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Home / Finance / Real Estate / Buying

Four Characteristics Today's Buyers are Looking for in a New Construction Home

By:Kari Shea

Little has changed in the last few decades in the process of buying a home. What has changed dramatically is the priorities of buyers. Particularly noteworthy are the characteristics that new construction home buyers of the 21st century are seeking.

As little as two decades ago, "excess" was the mantra of many new home buyers and builders. Even modest to mid-priced homes embraced the idea of sprawl. Rancher-style homes on large lots were common in the 1970's and 80's.

New homes of the 90's were often constricted to smaller lots, particularly in big cities where space was becoming scarcer. The desire for excess remained, so many new houses were simply built with the sprawl pointing vertically instead of horizontally.

The dawn of the 21st century brought with it a new awareness of daily living habits on the environment. The rising cost of natural resources like oil and natural gas along with a desire to be environmentally responsible started to reverse the "sprawl" trend.

Compact and energy-efficient cars, composting and water conservation came into vogue in the new century. It's no surprise that home-buying trends also began to change too.

Today's home buyers are more diverse than ever before. Just a few decades ago, a majority of home buyers were young married couples in their twenties.

Today, the average age of a home buyer is somewhere in the mid-30's. Married couples no longer make up the lion's share of buyers. More 21st century home buyers are single women, minorities and immigrants than in the 70's and 80's.

The faces have changed, and so have the needs of today's new construction home buyers. These four characteristics are among the top priorities of buyers in the 21st century:

1) Compactness: Homes, like cars, are getting smaller. Compactness, even in large houses, is not only possible but desirable, even by wealthy buyers.

In fact, "compact" doesn't necessarily have to mean "small". It can be achieved by clever design and efficient use of space.

The biggest benefit to living in a compact house is the ability to maintain consistent energy efficiency. Heating and cooling is easier and less expensive in the compact home.

Besides energy-efficiency, many modern buyers like the idea of learning to live comfortably with less "stuff". Compact spaces mean that residents must be creative with their living spaces and accumulate few possessions. This kind of lifestyle encourages innovation as well as "green" measures like recycling and composting.

2) "Open" designs and floor plans: Home owners of today like the feeling of "space". Fortunately, innovative designs can create a feeling of space even in small, compact homes. Today's home designers have become very creative at making space in small areas.

"Space" can be achieved in a number of ways. Erecting half-walls or no walls between some rooms, like the kitchen and the den, is one such design option. Cathedral ceilings and larger-than-standard doorways are another way to evoke a sense of space without requiring a bigger floor plan.

3) "Green" energy generation systems: Solar power is one of the hottest and fastest growing trends in modern home-building. Solar water heaters are being installed in many new construction homes.

These systems use the sun to heat a home's water. Solar water heaters can save hundreds to thousands of dollars annually on natural gas costs.

Photovoltaic (PV) roof integrated solar electric power systems are also increasingly popular. Similar to the solar panels of yesteryear, this system is actually integrated directly into the design of the home.

The panels usually become part of the roof, although they can serve as windows or glass walls too. The result is an artistically modern-looking architecture that generates free electrical power.

4) Eco-friendly building materials: Today's home builders are using everything from old airplane parts to used tires in house construction. Using recycled materials keeps those things from going to landfills and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Another popular trend is using eco-friendly insulation materials. Polystyrene concrete forms and sheathing are two modern wall insulators.

They significantly reduce a home's energy consumption through heat and cold air output. They also resist moisture better and last longer than traditional insulating materials.

Some real estate developers, like Scot Sandstrom of New Pointe Communities, have found a niche in "green" new construction homes. His Rancho Bernardo, CA business invests heavily in eco-friendly building measures. His buyers and those of other "green" builders have responded enthusiastically to this trend.

It remains to be seen whether days of living in excess have passed us by. However, a growing number of developers and buyers are embracing the "green" home trend. New home construction continues to reflect this and is setting the pace for what may become the "norm" in the future.

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