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.
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.
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.
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.
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.