The Most (and Least) Likely Features in New Homes Today

If you’ve been dreaming about that brand-new house with the outdoor kitchen, the two-story foyer, and the luxurious master bathroom, complete with a whirlpool tub—well, good luck finding one.

Published by Rachel Stults on

In prerecession times, developers had wrested such sexy amenities from the realm of luxury building into the everyman’s (and woman’s) home. But today? Homebuilders across the nation have decided to skip the sexy, cutting out those kinds of features in favor of efficient, organized, and pragmatic ones.

“Ten years ago we were talking about outdoor kitchens with a fancy wine rack,” says Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders. “Now we’re talking about a closet. It’s not sexy, but that’s what people want.”

The NAHB surveyed nearly 400 builders earlier this year about the features they were most and least likely to include in homes and communities in 2015. In addition to outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, sunrooms, main-level carpeting, and media rooms are on the decline. On the rise: walk-in closets, laundry rooms, energy-efficient windows and appliances, and programmable thermostats—yes, there is a green theme. It’s all about efficiency, both of time and resources.

“If a working couple is trying to get out of the house in the morning, they need a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, they need a laundry room that’s well-lit and well-organized,” Melman says. “That’s how they improve the efficiency of the household, find clothes, get organized, and hide the clutter. Do they need a whirlpool or do they need a walk-in closet with a skylight?”

Melman says that even as the economy (at least in some sectors) continues to improve, buyers are fixated on comfort and affordability. It’s part of a postrecession cultural shift toward pragmatism. We’re not settling; we’ve merely changed our expectations for new homes, and homebuilders have adjusted their creations accordingly, appealing to a segment that’s willing to forgo a two-story foyer or family room to get a better price.

According to a Pew Research survey (released in 2010, at the tail end of the recession), more than 62% of Americans said they had cut back on spending since the recession began, and 31% said they’d continue to hold down their spending even after the economy improved.

This is especially true among first-time home buyers, many of whom are millennials.

“As first-time buyers, they are unlikely to opt for elaborate outdoor features when they are scraping to come up with a down payment,” Melman says.

Their list of most and least likely features does offer a few surprises; it’s not all about the decline of luxury. Once a high-end item, granite countertops are now more popular than laminate. Builders are swapping the two-story family room for a great room. Specialty spots such as media rooms or sunrooms are being replaced by spaces that are more flexible, Melman says, especially additional bedrooms. And communities with jogging and walking trails, previously coveted, are now less popular than a two-car garage. The cost of the land, Melman says, is just too high.

Yet just because these features are less common doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on a house that includes them. All you have to do is spend more money. In places with weaker markets, you might see such features built into homes priced above $500,000. In places such as San Francisco or New York, you might get an apartment barely larger than a walk-in closet for that amount.

Features such as outdoor kitchens have slipped back into the province of the luxury buyer; you’ll still see them in high-end homes, but your average home buyers will have to be content with their Weber grill.

Below you’ll find ranked lists of most and least likely features to be included in a new home, plus those that remain perennial. The builders graded each feature on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means “not at all likely to include” and 5 means “definitely will include.”

Features least likely to be found in new homes and communities

1. Outdoor kitchen
2. Laminate countertop
3. Outdoor fireplace
4. Sunroom
5. Two-story family room
6. Media room
7. Two-story foyer
8. Walking/jogging trails
9. Whirlpool tub in master bath
10. Carpeting on main level

Features most likely to be found in new homes

1. Walk-in closet
2. Laundry room
3. Low-emission windows
4. Great room
5. Energy Star appliances
6. Energy Star windows
7. Ceiling 1st floor 9’
8. 2-car garage
9. Programmable thermostat
10. Granite countertop

Features most likely to last

  • Solar panels: “With their increasing availability and affordability, solar panels are going to be the next big thing,” Melman says.
  • Garages: “People love their garages for storage space even if they don’t put cars in them,” he says. “I think at least the two-bay garage is here to stay.”
  • Additional bedrooms: “We have boomerang children, we have aging parents, we have caregivers who live with us, so we need the extra space.”
  • Decorative aging-in-place features: They include decorative handrails in bathrooms, higher toilets, and step-free showers, Melman says.

2015 Spring Parade of Homes

See what’s up and coming in home design!

Parade of Homes

The Columbia Home Builders Association’s Parade of Homes is a biannual event that offers an opportunity to tour new homes over 2 days to get a look at what is new in home design. Homes are entered into the parade by area builders who choose to offer free access to the public to see new products and designs.

Free Event – April 25th and 26th, 2015 1pm-5pm Both Days!

The 2015 Columbia Parade of Homes is a free home show featuring the latest trends and styles in home construction.
Stop in at any of our featured homes between 1:00pm and 5:00pm on either Saturday or Sunday and see what’s new in home trends!

