Smaller houses are in demand and US homeowners are willing to remove some of yesterday's most popular rooms - such as home theaters - in order to accommodate changing lifestyles, said consumer experts.
Buyers today want cost-effective architecture, plans that focus on spaces, said Heather McCune, director of marketing for Bassenian Lagoni Architects.
For many buyers, their next home will be smaller than their current one, said Carol Lavender, president of the Lavender Design Group. Large kitchens that are open to the family living area and bathrooms with big tubs are design features that will resonate today. "It's all about family togetherness - casual living, entertaining and flexible spaces," she said.
Paul Cardis, CEO of Avid Ratings, which conducts an annual survey of homebuyer preferences, said there are some must-have features:
Large kitchens, with an island. "If you're going to spend design dollars, spend them where people want them - spend them in the kitchen," McCune said. Granite countertops are a must for move-up buyers but for others "they are on the bubble," Cardis said.
Energy-efficient appliances, high- efficiency insulation and high window efficiency. Among the "green" features touted in homes, these are the ones buyers value most. While large windows had been a major draw, energy concerns are giving customers pause on those, he said. The use of recycled or synthetic materials is only borderline desirable.
Home office/study. People would much rather have this space than, say, a formal dining room. "People are feeling like they can dine out again and so the dining room has become tradable," Cardis said. And the home theater may also be headed for the scrap heap.
Main-floor master suite. This is a must feature for empty-nesters and certain other buyers, and appears to be getting more popular in general.
Outdoor living room. The popularity of outdoor spaces continues to grow. And the idea of an outdoor room is even more popular than an outdoor cooking area, meaning people are willing to spend more time outside.
Ceiling fans. They're more energy- efficient than air-conditioners.
Master-suite soaker tubs. Whirlpools are still desirable for many homebuyers, Cardis said, but "they clearly went down a notch," in the latest survey. Traditional clawfoot baths and oversize showers with seating areas are also moving up in popularity.
MARKET WATCH (MCT)