enough; high-end architects you do sometimes for sure, and green architects perhaps. Not design builders, not contractors, not interior designers, they’re not thinking like this. What has to happen, the biggest and best investment anyone can make is in the master plan and a thorough design.

Liz: Okay. All right. That would lead into the entire house being ready for certain areas where the investment would eventually turn round. What other factors should homeowners consider before choosing to go through with the renovation? Is there anything? All I’ve heard was, “Location, location, location.” Do people really need to focus on that, or what are those prime things that they should be considering?

Moneca Kaiser: That’s a very good point. We begin our process with a questionnaire, a 360-degree questionnaire. We ask what the person has paid for their home and what other homes in the neighborhood are worth, and what other renovated homes in neighborhood are worth. We do the math. There are a lot of homes, location is critical because you can’t … It’s a bit of a dance. You can have the most expensive house on your street if you’re going to stay there. If you plan to stay there for 10 years, you can go ahead and invest to that next level, and your street will catch up to you most likely.

Liz: Okay.

Moneca Kaiser: We’re trying to work primarily with a long term vision with our clients. We are homemakers at Moneca Kaiser Design Build. We make homes. We don’t build houses. We don’t build renovations. We make homes. Generally, we’re working with people who have a longer term vision. They found the schools they like. They found the community they like. They’re giving up space for proximity downtown, but it’s worth it to them. We have to be very, very thoughtful about the design. Location is critical, and to make sure the numbers have to … This is our investment. This is our retirement. This is our old age. We really have to be very thoughtful about how much should we put into this house. Right now, interest rates are decent. The quality of life is exponentially better when you have a home that truly meets your needs. It’s safe to invest. You just have want to be very, very thoughtful about it and make sure everything you do is adding value.

Don’t get distracted with house porn or any type of porn for that matter even https://www.tubev.sex/?hl=pl. Put in the really nice wood countertops that are extremely affordable and maybe a tenth of the cost of quartz or something. I mean that’s blasphemous these days, but you can always replace, swap out the quartz later when you do have the budget or you can recycle the wood. It’s just that making the space, really, really work for you is much more important than getting lost. People get hung up on this certain light fixture, or this certain feature. You really need to be looking at the big picture, and how does every decision affect your quality of life.

Liz: It’s almost like you’re saying, in an investment it’s not just the return on money, or anything like that. It’s that you’re putting years that you’re going to be living there. That’s a part of that investment is your quality of life and that type of value. Now, is there a renovation that you would just not recommend to one of your flients? Just somebody who just goes ahead and wants to put on an addition. Would you just say absolutely no? Is it always just coming down to the master planning first?

Moneca Kaiser: First of all if I may, I just want to bring up one more point about this investment.

Liz: Absolutely, yeah.

Moneca Kaiser: That’s that a house is almost the only thing you can spend money on that’s going to make you richer. It’s not like a car, the cliché. You drive it off the lot and you lose 5,000 bucks, or whatever depending on the car. With a house, it’s the only investment that I know of, that’s for sure going to make us richer because the house is going to be more valuable and you get to enjoy the pleasure of having a home that really works. Then speaking to this idea if there’s anything I would advise people not to do, I think it’s basements. I think you have to be very, very careful about doing a basement if you ever intend to do any other renovations on the house.

Liz: Okay. Why’s that?

Moneca Kaiser: You should never do a basement without a master plan, because let’s say you want to add a main floor powder room down the road because you’ve gotten old, or your mother’s gotten old and she visits. Now, the stairs are difficult for her to do. You’ve got to finish basement. You’re going to be ripping that apartment. I think that people are way too quick to add on to houses. Most of the houses I see, are ruined by the additions. There’s usually a certain integrity to an original design of a house. I won’t necessarily love it, but it makes sense. It might not suit our lifestyles right now, but it kind of works. What I’ve seen when I was an apprentice, I saw this and I was appalled.

I was apprentice carpenter and we built this beautiful cathedral ceiling, great room on the back of this traditional, modest, sort of wartime bungalow. You went through these small rooms. There’s a cute little living room, a cute little dining room, and then the kitchen got blown out into this great room. It went from a small area into a great area. The problem was, the other rooms became ghost towns. They had a couple of Legos, and the cat in there. Nobody wanted to spend time in them.

Liz: Right.

Moneca Kaiser: Real estate’s too expensive to be able to afford to have dead real estate in our home.

