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What's hot in new-home construction? Residential builders talk recent trends

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Quartz countertops, pocket offices and no hard phone lines.

These are just a few of the trends in new residential construction, according to midstate builders.

What about smaller home size and more maintenance-free communities?

The former is not the case, even in the face of a slower economy, said Nathan Jameson, director of operations and a partner at Delaware County-based Traditions of America, which specializes in age-restrictive communities.

"It's just not what we see," he said.

On average, TOA is building homes that are about 2,400 square feet. And about 60 to 70 percent of its homes include an optional second floor.

Even empty nesters want space for consulting businesses and hobby areas, Jameson said. And most anticipate having grandchildren visit.

It's more about value and quality features than it is size of the home, said Brad Haubert, vice president of Haubert Homes Inc. and president of Fogarty Homes, two companies that build semi-custom homes in the central part of the state.

Many homes are still being built on one-quarter-acre to one-third-acre lots, Haubert said.

Jameson said he believes the fast pace of life today and desire to be involved in their children's, or grandchildren's, lives will drive more and more buyers to smaller lot sizes.

"As price of land goes up, and as buyers desire less in the way of home maintenance and yard maintenance, I think that will be a pronounced trend in Pennsylvania," he said.

What else are builders seeing from buyers?

Quartz countertops are more popular than granite. Higher levels of finish on flooring and cabinetry are just as important.

Sunrooms and other living spaces that bring in a lot of natural light remain in high demand, as do screened porches.

• Bathtubs are almost nonexistent in favor of luxurious showers and nice plumbing fixtures.

Tankless water heaters are gaining more traction as they come down in price.

• Basements are less common, unless buyers want workshop space or dedicated home theater areas. Storage areas are largely being built above ground because it's generally cheaper.

Outdoor living spaces continue to be popular, which builders attribute to television exposure.

Pocket offices, or small dedicated nooks in the house, are gaining traction in an era of laptops, tablets and wireless access points.

Dedicated charging station areas for electronics, including USB outlets, fall under flex spaces and are an emerging trend.

• Some new developments are relying solely on cable connections for phone service, or cellular services. Hard lines are not an automatic anymore.

Geothermal installations are in greater demand in some parts of the state.

• Brick exteriors are falling out of favor. Cultured stone is a popular choice among buyers.

In-law suites are more popular.

National notes

The National Association of Home Builders handed out its "Best in American Living Awards" in February.

Its most notable trends:

White on white: Cabinets, flooring, backsplashes, counters, fixtures and appliances are beginning to lighten up to give way to a fresher feeling.

Bold exterior colors: To heighten curb appeal, bold colors are being used in doors, windows, shutters and other trim. Modern flair is also being added to traditional designs through color, finish, fixture and lighting selections.

Inside and outside combination: Production and custom homes have moveable glass walls, gourmet outdoor kitchens and interior courtyard pools, which is adding to everyday living space.

Dual master baths continue to generate a lot of interest from buyers.

Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jasons@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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