What ‘Great Bones’ Really Means

“This house has “Great Bones.” As a real estate professional, you’ve heard the phrase countless times. You’ve probably even uttered it more than once. But what do we really mean when we say a house has Great Bones?

It’s a feature that all buyers want, but few can define and real estate Agents seem to be in disagreement with what the feature means to them. Understanding how to identify qualities that add up to the coveted “Great Bones” feeling can help you set your listing apart.  Recently, Architectural Digest’s Lindsey Mather asked a handful of designers to get specific about the qualities that give a home this elusive quality.  Here are a few distinct items they look for although I’ve given my interpretation of what “Great Bones” means to me following these three features.

Good flow: Check how it feels to simply walk through the home. Do the rooms make sense next to each other, or do they seem choppy or lopsided? Alabama decorator William McLure says architects and designers often rely on symmetry and mirrored design elements to offer a feeling of balance to residential spaces. “It makes the layout of the house not look like an afterthought,” he says. “You want rooms that look well planned and that structurally make sense.”

All the little things: Here’s where your macro lens comes in handy: The intricate details and architectural features that make a listing stand out in the eyes of buyers are often too small to see in a wide-angle property tour photo. Fancy plaster, original fireplaces, bespoke ceiling beams, thick moldings, and vintage lighting and hardware are all worth the time to fawn over in your listing descriptions. Also, any windows that are out-of-the ordinary can really help a place stand out as different.

Plenty of headroom: Sometime we use “Great Bones” to refer to elements that are hard to change, according to New York–based interior designer Alyssa Kapito. “A room or a house with “Great Bones” for us has high ceilings, tall windows, and is generally well proportioned,” she says. “Everything decorative can be rather easily switched, but it’s quite difficult and expensive to get those three items on your checklist if they aren’t already there.” Make sure you check for drop ceilings, though. “Great Bones” sometimes hide under tiles and panels.

“Great Bones” means none of the things referenced above to me. Really ? Do these features strike you as “Great Bones”? “Great Bones” to me refers to the quality of construction materials and structural elements of the home that are not necessarily visible….much like the bones in our body providing good foundation, but not necessarily seen. Some examples are 2×4 vs. 2×6 framing stick built, high grade lumber, steel framing, re-bar in slab foundations, earthquake strapping, limit prefab roofing material and reinforce those materials, 50 year comp roof or life time tile, plaster rather than drywall, etc. Simply stated…It’s about quality construction and quality materials that define the terminology “Great Bones”.. Simply stated…It’s about quality construction and quality materials that define the terminology “Great Bones”.


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