Buyers Flock to Designer Homes

23 09 2006


You’ve heard of designer jeans and designer handbags, but designer homes? That’s the newest trend among discerning buyers.

Martha Stewart was first, designing homes in North Carolina and other Southern states. Giorgio Armani’s Wall Street condos also sold well. Then Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade Jagger stepped in with a 57-unit building in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and plans for more buildings.

Designer homes are “quite simply a creative way to distinguish your products from competitors’,” says Bruce Karatz, CEO of KB Home, which teamed up with Martha Stewart. In addition to Stewart communities in North Carolina and Atlanta, KB Home will build Stewart-styled homes near Houston and Los Angeles. Next month, it will announce one new such community in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Karatz says the Martha Stewart homes are selling faster than anything KB Home is building in the Southeast. Though still a small portion of the company’s total sales, they could increase to 10 percent to 20 percent of KB Home’s production, he says.

The homes, which are inspired by Stewart’s personal residences in Maine, Connecticut, and New York, are priced from the low $200,000s to mid-$500,000, depending on the neighborhood. They attract a “huge amount” of buyers, Karatz says.

Source: USA Today





Buyers Flock to Designer Homes

22 09 2006


You’ve heard of designer jeans and designer handbags, but designer homes? That’s the newest trend among discerning buyers.

Martha Stewart was first, designing homes in North Carolina and other Southern states. Giorgio Armani’s Wall Street condos also sold well. Then Mick Jagger’s daughter Jade Jagger stepped in with a 57-unit building in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and plans for more buildings.

Designer homes are “quite simply a creative way to distinguish your products from competitors’,” says Bruce Karatz, CEO of KB Home, which teamed up with Martha Stewart. In addition to Stewart communities in North Carolina and Atlanta, KB Home will build Stewart-styled homes near Houston and Los Angeles. Next month, it will announce one new such community in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Karatz says the Martha Stewart homes are selling faster than anything KB Home is building in the Southeast. Though still a small portion of the company’s total sales, they could increase to 10 percent to 20 percent of KB Home’s production, he says.

The homes, which are inspired by Stewart’s personal residences in Maine, Connecticut, and New York, are priced from the low $200,000s to mid-$500,000, depending on the neighborhood. They attract a “huge amount” of buyers, Karatz says.

Source: USA Today





Residential Market Slowdown Is Not a Bursting Bubble

19 09 2006

Home prices are expected to continue on a modest decline for the remainder of the year the seller’s market transitions to a buyer’s market, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® testified last week at a Senate committee hearing.

Yet, contrary to some news reports, there is no housing bubble, and the slowdown is actually a good thing for many local economies, NAR president Thomas M. Stevens said at the hearing, titled “The Housing Bubble and Its Implications for the Economy.”

“After five years of outstanding growth, the housing market is undergoing a period of adjustment and becoming more and more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers,” he said.

Many Local Markets Still Going Strong

Even with falling demand and increased supply, home prices are still appreciating — although at no where near the double-digit rates of the past few years. “While recent developments raise concern, it is important to remember that the housing market varies significantly across the country,” Stevens said.

One-third of the country (by population) is still seeing rising home prices, including Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont, and many states in the South, excluding Florida. States that experienced the greatest increases in home prices in recent years are experiencing significantly lower sales. These states include Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia.

Also contributing to the cooling housing market is a nearly one-point increase in mortgage rates, speculative investors pulling back, and first-time buyers being priced out of the market.

“Pressure is being felt in the housing market due to rising mortgage rates,” Stevens said. “Home buyers have become exhausted financially, which explains why sales have tumbled in higher-priced regions of the country.”

Sales to Fall 8% This Year

NAR forecasts a drop in home sales of around 8 percent in 2006, followed by another 2 percent decline in 2007. The forecast takes into account stabilizing mortgage rates and a modest economic expansion. However, a significant shift in interest rates or a change in the economy would alter the forecast.

Slow home-price growth — of less than 3 percent in 2006 and 2007 — also is predicted.

NAR notes that a soft landing is possible under the right circumstances and affordable mortgage financing is an important component in achieving this.

