Real Estate in 2013: What's In and What's Out

Builders and developers in 2013 are faced with many new obstacles as the housing market emerges with an entirely new face and a new normal.

The recession has changed more in the mind of prospective homebuyers than just their attitude about the housing market. Housing preferences have changed dramatically since the blow up of the housing bubble in 2008 when many areas throughout the nation were hit hard with foreclosures. With it came widespread homeownership loss and a market saturated with distressed homes.

The economy has since been recovering, and according to the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing report, "Residential Futures: Thought Provoking Ideas on What's Next for Master-Planned Communities," the new home features that today's homebuyers are looking for are not what they once were. The report gives excellent insight into how developers are meeting the demands of the market by creating better and more liveable places to settle into.

In the report, industry professionals discussed new trends in the home building market, visiting up and coming design concepts as well as trends that are no longer hot.

What's Happening now in New Construction

  • 30 minute commute times
  • Affordable accents
  • Amenities that make life easier and provide value
  • Close access to mass transit
  • Energy efficiency
  • Friendly communities
  • Lower operating costs
  • Manufactured housing
  • Multigenerational housing
  • Proximal healthcare
  • interior_kitchen9_500Versatile living spaces
  • Walkability
  • Well-designed and small floor plans

 What's Out

  • Extra square footage
  • Golf course communitie
  • Home designs from the early 2000's
  • High maintenance costs
  • Long commute to work
  • Outer-ring suburbs

The report's conclusions are based on a survey distributed to the institute's members who specialize in residential development. According to Lynn Ross, the director of the Terwilliger Center, the "Residential Futures" report is particularly interesting in that it's based on moment-in-time responses from a selection of ULI members who have extensive experience with the master-planned community sector. Many of the ULI members showed agreement throughout a range of questions, while others were met with opposing viewpoints. She said, "the goal of the project is to present a range of ideas and to, hopefully, generate further discussion about what's next for residential development."

It seems that, at least according to this knowledgeable group of developers, that the future for master-planned communities is promising.

Sustainability in the Future of New Homes

It appears that sustainable design is key when it comes to what today's consumers want in a home. Lynn Ross says that sustainability will play a big role, and the challenge that developers face in providing new, sustainable homes is that while people want it and even expect it, they aren't always willing to pay for it. The cost to build more sustainability can be more expensive upfront than their traditional counterparts.

So, what are the principles behind sustainable design? There are major components that underpin a sustainable home, including optimization of the sun, improved indoor air quality, responsible land use, and high-performance & moisture-resistant designs.

Homes that demonstrate the ultimate in sustainability are built and designed so the home is in a position to minimize summer afternoon heat gain from the sun as well as making the most of it during the winter. While using solar photovoltaics is the leading active strategy to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in our homes for heating and cooling, it's not cheap.interior_bathroom4_500

Air quality indoors can be worse than outdoors, and since Americans spend the overwhelming majority of their time inside, it's no wonder it's become so important to today's consumers to have homes that are equipped with state of the art ventilation systems and built with materials that do not contain any toxic properties.

When it comes to using the land responsibly, homeowners will win with a whole host of the "in" features found in the "Residential Futures" report. People are more concerned about the environment as well as the impact their home's location has on their own daily life. 30 minute commute times and easy access to healthcare and other amenities are a high priority while long commute times and extra square feet are a thing of the past. Builders are making better use of the land the home sits on by considering what impact the house has on the surrounding environment.

Using land responsibly while living in a home that is sustainable includes choosing one that is smaller, more compact and located on a lot near your work and other community services that will save you money and fuel. While personal space remains important, people and developers are moving towards living in and creating communities where homes are built closer together, leaving more open space to enjoy while preserving the natural landscape.

A high-performance sustainable home is resistant to outdoor elements-at least much more so than a traditional home. Sustainable homes combine the latest technology in roof, wall, window and door design to create an envelope that protects you from a variety of unwanted pests, including weather, noise and dirt. Sustainable homes make the most of indoor comfort. Today's consumers want energy efficiency, and homes of today are built with durable materials that minimize drafts and balance room temperatures, control moisture and save you money on your heating and cooling bill.

The Future of Home Buying

According to the report, the majority of respondents declared that new homes would have the edge over resale homes in the upcoming years. Ross says that the younger buyers who are saturating the market hold monthly costs as well as maintenance high up on their list of considerations, and new homes carry an appeal to this group because of lower maintenance costs. The report also seemed to indicate that designs and amenities that attract buyers now are somewhat the same as they have been, with a new discussion about smaller and better designed homes with flexible floor plans.

And as always, location still remains a dominant consideration to new homebuyers. The look at master-planned communities today are different than they once were with a new expectation of a more urban and compact feel. Respondents in the report said that suburban areas can still be good locations.

It appears that as the new construction business moves forward, homebuyers will have a greater and more varied selection complete with the housing preferences that have become important to those looking to buy.

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