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Housing design trends of the past and future

Want to avoid owning a white elephant when it's time to sell your home? Know what housing design features have lasting value, then renovate with an eye to the future and you'll make more when your home hits the market.

The U.S. Census Department's 30-year report on housing trends, which runs from 1975 through 2005, tracks the changes that shaped today's neighborhoods. Among the biggest losers in housing design: split-levels such as the one television's "Brady Bunch" called home.

Housing trends
Housing designs have changed a lot over the last three decades, as chronicled in today's television reruns. For a real retro experience, check out Bankrate's slideshow on housing trends.
A throwback to the past
The very Brady house design
I (don't) love Lucy's kitchen design
Meeting George Jetson's house plans
Greener acres
Just like Bill Cosby

That very Brady house design
What was trendy when the Bradys enhanced their space with shag carpeting and gold and avocado decor, has given way to the modern preference for size: higher ceilings, multiple garages and more square footage.

Also hot over the past 30 years are ways to keep cool -- homes without central air conditioning, especially in the steamy South, aren't even on the radar these days. There's also little demand for places with fewer than three bedrooms and only one bath. While the Brady kids may have brushed six sets of teeth in one lonely bathroom, even today's singles crave an extra toilet and sink in their house design.

But the Bradys had one advantage over most modern homes -- a huge yard. Today's mammoth houses sit on smaller lots, one of the trends noted in the Census report. 

If the Bradys had played it smart, they would have anticipated changes in taste and updated their home before little Cindy went off to college. Mike, an architect by trade, really should have been able to draw up the necessary blueprints and personally oversee the remodeling. He and homemaker wife Carol could have retired and downsized with a fatter wallet.

I (don't) love Lucy's kitchen design
Back in the 50s when Lucy and Desi rented an apartment from the Mertzes, Lucy's kitchen was smaller than most contemporary bathrooms. But when they eventually bought a home (for which they made a $500 down payment), one big draw was the spacious kitchen. It's still the way to a buyer's heart.

"Everybody wants luxurious kitchens," says Gopal Ahluwalia. "You can't sell a house unless the kitchen's upscale."

Ahluwalia should know. He's the head of research economics for the National Association of Home Builders, which makes staying on top of housing trends serious business.

Ahluwalia predicts that home size probably won't change. But new home construction will add more competition for the buyer's dollar. The solution, Ahluwalia says, is to make every improvement count. That's why focusing on the kitchens and baths usually pays off. Remember -- the word is "usually," because in some cases, it doesn't. There's such a thing as overdoing it.

"I know of people with a $95,000 home and they spent another $95,000 making a big white kitchen," Ahluwalia says. "I said, 'Do you realize you won't recover your money?'"

Kitchen improvements help snag offers, but to sink more money into a house than the neighborhood can support won't help you turn a tidy profit. Instead, upgrade within reason.

Do the same with bathrooms. Ahluwalia predicts every bedroom in a home will soon have its own bathroom. It makes sense to add another if your home has less than two and a half baths. "In bathrooms, two and a half to three will be the minimum," he says.

Meet George Jetson's house plans
While robotic maids and daily space travel aren't yet part of the fabric of everyday life, at least two housing trends are predicted to grow in a futuristic direction: the move toward "green" upgrades and high-tech home improvements.

Andrew Gutowski, vice-president of Waterford Development LLC, advises homeowners to keep their eyes peeled for ultracool environmentally friendly products when it's time to replace siding or other home or garden materials. Gutowski says lots of new products have already hit the market and predicts an "increase in firms that provide environmentally sensitive services to homeowners."

 
 
Next: "Homes from yesteryear versus tomorrow ..."
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 RESOURCES
Remodeling trends stick to the script
2006 Guide to Home Improvement
Remodeling room by room
 TOP MORTGAGE STORIES
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