Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back to the Big Box House

Let’s face it; a house is just a big box that holds you and all your stuff.  Outside the box you want it to be watertight, wind resistant and look nice on it’s lot.  Inside the box you want the conveniences necessary to your family, enough room for the family and your stuff, and to be able to control the temperature, operate the plumbing, lighting and kitchen--but really all the rest is design and the special needs of the owner.
So when people ask me if a house is move-in ready—I almost always tell them, “it depends”.  I think a house is move in ready if you only have to paint the walls and change out the carpets.  But some people feel a house is not move in ready until every nick or scratch is polished away and all utilities have been upgraded with “green” products.
Today I’m writing about new homes, and here’s what I’m seeing right now: the new design trends out there incorporate a creative use of construction materials; layouts and features that provide maximum utility and beauty while being energy efficient and cost-conscious at the same time.  You know the house is “tight” when you slam the front door and your ears “pop”.
April is New Homes Month, and in keeping with the builder’s celebration, the following top trends were highlighted by leading homebuilders and architects during the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, last month.

Today’s new homes are being redesigned to allow plenty of space for family interaction in high-traffic areas such as the kitchen, and to eliminate rooms such as formal dens, dining rooms and home offices that aren’t as frequently used.  Small spaces devoted to home management, also known as “pocket offices,” are being included in large pantries or spaces nearby the kitchen or family great room.

I am seeing “Murphy beds” being used again to make a 3rd bedroom into both a “day office” and an additional guest room when needed.  Window seats and alcoves are being used to provide areas for private time, without taking up a lot of space. A popular and efficient location for laundry facilities is now added onto the master bedroom’s walk-in closet.  One caveat, if the master bedroom closet has carpeting, be careful with the bleach.  It’ll make a mess of the carpets.

Larger developers are increasing the number of resident amenities in order to compensate for smaller unit sizes.  Gyms and media rooms have been common for years, but facilities such as libraries and business lounges with individual workspaces are now being offered as well.  So look for the larger “public” spaces, if you are thinking of downsizing.  If this trend continues, one day you’ll own a master bedroom with an attached bathroom—everything else will be part of the common areas—hope I don’t live that long…

Many families are keeping the kids home longer (now that they can stay on the parent’s health plans) or inviting elder parents to move back in with their grown children—and now they are all living under one roof.  This is a result of the state of the economy during the past few years.  New single-family home designs reflect this with “shadow” units (call them “attached mother-in-law apartments” or private guest suites) that are built alongside a home, they are really separate living units that access the main floor plan of the home—often through a door into the kitchen, or via a shared garage.  Then there are homes with at least two master suites—with one or both located on the ground floor to be more accessible for elderly occupants.

Rectangular home designs (the big box) are more cost effective to build, so new homes no longer have the formerly-popular feature of multiple roof lines or the resulting unnecessary hard to heat and cool high ceilings and the useless interior volumes they created.  But home designs now include innovative modifications that are still visually stimulating, such as using two windows in a corner with mitered glass to allow unobstructed views and maximum light to come in. Another example is using a mix of materials in the home’s façade such as metal, wood and stone to give the home a modern look.  Just ask the builder to certify the metal won’t rust.

The latest new home design trends that support modern lifestyles provide thoughtful and useful spaces in your newly constructed big box home. Safety, energy efficiency and near record-low interest rates coupled with competitive prices make today’s new home market an attractive opportunity for many families coming to Florida.

Dane Hahn is a real estate professional practicing in the Englewood area.  He can be reached at or by phone at 941-681-0312.  See him on the web at

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