New Visitors Privacy Policy Sponsorship Contact Us Media
Baby Boomers Family Green Home and Auto In Critical Condition Just Starting Out Lifestyle Money
- advertisement -
News & Advice Compare Rates Calculators
Rate Alerts  |  Glossary  |  Help
Mortgage Home
Auto CDs &
Retirement Checking &
Taxes Personal

What's hot, what's not in housing -- page 2

Entertainment rooms. In the entertainment center, buyers want all the toys, says Conine. "As much as they can afford. And with the lower interest rates, they can afford a little more."

- advertisement -

First floor master suite. Also known as "master on the main," this style is especially popular with baby boomers who are planning ahead. "People are 45 years old and going, 'When I retire I don't want to climb those steps,'" says Koestner. He sees buyers looking ahead 15 to 30 years to the time the mortgage is finally paid off with an eye toward what their needs might be then.

Ranches are hot for the same reason, says Michael V. Sajdyk, director of marketing for Davis Homes, based in Indianapolis. Buyers are saying, "Why do I need a second floor if I can do it all on one floor?"

Luxurious master bathrooms. Separate tubs and showers are a must. But for many buyers the emphasis is shifting from a jetted tub to an oversized shower with two or more heads.

No longer exclusive to high-end homes, "Now you're seeing them in mid-range homes," says Koestner.

Look for lots of tile, marble and multiple heads in the shower. "Showers are the big thing right now," says Degen. "People realize, 'I take a bath four times a year, but I take a shower every day so I might as well make it nice.'"

Still, especially in some regions, the bathroom is no longer No. 1 on the buyer's list. "It's still pretty glamorous," says Conine. "But I'm sure they've peaked in some areas". The trade-off: closets.

"You can never have enough storage."

Low maintenance. "We're seeing empty nesters who want a more carefree lifestyle and less square footage," says Conine. Many are looking at patio homes, town houses or houses with less total space but more goodies.

"They want the bells and whistles in the new house that they had to sacrifice for space when they were younger," says Sajdyk, whose company builds largely in the $70,000 to $180,000 price range.

And everyone is interested in a house that they don't have to spend time and money maintaining. Look for lots of floors made of tile, woods and even colored concrete, says Conine. Buyers are attracted to the "durability and adaptability" of these surfaces. "And you can always buy a new rug and throw it on the floor."

On the exterior, this translates to low maintenance building products like brick and certain types of siding. And sometimes even to a smaller yard.

"That's why so many couples today are looking at townhouses or row houses," says Richard F. Gaylord, a Realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. "They want a place to eat [outside] and let the dog out, but they don't want a lot of work attached to it."

Decorative lighting. Both inside and out, buyers are looking for attractive light sources in kitchens, baths and family rooms, and lots of them.

Natural products. Wood floors, granite, marble or stone countertops, solid wood doors and wider molding are all popular features, says Lee. "People are looking for higher quality natural products. These things are getting more and more important."

So, too, are "green" building materials. "There's a big push for green-built homes where we aren't pillaging the environment to supply our housing needs," says Lee.

Places to play. Buyers are willing to make do with small lots, provided there are parks or recreation facilities nearby. If not, they will want "a pool in the yard, a spa in the yard or a play area for [the] children," says Gaylord, a regional vice president with the National Association of Realtors.

Fireplaces. "It's pretty much expected," says Lee. "For the most part, people want that option." Depending on where you live and how much your home is worth, a double-sided fireplace, especially in the kitchen/great room area, is trendy.

Traditional architecture. Buyers are returning to the comfortable, familiar styles of their youth. "The post-modern styling is gone," says Degen. In the South and Southwest, traditional might mean stucco or adobe. In the rest of the country, Colonial, Victorian, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival are big, he says.

So what is today's version of shag carpet and avocado-green kitchen? What's "out" varies with the climate and price range. Some trends definitely seem to be waning, including formal living rooms, whirlpool tubs, wall-to-wall carpet throughout the whole house and any garage not big enough for at least two cars. "A place for storing the toys is really important," says Lee.

Strangely enough, even though living styles have gotten much more casual, formal dining rooms are a must for many buyers. "They still have grandma's dining room set and they don't want to get rid of it," says Isgro-Grant, a regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

Homes have gotten bigger, says Degen. One industry survey found that from 1980 to 1999, square footage increased by about 16 percent. That means the average home went from about 2,000 square feet to a little more than 2,300 square feet.

But during that same period, the average lot size decreased by 6 percent -- from about one-third of an acre down to about one-quarter of an acre, Degen says.

In northern Virginia, F. Gary Garczynski has seen lots shrink from a minimum of a quarter acre in the 1970s to "half that" currently.

"I think that's occurring in a lot of areas where ground is at a premium, says Garczynski, a developer and the immediate past president of the National Association of Home Builders. He's also noticed a wider interest "in environmentally sensitive green building."

Some real estate watchers make the connection between ever larger homes and ever shrinking interest rates. "Twenty years ago, interest rates were 18 to 20 percent and smaller houses were in," says Myra Zollinger, partner with Coldwell Banker Realty Center in Chapel Hill. Today, she says, people want a large kitchen, large bathrooms and "lots of light."

That is probably one reason eight to 10-foot ceilings are popular. But they are also being more careful with the space they buy. In many regions, vaulted ceilings -- except for the great room -- are on their way out, according to real estate professionals and builders. Instead, home buyers opt for plans that take that space and give them an extra room.

Trends in new homes can vary widely, depending on the region. In New England, Yankee buyers are less impressed with elaborate bathrooms, says Phipps. Instead, they'd rather have closet space. "I think that in New England, sensibility of function [is] above all else," he says. But, especially as outsiders move to the area, he adds, "it is changing."

Likewise, in the northeast a wide open lot with no trees could be a tough sell, while in the Midwest, it might not be an issue.

But when buyers desire trees, they want them full-grown, says Lee. "They aren't willing to wait any longer," he says. "They want trees that are already 15 to 20 feet high -- an instant neighborhood."

And while detached garages are cold and unpopular in the northern climes, they are flying off the market in the West and Southwest, where buyers often turn them into studio or office space, says Degen.

And in the Midwest and Southern California, whirlpool tubs in the master bath are still popular, while the trend in the rest of the country seems to favor oversized showers.

In the South -- and especially Florida -- buyers are looking for self-contained communities that offer recreation, such as a golf course, pool, tennis and a clubhouse. And gated communities are big. "If they have families, they want to feel comfortable that their kids can ride their bikes," says RE/MAX's Boring.


Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

-- Posted: July 7, 2003




Looking for more stories like this? We'll send them directly to you!'s corrections policy
Print   E-mail

National Mortgage Rates
Rates may include points.
30 yr fixed mtg 3.82%
15 yr fixed mtg 3.05%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.19%

  Calculate your monthly payment  
  How much house can you afford?  
  Fixed or adjustable rate: Which is right for you?  

Mortgage Basics
Follow the process from house hunting
to closing.
How much can I afford?
How much is my payment?
What documents do I need?
What is a home inspection?
What is the closing?
Can I remove PMI?

Mortgage rates in your area  
Graph rate trends  
Credit scoring  
Mortgage basics

- advertisement -
- advertisement -

About Bankrate | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Online Media Kit | Partnerships | Investor Relations | Press Room | Contact Us | Sitemap
NYSE: RATE | RSS Feeds |

* Mortgage rate may include points. See rate tables for details. Click here.
* To see the definition of overnight averages click here. ®, Copyright © 2015 Bankrate, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Terms of Use.