“Because the housing market strongly supports the economy and drives consumer spending, it is imperative that the Congress adopt policies that encourage home ownership and make purchasing a home obtainable for the millions of families who desire to own a home,” Stevens said. “NAR stands ready to work with Congress to continue to open the door to the American dream of home ownership.”

Source: REALTOR® Magazine Online





Residential Market Slowdown Is Not a Bursting Bubble

18 09 2006

Home prices are expected to continue on a modest decline for the remainder of the year the seller’s market transitions to a buyer’s market, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® testified last week at a Senate committee hearing.

Yet, contrary to some news reports, there is no housing bubble, and the slowdown is actually a good thing for many local economies, NAR president Thomas M. Stevens said at the hearing, titled “The Housing Bubble and Its Implications for the Economy.”

“After five years of outstanding growth, the housing market is undergoing a period of adjustment and becoming more and more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers,” he said.

Many Local Markets Still Going Strong

Even with falling demand and increased supply, home prices are still appreciating — although at no where near the double-digit rates of the past few years. “While recent developments raise concern, it is important to remember that the housing market varies significantly across the country,” Stevens said.

One-third of the country (by population) is still seeing rising home prices, including Alaska, New Mexico, Vermont, and many states in the South, excluding Florida. States that experienced the greatest increases in home prices in recent years are experiencing significantly lower sales. These states include Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia.

Also contributing to the cooling housing market is a nearly one-point increase in mortgage rates, speculative investors pulling back, and first-time buyers being priced out of the market.

“Pressure is being felt in the housing market due to rising mortgage rates,” Stevens said. “Home buyers have become exhausted financially, which explains why sales have tumbled in higher-priced regions of the country.”

Sales to Fall 8% This Year

NAR forecasts a drop in home sales of around 8 percent in 2006, followed by another 2 percent decline in 2007. The forecast takes into account stabilizing mortgage rates and a modest economic expansion. However, a significant shift in interest rates or a change in the economy would alter the forecast.

Slow home-price growth — of less than 3 percent in 2006 and 2007 — also is predicted.

NAR notes that a soft landing is possible under the right circumstances and affordable mortgage financing is an important component in achieving this.

“Because the housing market strongly supports the economy and drives consumer spending, it is imperative that the Congress adopt policies that encourage home ownership and make purchasing a home obtainable for the millions of families who desire to own a home,” Stevens said. “NAR stands ready to work with Congress to continue to open the door to the American dream of home ownership.”

Source: REALTOR® Magazine Online





Tapestry Park Project in Southside Area

15 09 2006

Joyce Development Group announced the latest development project at Tapestry Park, a mixed-use urban village development that will feature 52 townhome units, a 100-room boutique hotel, a lakeside restaurant, bank pad, 16,000 square feet of office condominium and 41,000 square feet of retail and in-line restaurant space.

Tapestry Park will be located in Jacksonville within Deerwood Park adjacent to the Merrill Lynch office campus.

Arlington Properties will be developing the townhomes, several of which will be situated above 17,000 square feet of first floor retail space, with Joyce Development Group overseeing development of the hotel, office condominiums, and balance of the commercial space.

“We are in the final development planning stages for both of these projects and are actively engaged in completing several lease and office condo sale agreements,” said Joyce Development Group President John Joyce on the opening day of the International Council of Shopping Centers Spring Conference in Las Vegas.

“Tapestry Park will be located in one of the most popular areas of Jacksonville,” Joyce said. “A boutique hotel and upscale lakeside restaurant will be the featured properties within an urban village setting of townhomes, offices, restaurants, and shops, all of which is integrated by an engaging architectural theme.”

Source: Joyce Development Group





What’s Hot in Housing Today

15 09 2006

Are you are preparing your home for sale, planning to remodel, or shopping for a new home? Find out what is important in today’s housing market, and make choices that contribute the most value and enjoyment for the money.

Home Styles

Old world styles are popular. French, English, Tuscan and Spanish homes with stone or stucco walls, tile roofs, iron fixtures, heavy beams and rustic floors are in demand. A sense of historic connection resonates with buyers today.

