Trends are a big deal here at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla. That’s because the housing market is down, way down, and builders need to figure out what buyers want.
A trend forecast conducted by researcher Gopal Ahluwalia, with the National Assn. of Home Builders, and Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, predicted these desires by homeowners (in no particular order):
• Relaxing master bedrooms, which means that people want to get a good night’s sleep. This could include climate control, dimmable lights, soundproofing and fireplaces.
• Outdoor living space with decks and patios. Of particular concern is the connection between the kitchen inside and the grilling area outside. You don’t necessarily want to carry plates of sizzling foodstuffs through the family room. And outdoor lighting is really big. Who knew?
• Bigger, better laundry rooms, with more storage, under-counter appliances and even a TV. Why didn’t I think of that? Butler wants to see the return of built-in ironing boards.
• Bigger space for some TV use. Have you ever tried Wii golf tucked between the sofa and the coffee table?
• Green features, which include Energy Star-rated appliances and windows, better insulation, ceiling fans, nontoxic paints and lots of natural lights. Some homeowners are willing to sacrifice upper kitchen cabinets in favor of bigger windows.
But here’s a contradiction: Even though homeowners want to save energy and are willing to spend up to $5,000 for energy-efficient features that save $1,000 a year (for a five-year payback time), they still want higher ceilings (which are not energy-efficient) and they still want to live out in the country and drive to work. The increase in gas prices has not shown its effects in that regard. How much will gas have to rise before people’s habits are changed? Will $15 a gallon do the trick?