The Parade of Homes has amazing custom homes. View a listing and map view of the properties in the Parade of Homes here on their website.

Thinking of Selling? New Construction Will Soon Be New Competition

For the last several years, home sellers had to compete with huge inventories of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). The great news is that the supply of these properties is falling like a rock in the vast majority of housing markets. Many homeowners are now thinking of selling as the impact of this substantially discounted competition has disappeared.

A house frame on a white background. Very high resolution 3D ren

Source: Keeping Current Matters


However, every seller of an existing residential property must realize that there is a new form of competition about to hit the market: newly constructed homes.

As the economy improves, builders will again be bringing their housing developments to the market. Trulia recently reported that the purchaser, given a choice, actually prefers new construction. Here are two charts showing the results of the Trulia survey:

New Construction Competition

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of selling, perhaps you should do it now to avoid the additional competition that will come to the market later this year.

This post was originally published by The KCM Crew on Keeping Current Matters. To see the original post, click here.

Violinist Adds Violin-Shaped Pool to His Backyard

When Jay Dweck set out to add a swimming pool to his Bedford, NY home, he faced what many homeowners encounter when renovating their homes: zoning restrictions.

Violinist Adds Violin-Shaped Pool to His Backyard

“I had a limited number of feet that could be devoted to the pool,” he explained. “I wanted a pool long enough to swim laps, say 80 to 100 feet. However, given the restrictions, such a pool would have to be very narrow.”

After considering his options, Dweck started to draw the shape that would work best for his pool.

“It reminded me of a violin,” he said. Playing the instrument himself, the former Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley executive took note of his Stradivarius’ dimensions and realized it could work — he could have a violin-shaped pool in his backyard.

“The next challenge was finding someone willing to build it,” he said. Chris Cipriano of New Jersey-based Cipriano Custom Pools and Landscaping turned out to be just the guy. His company specializes in tricked-out pools with fancy lighting, slides, king-and-queen chairs and more.

Violinist Adds Violin-Shaped Pool to His Backyard

Violinist Adds Violin-Shaped Pool to His Backyard

“The trend is continuing to grow for specialty pools and water features,” Cipriano said. “Perimeter overflow, vanishing edge and all-glass tile swimming pools are very popular.”

Dweck’s pool has 440,000 individual pieces of glass tile and more than 5,600 individual strands of fiber optic lights woven into the strings of the violin. A spa sits where you would expect the chin rest to be, and black stone around the perimeter mimics the purfling on a violin.

Dweck also plans to use his programming skills to coordinate underwater lights and music piped through speakers.

Violinist Adds Violin-Shaped Pool to His Backyard

“Let’s say I play some violin piece,” he told Bloomberg Luxury, comparing the effect to the “Guitar Hero” video game. “I can just make it so that it’s like the strings are being played in the appropriate place.”

Jay Dweck in his high-tech home.

Jay Dweck in his high-tech home.

The project is part of the work of Dweck’s new company, Live Better Systems LLC.

“I am planning on using the house to continue to develop automation innovations, and as sort of a demonstration facility for Live Better Systems,” he said. As the name suggests, Dweck hopes to help bring technology into others’ homes that will improve the quality of life.

Such innovations may come with a high price, however. While a typical pool built by Cipriano costs between $300,000 and $500,000, Dweck’s pool and equipment cost about $1.5 million.

Dweck sees it all as an investment that will pay off in the future.

“I do expect the pool, as well as the integrated patio and landscaping, [to] add significant value to [my] property,” he said.

Pool photos courtesy of Cipriano Custom Pools and Landscaping.

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.


How to Fulfill Your Fantasy With a Custom Home

If you dreamed as a child of someday owning a home with your own dance studio and ballet barre, or a personal game room with a Skee-Ball machine alongside an indoor putting green, then a custom home may be your best option to making that dream come true.

How to Fulfill Your Fantasy With a Custom Home

While buying a home fulfills a big part of the American Dream, building a home to your specifications elevates the experience. Before you begin to make decisions about your future home, you will need to spend significant time learning about the custom-home building process.

Organize Your Financing

Building a custom home isn’t necessarily more expensive than buying a newly built or existing home since it’s possible to build a small custom home, but sourcing all materials on an individual basis rather than in bulk can raise the price above production homes. The important thing to understand is that your decisions about the land you buy, and the design and quality of construction you choose will impact the final price.

Financing a custom home requires a construction loan, something not all lenders offer. If you don’t already own land, you will have to finance the land purchase and then the construction. Often you will have two closings, each incurring settlement fees.