The Craftsman style, built in the early 1900’s, is back. Features of this style, such as cobblestones, deep eaves, tapered columns and wide trim, favor the handmade look over mass produced.

Farmhouses and country homes are perfect remodel candidates and prototypes for new homes. Native materials, wood windows, simple floor plans, and warm colors connect with nature and earlier times.

The retro look is fashionable. Ranch styles and split levels built in the 1950’s are perfect for sleek remodels, and fit with fashionable furniture styles.

Urban modern is everywhere. Modern open plans make use of color, tile, glass, and experimental materials such as plastic and metal.

Floor Plan

The preferred ceiling height is about 9′-11′. Two story ceilings are out. In small rooms these feel like towers.

Lots of floor level changes are not desirable.

Most buyers today want four bedrooms, and at least two living areas. Formal dining rooms are still in demand.

Formal living rooms are often converted to studies, libraries, or guest rooms.

Media rooms are a sought after feature when price range allows.

The visual and spatial connection between kitchen and family room is firmly established.

Cabinet space is required for large televisions and wall space for the newer flat screens.

Three car garages are needed, especially in areas without basements.

Structured wiring is important today for internet, phone, cable and sound. Desk space for computers is required.

Good access to the outdoors is something buyers look for. French doors combine access with light. Sliding glass doors are not as favored.

Lots of storage is needed for today’s lifestyle. People have lots of stuff. Huge master closets, pantries, laundry rooms, and extra storage closets are expected.

On the other hand, very spare lofts are perfect for some lifestyles. Simplified spaces are an antidote to today’s complex lifestyle.

Kitchens/Baths

Most buyers are savvy about kitchen design and appreciate good work spaces with easy access to range, refrigerator and sink. Lots of counter space, deep drawers, two sinks, nearby extra refrigerator, and butler’s pantries are all desirable features.

Stainless appliances are going strong. In urban modern styles, white or colored appliances are back. High end homes conceal some appliances as cabinetry.

Eat-in kitchens are a basic requirement for most buyers.

Antique tables or cabinets are being refurbished and used as bath cabinets. Kitchen cabinets that look like furniture are a great look.

Granite, marble or stone counters are popular. However, granite tops added to 1980’s cabinets do not go over well. Consider your architectural style before adding features.

Concrete countertops are perfect for ultra modern, but most buyers shy away from them.

Wide, cabinet depth refrigerators have a built-in look, and are not as expensive as the true built-in type.

Large rustic tiles, stone, concrete or wood floors have a warm, functional appeal.

Subway tile (3″ x 6″) is popular in bathrooms and on kitchen backsplashes.

Patterned cultured marble and laminate are out. Slippery, white floor tile is out.

Trim

Wide, baseboards (6″+) and door and window trim (4″+) are key features in old European and American styles.

Craftsman style doors – simple square frames with flat panels – work well with both old and modern looks.

Iron or heavy wood entry doors make strong statements that buyers love.

Rustic finishes on hardware, such as brushed nickel, oil rubbed bronze, weathered brass, and other non-shiny finishes are the popular choices.

Rustic wood beams or wood covered ceilings create a hand crafted, primitive look that buyers like.

Wrought iron gates, stair rails and light fixtures compliment the rustic style.

Stair rails in ultra modern homes may be wire, pipe or painted metal.

Front porches and covered patios are always a strong selling point. Outdoor fireplaces are popping up everywhere.

Floors & Walls

Distressed wood floors that look old are valued. Simple wood boards are sometimes laid down with cracks exposed. Re-claimed wood is very desirable.

Bamboo floors are popular, especially in modern style homes where light colored floors are desired.

Concrete floors – often stained and scored are popular. These go well with the modern look, and are used in Craftsman and rustic European styles too.

Colorful laminate floors are a good fit with mid-century modern. Laminate floors that looks like wood are out. Parquet floors are out, unless hand crafted.

Framed or hung mirrors are preferred, although plate glass works in ultra modern styles. Mirrors used on walls or ceilings are a turn off.

