Sustainable, Social and Simple

2014-01-18T19:41:00Z Sustainable, Social and SimpleBy Alexandra Gallucci CTW Features
January 18, 2014 7:41 pm  • 

The three L’s of real estate are giving way to three S’s

Location, location, location – still hugely important when it comes to buying real estate. Architects and homebuilders, though, say that three more factors are coming to the forefront.

A newly released survey by the American Institute of Architects shows that homeowners prefer community-driven, walkable neighborhoods with contemporary home exteriors.

“With a revival in interest in urban living, there has been a marked transition in what people are looking for in their communities,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a recent press release.

The AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey evaluated the third quarter of 2013, focusing on trends in neighborhoods and community design. The survey also found that the housing market is recovering in nearly every sector.

Infill development topped the list of most important community design elements. Easy access to retail, transportation, entertainment, employment is vital to enticing would-be residents to urban communities, Baker says.

The survey also evaluated the popularity of a variety of home exterior features such as: low-maintenance exterior materials, front porches, windows and sustainable roofing, contemporary design, simpler exterior detailing and single story homes.

“We’re seeing people build smaller homes,” says Matt Risinger, president of Risinger Homes, a building and remodeling company in Austin, Texas.

While the use of low-maintenance exterior materials was most preferred, the largest increases from 2012 figures were in windows and sustainable roofing, as well as contemporary design.

To Risinger’s clients, a low energy bill is appealing, so it’s no surprise that the AIA survey reflected an increase in the use of green home materials, such as sustainable roofing products and solar reflective, cool roofs.

The use of windows on home exteriors is also growing in popularity and showed a 10 percent increase from 2012 figures.

“For the Baby Boomer generation, there’s more focus on the quality of their home. It’s about building homes smaller, better and more efficient,” Risinger says.

In the Midwest, the trend is similar. “They’re looking for ranches, one floor, all the utilities on the same level, wider stairways, wider doorways, they’re trying to eliminate stairs,” says Guy Lipovsek of Brillo Home Improvements, a residential and commercial remodeling firm in Milwaukee.

Clients have a desire to live in their homes as they age, rather than move into nursing homes, Lipovsek says.

Low-maintenance products stand at the top of the list of popular features for home exteriors, according to the AIA survey. Both Risinger and Lipovsek say they’ve seen a rise in the use of low-maintenance products – such as synthetic siding, and brick and stone exteriors – in the homes that they’ve built.

The residential housing market is recovering, as reported by residential architects. Of the respondents, 40 percent indicated an increase in their firm’s billings over the preceding quarter.

“I think it’s confirming other trends that we’re seeing, that the residential market has turned around pretty nicely and pretty sharply and it’s got a lot of momentum behind it. And it’s likely to continue,” Baker says.

The housing recovery has followed a pattern of improvement by sector. Condos and townhouses and vacation and second homes have been the slowest to recover, mainly due to overdevelopment before the market collapse in 2008, Baker says.

In terms of regional growth, the market is likely to see the most growth in the South and Western U.S., due to population growth.

Based upon housing forecasts, a 25 percent increase in 2014 in the level of production, as well as a 10 percent increase in spending on home improvement is predicted, according to Baker.

He says, “I think most economists are looking at the housing market as one of the strongest sectors in the economy this coming year.”

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