Liz: Yes, of course. Just speaking on even just the design aspect, I’ve noticed from readings and certain projects that I’ve seen other companies do where they won’t stick with the original architecture. They’ll suit it to their taste. Then all of a sudden, the house is not salable because it’s just too out of whack in a sense. I find that also is a bit of an aspect to that of adding on is not sometimes the best investment, because you’re adding on dead space in the sense, or just taking away from the rest of the house.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah. It’s true. You really want to be very thoughtful like I don’t think anybody should just add on. You need to rework the existing space to harmoniously integrate with the new space, architectural style, function, flow, all of it.

Liz: Perfect. Okay. To a certain aspect you’re going to have to call on the experts at a certain point. Where would you draw the line on DIY renovations versus calling in that person that’s going to have master plan for you? Is it once you’re looking into a significant investment, that’s the time?

Moneca Kaiser: I don’t know. I would really encourage everybody who goes to a housewarming to chip in money and buy the new owners a master plan instead of a plot … Sorry, I’m thinking of a grave plot a friend just bought. Instead of a potted plant, or a gravy boat, or whatever, I think that you should call in the experts immediately, but we have to transform the way we think of these experts because what I am more than anything is kind of a psychologist. I’m not really, like I happen to be very, very good at design, but more importantly, I’m good at listening. I’m good at helping you ask the right questions that will lead you to a holistic vision for your home. That’s critical.

I can’t do this to my own house. Anybody like yourself who has worked with me, knows I’m constantly rearranging it and changing it in the middle of the day whatever. I’m too close to it. I need that other person to challenge me and push back, and push hands. In tai chi, we do this thing with, where you push hands. You put your arms together, and you go in circles. It’s not meant to be aggressive. It’s meant to be a flow, and you enhance each other’s energy and you move with it. It’s dynamic. We need that to make homes. We don’t live alone. Even if we do live alone, we don’t live alone in the sense that we’re in a community. We have people through and we need to be co-creating in communities. I don’t think people really should do anything. They can do the work themselves. It’s wonderful to do the work themselves.

After they have a master plan, they can go ahead and refine the design. It’s not our job to impose design on either. It’s to help the client with their vision to realize the highest level of their vision. We don’t want to tell you what to love. You tell me what you love and I say, “Oh, we can achieve that and look how far we can go.”

Liz: Okay. You’ve kind of touched on this earlier. You had a story about a renovation investment gone sour. Do you have another version of that? What do you suggest a homeowner do to avoid these types of situations?

Moneca Kaiser: We just shot some pictures just this week of some of our past projects. I went to see our flients and we’ll have their pictures up online in a week or two, beautiful renovation.

Liz: I think I’ve seen the as is, so I’m actually looking forward to the after.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah.

Liz: Those are always exciting.

Moneca Kaiser: They have this very small wartime house in a beautiful location, amazing location in Westboro, beautiful lot. They had plenty of space to add on. They came to me thinking, “We want to add on.” They had a budget. I said, “You know, if you add on, you’re going to wreck the house. If we renovate the existing space in such a way that as your family grows, or as your lifestyle affords it, you can add on. You’re going to have a very high functioning kiss-ass house. You might not even want to add on.” I told them their budget was half of what it needs to be. They chocked. I said, “It was a modest budget. If you spend 60,000, you’re not getting something worth 60,000. You’re getting something worth may be 20. If you spend 120,000, you’re getting something that’s worth a lot more.”

Liz: That’s where the real home renovation investment comes in.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah. They’re so over the moon delighted with it.

Liz: That’s great. That’s awesome.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah. Now, they just need Influx because their dealing with a modern small space, and they need a little bit of innovation to make it all work in the living room.

Liz: Oh, that’s perfect. Okay. Going back to your philosophy on Homecology and we’ll talk about that in a later podcast. How would you tie home renovation investments into those principles? How would you summarize that up? What values can homeowners really take from that?

Moneca Kaiser: Whether inadvertently or intentionally, our homes are truly monuments to our beliefs and our values. Clients come to me with pages and pages of magazine clippings, and house clippings, and articles they have saved about all the different elements they want in their home, that’s wonderful. Ask yourself why? Why do you want that cozy, window seat? Where one of your kids, you can curl up with one of your children and read them a storybook. Why do you want your kitchen to be big enough that they can do homework, and you can watch where they are and stuff? We really need to start asking ourselves not what should this look like, but how do we want to live? What kind of privacy do we need? What kind of communal space do we need? What kind of flexibility do we need? This is the conversation we have to start having. It’s not so much about what it looks like, but what does it feel like?

Liz: Right. This has been great Moneca. I always love learning more stuff. It’s honestly been a pleasure speaking with you.

Moneca Kaiser: Yeah, you too. It’s going to be fun.

Liz: All right.

Moneca Kaiser: It’s a start of a beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Liz:

Thanks again.

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