Since building a custom home is considered risky by lenders, you typically need excellent credit and a down payment of at least 20% to 25% to qualify for a construction loan. In addition, lenders typically require more cash reserves for borrowers who are building a custom home to ensure that they have funds in place for any glitches that extend the construction period.

Make sure you check into appropriate insurance, too, during the construction period.

Interview Architects and Builders

If you already have a sense of the type of home you want to build, you can begin searching for architects in your area who design similar residences. Some custom-home buyers opt to find a builder first who can then recommend an architect, while others choose to hire an architect first. There are also design/build firms that handle the entire project. No matter which route you choose it’s important to check references, interview potential partners and visit examples of their work to see the quality before you finalize your choice.

Start With Land and a Plan

If you already own land, you should meet with potential builders and architects at the site so you can discuss potential issues and plans. If you don’t own land, some builders can help you find a site or they can direct you to a REALTOR® who can help. It’s essential that your home design and land plan match: You wouldn’t want to design a residence and then find that the site you’ve purchased can’t accommodate it.

Your builder should walk the property with you and determine how much preconstruction work is required, such as the placement of utilities, a septic system and a driveway.

Consider the Neighborhood

Most people who build a custom home believe they will never sell it, but eventually you may want to move to a different area or even build another custom home. It’s always wise to consider resale value when building a home. In particular, you want to match the price range and general size of your custom home to others in the neighborhood so that your house doesn’t stand out as oversized or overpriced.

Avoid Delays and Cost Overruns

Planning your home from the foundation to the roof and every single item in between can save you time and money when you are building a custom home. Your decisions about every detail in your home should be made before construction begins so you can reduce the possibility that materials won’t be available when needed, or that you will need to rip out things already built to accommodate a change order.

Good planning and hiring a good team can make the custom-home experience as easy as dreaming.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on To see the original article, click here.

5 Ways to Dress Up Your Front Door

Ostensibly, a home’s front door is there for one reason and one reason only: to let people come and go while keeping the inside environment secure and separate from the outside. But a front door is so much more than that. It is often the first thing that draws the eye of a passerby or visitor. It also sets the style and mood of your home, welcoming guests with an air of elegance, friendliness, whimsy or warmth.

If your front door is not setting the tone you want, here are some fun, easy and rewarding ways to make it the arresting centerpiece it deserves to be.

1. Decorate it

Source: Verge Architecture

Source: Verge Architecture

There are nearly limitless possibilities for decorating your front door. You could simply paint it a different color (or colors), hang a wreath in the center or add a dramatic house number above or to the side. Other options include installing long shutters on either side or adding a playful, historic or decorative specialty door knocker. Online retailer Architectural Depot sells a wide range of knockers, from chili peppers to poodles, that are sure to make you smile when you come home at the end of a long day.

2. Replace it

A study commissioned by door manufacturer Therma-Tru found that replacing a home’s front door can increase the perceived value of the home. In the study, enhancing an entryway upped a home’s perceived value by as much as five times the cost of the new door.

Source: Zillow

Source: Zillow

When replacing your door, don’t think only about swapping one door for another — although that alone could dramatically increase the appeal of your entrance. Instead, look to enlarge the entryway by installing a door with windows on either side or above. This will add a sense of grandeur to the front of the house and create a more pleasant atmosphere inside, thanks to the added natural light.

3. Light it up

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

Source: Suzanne Tucker of Tucker & Marks Inc.

If you don’t already have lights at your front door, installing them can be a big presentation booster. If you do have lights, consider replacing them to update the look of your entry. Wall sconces are available in a myriad of designs, from traditional lanterns to sleek modern steel models. You can find thousands of sconces at online retailers such as Destination Lighting. If you have a porch, install a hanging fixture to cast a welcoming pool of light on the front door. Finally, to add dramatic flair, place outdoor spotlights on the ground and aim them at the door, so it can truly take center stage.

4. Add planters

One of the quickest ways to enhance your entryway is to set a plantercontaining a variety of different colored and textured plants and flowers on either side of the door. You can create an Old World look with vase-like cement planters, go Zen with simple geometric-glazed pots or strike a whimsical note with old tin or wooden buckets. A common approach is to place a tall plant, such as a grass, in the center of the pot, then surround it by a low-grower like ivy. If you live in a cold climate, after the growing season has passed, use the planters to display seasonal decor, such as pumpkins for Halloween or painted white branches withtwinkle lights for Christmas.

5. Go high tech

The front door isn’t necessarily the most technologically advanced part of the house, but with the IS7121-2 Audio/Video Door Answering System, a doorbell and phone combo from VTech, you can change that. You simply install a doorbell module beside the front door, then indoors, plug in the two video phone receivers wherever you’d like. When someone rings the doorbell, the module automatically snaps his picture and sends it to the handset. You can then choose to stream video and have a conversation with the visitor or go answer the door in person. Or if you’re not feeling very social, pretend you’re not home. The system stores up to 100 images, so at the end of the day or a week later, you can review who’s stopped by.

