Non-Traditional Living

The traditional single-family home in a trendy neighborhood near a good school is still thought of as the American dream, but it’s actually not for everyone.

NOCO Style talked to three local property owners who selected alternatives, including property owners with rental income that pays the mortgage, empty nesters who downsized while increasing space for hobbies and a couple who found a way to run their small businesses where they live.

Today’s real estate market is tough for just about everyone: Rising interest rates have scared off both buyers and sellers, low inventory continues to be a constraint for those looking to purchase a home and sellers’ own low rates have essentially locked them into their current homes because they don’t want to pay double the interest they pay now.

“It is much slower than it has been the past couple of years,” says Meagan Griesel, Realtor with The Group. “It’s hard for a lot of people to upgrade their home situation because home prices shot up so much before the rates went up. A lot of people don’t want to give up their three-percent loans. People are moving for lifestyle changes, but I also see a lot more people holding onto the home they’re moving from because they don’t want to lose that rate.”

With these constraints, some are looking for alternatives that allow them to own their home and put money back into their pockets, while others want office space where they can work as well as live.

“I also notice a lot more people who already own their homes building ADUs,” Griesel says. ADUs (attached dwelling units) can help supplement their mortgage with rental income or offer flexibility for multigenerational living, which is a particularly attractive option given our region’s skyrocketing rental market.

Country living that pays for itself

Danny Crisafulli always sees the potential real estate has to further his financial goals, even if he happens to be living in it.

Crisafulli and his wife, Dee, started with flipping houses, then they switched to owning rentals. Today, he sells real estate full time at Roots Real Estate, and his clients tend to be like-minded individuals looking for a unique living situation that also allows them to make money.

“I just don’t want to be in a 30-year debt cycle,” he says.

His opportunity to break free came when a two-acre property off Laporte Avenue that was owned by friends came on the market. His wife, who had grown up on an orchard farm in Ohio, longed for a couple wide-open acres. He longed for the opportunity to flex his building and design muscles.

They dove into a renovation of the main house, which existed for years but had never been set on a foundation. Then they built a carriage house that now serves as a month-to-month rental, and later they added a small cabin that serves as a short-term rental.

What they ended up with is space to raise their two daughters in a country setting—Dee even operates a small tree farm on it—and a mortgage paid by rent from the two additional units.

With birds chirping in the background, Crisafulli explains that the country setting allows for a different pace of life, one where neighbors get together for talks and borrow each other’s tractors. “Everyone helps each other,” he says.

The Crisafulli’s cabin in the city they transformed into an Airbnb. Photos by Next Door Photos.

His short-term rental also draws visitors who have an appreciation for the rural life: “There [are] not a lot of Airbnbs on this side of town. But it is a nice mix. You can mountain bike from here or head downtown.”

A revolving door of new guests every week may not appeal to everyone, but the Crisafullis find it a perfect way to reach their financial goals.

“There are certainly moments that are not ideal, but nothing out of the ordinary for managing rental properties,” he says.

Challenges include maintenance calls at odd hours and calls when a guest can’t operate something in the home.

“The biggest challenge for a while was teaching our young kids they couldn’t just walk into the rental any time they wanted,” Crisafulli says with a laugh. “That made for some funny scenarios.”

The Crisafullis make it clear in the listing that their family lives on the property. This filters out guests who want more privacy, but that’s not as many as you might think.

“Most of our guests enjoy saying hello to the kids running around and giving our dog and cat some love,” he says.

Crisafulli believes there is a growing number of people looking for homes they can offer as rentals, just like the ones his family has benefitted from.

“As real estate becomes more and more expensive in Northern Colorado, what we are seeing as affordable housing is changing. Today, a one-bedroom condo is the new starter home,” he says. “But people are always interested in investment real estate. It can be a win.”

D and Bev Walker in front of their three-car garage with a 900-square-foot carriage house above it, and a look inside their living room.

You take the big house

Another Loveland couple, Bev and D Walker, decided to downsize by over 3,000 square feet after their two kids had flown the coop.

They came across a double lot with a 1,100-square-foot home in downtown Loveland and immediately saw the advantages. D drew upon his experience as a project manager at HighCraft Builders, where quality remodels in unique spaces are a specialty. He and Bev, who works in the building department for the City of Loveland, renovated the original house and turned it into a rental property, then built a three-car garage with a 900-square-foot carriage house above it on the double lot to serve as their new home.

Moving from such a large house to a much smaller one wasn’t hard due to D’s design know-how and ability to maximize every square inch of the space. The home has two bedrooms and one bathroom, with hard surfaces throughout that keep maintenance and cleaning simple.

The Walkers knew they wanted a home gym that offered plenty of amenities. To accomplish this, they added a bathroom in the two-bay garage and used scissor trusses to support the second floor, which meant they didn’t need posts to hold it up. The wide-open space allowed them to build the home gym of their dreams, with plenty of room for their bikes and other outdoor equipment. Bev parks her car in the third bay of the garage.

“This works perfectly for me and my wife,” D says. “We haven’t regretted downsizing at all; it allows us more freedom.”

In fact, the two travel often to see their grandchildren and appreciate being able to walk to their favorite restaurants in downtown Loveland.

Short of holding large family functions, the space offers them everything they need, D says. It even includes a small yard that satisfies their itch to get outside and work. Even better, the other house is currently rented to their son.

Redefining work from home

Christina Gressianu rented studio space for her photography businesses until she saw the retail building across the street go up for sale. She and her partner, Vi Wickam, a fiddle instructor and web developer, decided to live the loft life and made an offer.

The arrangement was a far cry from their small home surrounded by nature west of Loveland near Devil’s Backbone. However, it allowed them to run their businesses out of their home, save on studio space and even upgrade their living area.

The building, which sits on a block off busy 4th Street, has 2,500 square feet of retail space below and a whopping 2,500 square feet of living space above. In contrast, their west Loveland home was only 1,500 square feet.

The loft features a private walk-up entrance from the street into an open area with large living, kitchen and dining spaces. Natural light pours in through the windows that run along the south and west sides of the building. The loft also features two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the primary bedroom suite has its own balcony. They even have two garage spaces below.

Christina Gressianu and Vi Wickam’s 2,500-square-foot loft.

Currently, Wickam runs his online marketing and web development business in the corner of the loft living space and teaches fiddle on the first level, where Gressianu has her photography studio.

While the investment was a no-brainer (the building has at least doubled in value already), Gressianu says the entire building needed fire suppression added, and maintenance on a 120-year-old building is always full of surprises. Nevertheless, the couple brought their vision to life.

“Eight years later and we love the views we get from our loft; it keeps us active walking the dog up and down the stairs,” says Gressianu. “And it keeps us both involved in our community, which we enjoy.”

After moving in, they decided to rent out their west Loveland house as a short-term rental. They later sold it to buy two additional downtown properties to use as short-term rentals for more supplemental income.

Gressianu admits loft living may not be for everyone. After all, you have little control over the development that happens around you, which the couple has already experienced with a five-story development that will be built next to their building in the near future.

However, they have no regrets about their unique living situation in downtown Loveland. Like many residents finding ways to bring down the cost of living, they find comfort in being able to work from home while enjoying a space that is truly theirs.