Colors are in, but soft is the word. Soft greens, yellows, earth tones and creams create a serene background that fits many styles. Complex colors, with more colors in the mix, are sought after. Deeply saturated colors, such as plums and reds, are used in moderation.

Flat paint on walls hides flaws and creates a designer look. Shiny is out. Soft whites are safe for trim.

Faux finishes are out. Often these do not turn out as well as expected, and are difficult to maintain.

The same (or similar) wall color through adjoining spaces creates a more spacious feeling.

Historic paint colors such as sage greens, beiges, muted yellows, and grays work well on the exterior. Bold or harsh colors are a turn-off to most buyers.

Wallpaper is problematic and harder to change than paint. Very often it does not fit the buyer’s taste.

Heavily textured walls and popcorn ceilings are totally out.

Lighting & Plumbing Fixtures

Buyers want more windows, natural light, and a greater connection with the outdoors.

People today are more discriminating about the quality of light. Windows on two sides of the room balance the lighting and reduce glare.

One light in the middle of the room will not do. Under cabinet task lighting is appreciated. Security lighting is important. Wall sconces offer soft ambient lighting. Recessed cans provide area light. Dimmers help to control the lighting.

Light fixtures are a decorative element in all styles. Clean, modern fixtures, such as pendant lights, recessed cans, and wire string lights compliment the urban look.

Retro fixtures are interesting decorative features in 1930’s craftsman and 1950’s ranch styles.

Industrial metal fixtures are in. The un-decorated, industrial look of metal or stainless steel is in.

Heavy drapes are out. They are too pretentious, and, well, heavy. Light cotton, linen or silk drapes are in. Or, wood blinds. Or nothing.

Retro woven wood blinds have made a comeback. Mini blinds are very yesterday.

Bath fixtures are finished in rustic bronze, nickel, or chrome. Old style two-handled faucets and farmhouse sinks are in style. Bath sinks may be glass bowls, granite, stone, stainless or traditional china. Cultured marble is out.

All free standing tubs are in. Pedestal and wall hung lavatories are in.

Energy Efficiency

With fuel costs going up, energy efficiency is definitely in. Buyers want high efficiency AC, good insulation, low-e glass, programmable thermostats, double pane windows, and ceiling fans.

Effective passive solar orientation is a great advantage. It shows a smart planning and use of natural solar energy.

Instant hot water is a perk that buyers like, as are drinking water filters.

No one wants foil on windows or stick-on window film.

Light is in demand. Don’t close blinds. Do remove solar screens when they are not needed, such as under patio roofs, porches or shade trees.

Screened porches are back. They create a multi purpose space that is both indoors and outdoors, and keep mosquitoes away.

Source: Rosalind Hejl





Pulte Tops Customer Satisfaction List

15 09 2006

Pulte Homes Corp. was tops among local homebuilders, according to J.D. Power and Associates 2006 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study.

For 10 years J.D. Power and Associates has compiled satisfaction ratings for 34 of the nation’s largest homebuilding markets, including Jacksonville. The 2006 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 60,927 buyers of newly built single-family homes who provided feedback after living in the homes for four to 18 months, on average. There were 1,590 respondents in the Jacksonville market, which includes Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

The study, released Sept. 13, shows that Pulte scored 129 points on the overall satisfaction index. The average score for the 16 different homebuilders in the Jacksonville market in the study was 99, which is up one point from 2005 and five points from 2004. Beazer Homes came in second with 126 points and Centex Homes was third with 122. With 56 points, Admiral Homes received the lowest score. On the national level, Pulte ranked highest in 14 of the 34 markets in the study.

Ten factors drive the overall satisfaction study, with builder’s warranty and customer service being the most important. Other factors include home readiness, builder’s sales staff, construction manager, quality of workmanship and materials, price and value, physical design elements, builder’s design center, recreational facilities and location are also factors, in their order of importance.

Westlake Village, Calif.-based J.D. Power and Associates also reported that builders are facing a downturn in the market conditions and the number of construction problems are on the rise. The study found that the typical buyer experiences an average of 14 problems with their new home, a 7 percent increase from 2005. More than 90 percent report experiencing at least one problem.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates








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