As a phone, the IS7121-2 includes Voice Announce caller ID, HD audio, speakerphone, last 10-number redial, caller ID for both the current call and call waiting and many other features. It’s a system that’s sure to banish the phrase “dumb as a doornail” forever!

While style and budget will be considerations, any improvement you can make to your home’s most prominent feature is likely worth the investment of time and money. Remember, your front door makes the first and last impression of your home for anyone who comes knocking.

This article was originally published by Michael Franco of on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

5 Things You Should Know About New Home Construction

It’s not ‘new news’ that the real estate market has picked up in many parts of the country.

New House under Construction

Though lots of buyers are out shopping, inventory is still low. Nobody can predict when that situation will improve, of course. But large national home builders, as well as small local ones, are buying up land, getting plans drawn up, and starting construction on new homes.

But is a new-construction home the right path for you? Here are five things you should keep in mind.

1. New homes may not be listed in your local MLS.

Unlike a regular seller who lists their home with a local real estate agent, homebuilders often have their own employees working for them on site. They do this to have more control and to cut costs.

What does this mean for you, a buyer? Mostly, it may mean the home builder isn’t a member of the local MLS. As a result, the homes may not show up in your agent’s MLS search. The builder may be more apt to advertise online, in the paper or with billboards. So if you’re interested in newly built homes, work with your agent to make sure you’ve identified all the possibilities. (Note: Zillow has listings for new construction homes. Just choose “New Homes” in the search filter.)

2. New homes are often sold before they’re built.

A builder will generally get financing lined up and map out both a construction and a sales process. This means they’ll try to sell as many homes as possible, before they’re even built. To accomplish this, they’ll build out model homes and allow buyers to go in and review floor plans, fixtures and finishes while the homes are under construction. Depending on the state, builders need to get through some of the approvals process before they can actually start signing contracts.

For the most part, you can get a sense of what your new home would look and feel like and where it will be located in the community. Ready to move forward? You’ll likely have to put down a deposit, from a few thousand dollars to 10 percent of the purchase price.

Be aware that even if there are 100 homes in the community, they won’t all be available at once. Home builders tend to release the homes in phases. If the first 10 homes sell quickly at the asking price, and the market continues to do well, the builder can raise the prices on the second or third phase. Also, the sales cycle for a new community can take years. The last phase could end up being priced 10 percent or more than phase one, simply because the real estate market has appreciated.

3. The first buyers may get the best discounts.

A home builder, especially early in the sales process, wants to get a few homes under contract quickly. If the builder can announce they have 10 homes under contract in a few weeks, the project can seem more desirable to future buyers.

Also, builders like to go back to their lenders with positive news about the project and their investment. To do this, they need early buyers to sign contracts.

For buyers, this means there could be room to negotiate the price down early in the sales process. But with the reward, there is potential risk. By being an early buyer, you’re committed to the project. If for some reason sales don’t manifest or you don’t want to move ahead before the home is built, you risk losing your down payment. For example, right after the housing downtown, some buyers were stuck under contract on new homes where sales had stalled.

4. Builders don’t have a personal or emotional attachment to the house.

A typical seller has lived in the home for many years, raised their family or built memories there. So when it’s time to sell, the seller may experience all kinds of issues, questions and uncertainties, which can come out in the negotiation and purchase process. As a consequence, the seller may unconsciously price the home too high because they’re not ready to emotionally detach from it. They may want to know more about you or what your plans are for the property. If given a choice between two buyers, the seller may pick one over the other for non-financial reasons.

With a home builder, it’s just a numbers game. They’re focused more on spreadsheets than sentiment. They want to make sure you’re qualified and can get a loan. They set the prices based on their inventory, though there may be a little room for negotiations.

5. Discounts may be available in the form of upgrades.

Is the project you’re interested in nearing the end of its sales cycle, with many homes already sold? If so, the builder may be a little more willing to negotiate with you, not so much on price but on upgrades. If they reduce the price on your home and the sale closes, then that sale price becomes public record. But if they offered you an upgrade package (hardwood floors instead of carpet or higher-end appliances), there isn’t any way to track that. What could amount to thousands of dollars in upgrades could end up being a better deal than simply getting a price reduction.

For many first-time buyers, new construction could be a great idea. If you’re used to renting and relying on the landlord for mechanical fixes and general maintenance, you can almost be assured that your first few years in a new home will be maintenance-free.

This article was originally published by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow Blog. See the original article here