Home Remodeling | The New American Home
Home Remodeling | Indoor plumbing. Electric lights. We take these things for granted today, but there was a time when such basic conveniences were novel and sought after. Of course, with the forward gallop of technological advancement, homes have become only more comfortable and accommodating of our day-to-day wants and needs. And far from static, our cultural priorities and lifestyle preferences have evolved, even compared with what they were just 10 or 15 years ago. For example, increasing numbers of homeowners are eschewing formality and embracing practicality. With continual, sometimes dramatic, change at play, there’s no such thing as a fixed ideal. But survey data and anecdotal evidence certainly suggest that in the 21st-century real estate market, some features are more highly prized than others.
When the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently surveyed prospective and recent home buyers, the organization found that 9 out of 10 people prioritize energy efficiency—if not for its role in mitigating the current climate crisis, then for its ability to minimize monthly household bills. A staggering 94 percent of the survey respondents said they want ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, with over a third rating them as absolutely essential.
Dedicated Laundry Rooms
In the past, homeowners were content to do laundry in the basement, with the washer and dryer occupying a shadowy portion of the larger subterranean space. Nowadays, in reaction to growing consumer demand, more and more builders are reserving space for laundry equipment on the first floor of new-construction homes. According to the NAHB, 56 percent of those in the housing market consider a special, separate laundry room to be indispensable.
Smart Home Automation
Recent years have witnessed state-of-the-art digital technology reach virtually every corner of the home. From door locks and thermostats to lighting and vacuum cleaning, it’s now possible to automate some of the most common day-to-day household functions. At least in markets with robust millennial populations, a growing number of new homes come with high-tech accoutrements, because they are what buyers expect, according to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.
For decades, forced-air heating has been the norm in the United States—vastly better than no heat at all, to be sure, but far from perfect. One problem: ductwork. Infamously prone to energy waste through air leaks, ductwork ranks high among the factors that lead homeowners to pay a small fortune for heating each winter. Given the high cost, it’s particularly frustrating that forced-air systems heat homes unevenly, creating inconsistent indoor environments in which one’s comfort level depends on the proximity to the nearest vent (or the nearest drafty window or doorframe). That said, it’s no surprise that for new construction, home additions, and gut renovations, increasing numbers of homeowners are opting for something else—radiant floor heating from industry innovators like Warmboard.
Radiant systems greatly surpass the performance of traditional forced-air heating, operating at least 25 percent more efficiently, with Warmboard products offering even more dramatic monthly savings on utilities. Plus, the technology eliminates the uncomfortable temperature variations so common in homes with forced-air, because the in-floor heating panels deliver even, enveloping heat across the entire space, be it a single room or an entire home. Today’s homeowners also appreciate the design freedom that comes with a heating system in which there are no visible vents (or radiators or baseboard units). Radiant heat operates invisibly—and silently. In the end, Warmboard provides total comfort, and that’s precisely what more and more homeowners want.
Are formal dining rooms nearing extinction? Yes and no. While it’s true that the average home built today does not include a separate, stand-alone dining room, that does not mean there’s no accommodation whatsoever made for sit-down meals. Rather, as part of the broad, fundamental shift away from small, cloistered rooms toward large, open indoor spaces, the dining area now connects to the kitchen, facilitating casual interaction, even during meal prep and cleanup.
Perhaps the only equal to Americans’ love of stuff is their love of storage. For those represented in the NAHB survey, three of the top 10 most desirable home features somehow related to storage. Indeed, today’s most desirable homes include generously sized closets, walk-in pantries, and garages able to hold more than the family car. Greater square footage isn’t always the answer; in many cases, homes simply make better use of the space that’s available.
Separate Home Offices
With so many companies allowing or encouraging employees to work from home, many people wish to separate their professional activities from their domestic ones. Liberally defined, a “home office” might be nothing more sophisticated than a laptop placed on the kitchen table. But in researching preferences, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate learned that of the features most desired in a new home, a dedicated office ranks among the top five. – Bob Vila