The upcoming Venice/Santa Monica Modern Home Tour is curated by Brian Linder, a double-threat licensed architect and realtor, who in his own words “practices architecture by selling it.” Brian has built his real estate practice, which operates out of both Austin and Beverly Hills, around a concept he calls The Value of Architecture™, based on the notion that architectural design adds significant value to real property in terms of intangible lifestyle benefits as well as real value in the real estate marketplace. His website of the same name is not only a resource of real estate listings, but a place of inspiration for the art of architecture and design.
We sat down with Brian to chat about his dual professions, his thoughts on the current state of contemporary architecture in both Austin and LA, and the multi-faceted value of architecture.
Q&A w/ Brian Linder
You are both a licensed architect and a realtor. Which profession led to the other, and how did you come to merge these two interests?
I have been interested in architecture since I was a little kid. In college, I followed a mentor’s advice and decided to get a business degree, instead of an art or architecture degree. I worked in corporate America for a while after college (as a management consultant at Deloitte and as a retail sales analyst at Pepsi), and decided to go back to architecture school when it became clear that world wasn’t for me.
When I completed my master of architecture degree, I got out and began working as a construction superintendent building homes designed by architects, and I have always been drawn to the notion of the architect as master builder, perhaps inspired by reading The Fountainhead as a teenager. (By the way, I’m also a licensed general contractor in California, in addition to being a licensed architect in two states and a broker in three.)
For me, selling architecture is just another part of the process. As an architecture broker, I deal with marketing the finished product for sale, although I frequently introduce property owners to architects and builders along the way. I see selling real estate as the business side of architecture. In short, I tell people that I practice architecture by selling it!
Your website, thevalueofarchitecture.com, highlights more than just home listings. How do you select content for the site, and what can your readers expect as far as architectural content for your site?
We see ourselves as a resource for all things related to design-oriented real estate. Yes – we feature our own listings for sale, both so-called off-market “pocket listings” and properties we are actively marketing on the multiple listing service. In addition, we treat the listings side of our site as a blog, and we post architectural properties listed by other agents (of course giving them proper credit) when we become aware of them. In this way, we are a resource for buyers and other agents who want a single place to find architect-designed properties for sale.
In addition, our online gallery is devoted to the art of architecture, and we feature the work of architects and designers we admire. This work is specifically not for sale, but is rather a catalog of interesting design practitioners and their work. In addition, our blog is a stream of consciousness highlighting interesting design-oriented topics that typically have nothing to do with selling real estate – just visually stimulating topics like architectural getaways, info about upcoming home tours, bridges as art, cabins as art, architectural additions, sport architecture, and so forth – fun reading!
Feature properties our clients currently have listed for sale, along with unique properties listed by other realtors. When we represent a distinctive property, we typically commission an architectural photographer to capture the work on film and frequently utilize archival images by the masterful practitioners of the time. We bring our own expertise to describe spatial experiences with the written word.
The site also serves as a blog, a web-based journal where we record our observations of the real estate market and capture other agents’ listings that have caught our eye for their design merit. We also make our site available to brokers outside the local area, bringing exceptional properties to the attention of a wider design-oriented audience at no additional cost to their clients.
The Gallery is devoted to the non-commercial aspect of what we do: promoting Los Angeles architects’ work as art. In most cases, the work featured here is not for sale, but it is representative of architects and designers we admire. Design professionals find this venue advantageous, as do our real estate clients. For designers, it’s free advertising and opportunity to showcase work for the thousands of visitors to our site. For our clients, the forum is a vehicle for helping select designers for new projects. Frequently in the course of helping our clients buy and sell homes, we recommend local architects, contractors, and subcontractors.
On the website you will find a list of the preferred vendors we work with in various categories: home inspectors, appraisers, lenders, contractors, real estate attorneys, movers, etc.
Your company is called “The Value of Architecture.” What is the value of architecture, and how does your background in architecture create a different experience for your clients?
The Value of Architecture is our registered trademark, and it encapsulates the notion that good design adds value – in terms of both tangible and more intangible notions. Specifically, living in a work of art (living in architecture) is really a kind of spiritual experience, a life-enhancing experience that translates into positive lifestyle benefits.
In addition, we see that good design adds value in the real estate marketplace: well-designed homes command an often substantial premium, architectural homes tend to appreciate more rapidly and tend to hold their value in a declining market (compared to their more generic counterparts). Buyers and sellers who are interested in unique properties – properties with design integrity – come to us because they know we speak their language – we’re kindred spirits in the world of good design. We know what a buyer means when she says she’s looking for a mid-century modern home, and we often inherit such clients from other realtors who had no idea what the buyer was referring to. When representing sellers, we can virtually guarantee the highest possible price for their architect-designed home, because we make the market for architecture. We cast our marketing net out to a much wider national and international pool of prospective buyers. While architectural properties comprise less than 2.0% of the overall real estate market, architecture is virtually 100% of our market. For design enthusiasts, we are a welcome breath of fresh air – we read Dwell magazine and go to Modern Home Tours ourselves, and we hit it off with our clients – we get it!
What is your opinion of the current state of contemporary architecture in Austin?
On the upswing! Austin is a great place for modern architecture for a variety of reasons. It’s got a great architecture school that’s regularly ranked in the top 10, which attracts talented students from around the world, many of whom stay in Austin and set up practices. In addition, Austin has attracted an open-minded population, the kind of people who tend to appreciate art and architecture. There is also a rich history of good design in Austin, ranging from historic homes from the western frontier to the beautiful craftsmanship of the 1920’s and 1930’s, then significant mid-century modern buildings, in addition to work (both traditional and modern) by living architects and designers practicing today. For a city this size, we have an extraordinary amount of great architecture and exciting cutting-edge work by well-known designers. On the real estate side, we see this work commanding ever-increasing premiums. In 78704 alone, we’re seeing work by Burton Baldridge selling at $1,350,000 or Kevin Alter at $600 a square foot, breaking records at every turn. The market for good design is alive and well in Austin!
How did we get here, and where do you see it going?
Up, up, and away! More and better designs will continue to get built here, and the prices people pay will continue to rise faster than the generic market.
You also have an office in the Los Angeles area, where you have been our partner for three Modern Home Tours. Can you provide some insight on the differences between California modern and what we are seeing in Austin now?
Los Angeles has a lot of great architecture – but it’s still only 2.0% of the total. There are a lot of truly ugly buildings in both Los Angeles and Austin! But because of the size of the population in southern California, that 2.0% is comprised of thousands and thousands of homes – probably tens of thousands. Here in Austin, we’re talking hundreds or thousands. With such a large number of architect-designed homes in southern California, we’re seeing a lot of very sculptural designs – where the form sometimes comes before the function. There was a great show at the Museum of Contemporary Architecture last year called “A New Sculpturalism” and it was an exhibit of truly wonderful sculpture that you live and work in. It was architecture, but some of it was almost uninhabitable.
In Austin, the design tends to be less sculptural and more functional, which is okay!
Are you new to Austin or the greater LA area, or are you considering moving there? If so, or even if you just want to keep up with Brian Linder’s thoughts on architecture as well as the latest modern listings, we strongly encourage to sign up for the TOVA mailing list.