Who can't sell a house in nine months? That's what my husband and I thought 10 years ago, when we'd finally finished renovating an old home...

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Who can’t sell a house in nine months? That’s what my husband and I thought 10 years ago, when we’d finally finished renovating an old home.

We had found a lot and a plan in a beach community. We put our money down and gave the OK to start building. The new house would take nine months to finish. Meanwhile, we’d sell the old one. Only we didn’t.

Although the old house had oodles of curb appeal, a desirable location, upscale finishes and plenty of square footage, it also had a fatal flaw.

“It doesn’t flow,” our real estate agent said.

“What do you mean it doesn’t flow?” I asked. “When we first bought it, rainwater flowed right through the roof.”

“I mean the rooms don’t flow, one to another,” she clarified.

When we finally sold the home three years later, flow knocked $200,000 off the price compared to what similar-sized homes in the neighborhood were selling for. We learned an expensive lesson.

So listen up.

Flow Lesson No. 1

People want a backyard off the kitchen or family room.

This house backed up to a hillside (read cliff), so had no backyard. It did have a secluded side yard off the master, which meant the kids dragged their friends through our bedroom to get to the swing set.

Flow Lesson No. 2

People want traditional floor plans, with the entrance on the ground level, and kids’ rooms upstairs.

Our main floor was on the second story, where the tops of 40-year-old ash trees surrounded you; the secondary bedrooms were at ground level. I thought the trade-off of walking up 27 steps from the driveway to the front door was worth the feeling of living in a tree house. Ultimately, only the squirrels and I thought this romantic.

Flow Lesson No. 3

People want convenience.

Younger buyers, who could physically manage the steps, had families, so they wanted that yard off the kitchen. Empty nesters didn’t mind the side yard, but facing the realities of aging, didn’t want to hassle with steps.

When our new home was finished, we found renters for the unsold house.

Once in the new house, however, I finally understood flow. The new floor plan had what designers call the right “adjacencies:” a kitchen that opens onto the family room, access from the garage into the house, kids’ bedrooms upstairs near the master, a trap door in the laundry room leading to a whiskey cellar.

And I learned that a home’s layout dictates — way more than you think — how you live.

Remember that next time you remodel, add space or buy a new house.

Here, according to Lee Golanoski, an architect and director of design for Toll Brothers, one of the country’s largest luxury home builders, is what to consider:

Separate public from private. A good floor plan divides public spaces (dining room, living room, entry and office) from private spaces (kitchen, family room, bedrooms.) Basically, you want to feel you can bring someone into your living room, and they won’t see the messy kitchen or unmade beds.

Keep resale in mind. Don’t design a space so unique that no one else wants it. That means no sunken hot tubs in the living room. If you’re going to buck tradition, do it with your hair, not your home.

Consider the path through the house. What you have to go through to get somewhere else matters. One common flow flaw is having the stairway to the basement in the utility room. You have to go through a negative space to get to a nicer one. In this case, to finish the basement, move the staircase, or renovate the laundry room to make it look like a landing.

• Figure in furniture. When drawing a floor plan, draw in furniture. This will help you locate windowsill heights, doors, closets, fireplaces, outlets and clearances, like the way doors will swing, so they don’t smack your antique hutch.

Know what must go where. Today, kitchens open onto breakfast nooks and family rooms. Living rooms and dining rooms should adjoin. Although a small powder room off the mudroom is OK, don’t put a bathroom directly off the kitchen. That’s funky.

Marni Jameson’s At Home column is an occasional feature in digs. She can be reached through www.marnijameson.com.