Archive for the ‘Trends in Housing’ Category

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Sustainable Homes No Longer Seen As Just A Fad

August 25, 2010

Carson Matthews, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

While Atlanta’s housing market remains stuck in low gear, the trend toward certified green or “sustainable” homes has been growing.

More builders are adopting sustainable practices and more buyers are weighing the economic benefit of paying a little extra up front for a house featuring environmentally sound design, construction standards and materials.

“Even if the economy had not gone sour, people are looking at sustainable practices and materials, not just for housing, but for the entire neighborhood,” said Sibet Freides, president of Idea Associates Inc., a marketing and consulting firm with a real estate development focus. Idea Associates clients include Reynolds Signature Communities, The Settings Development Companies LLC and Urban Land Institute.

“You might have some builders who have been in the industry for a long time who are thinking this is a passing fad, but people have bought into the concept of sustainability,” Freides said. “Younger buyers have now come to expect it and I don’t think the industry, as a whole, thinks it’s a fad anymore.”

According to a report by Carson Matthews, a Realtor with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, in the first quarter of 2010, green homes comprised 8.4 percent of the new homes on the market, which compares consistently with the 2009 total of 8.5 percent,

Matthews is a certified EcoBroker and the author of a blog, www.GreenToTheScene.com, which delivers news about green residential building in Atlanta.

In April, Matthews launched the Green MLS Toolkit, a resource that can be used by any Multiple Listing Service to track green activity.

In the first three months of 2010, Matthews reported that the median selling price of a certified green home was $494,000, which is 133.5 percent higher than a conventional new construction home; however, the report shows green homes are fetching more at closing.

“In the first quarter, green houses sold at 98 percent of list, whereas standard new construction homes sold at 92.5 percent,” Matthews said. “In the custom home market, that percentage is much higher.”

“Green building is here to stay,” said Les Stumpff, president of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GAHBA) and regional manager for Texas-based Standard Renewable Energy, which provides energy audits for homeowners, businesses and government entities.

“There is a growing awareness of how much energy and water and, therefore, money can be saved by owning a home built to some level of green-building standards,” Stumpff said.

Other benefits, such as better indoor air quality and overall comfort, will increasingly propel demand for green homes.

“The housing recession has made it more difficult to adopt building standards that increase new home prices, but builders who were building green in good times will continue to build green as housing starts return,” Stumpff said.

Although they cost a little more, the formula for building green houses is not very complicated, said Matt Hoots, founder and CEO of The Hoots Group Inc., a full-service green contractor, and co-chair of the GAHBA Green Building Council.

Together with the GAHBA, Hoots helped develop the EarthCraft House residential green-building program in partnership with Southface Energy Institute, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting environmentally sustainable homes.

“You start with a good design,” Hoots said. “You can save 30 [percent] to 40 percent in operating costs right there.”

Every aspect of the design is critical, from sighting the house on the lot to putting windows in the best location to ease the load on the HVAC system and limit the cost of blinds.

“If you only build to the standard energy-efficiency code, you’re almost building an EarthCraft-certified house,” Hoots said. “Unfortunately, a lot of builders build around the code or to barely meet code.”

As materials, utility and appliance manufacturers jump on the sustainable bandwagon, the expense gap between building green and building traditional housing is diminishing — resulting in more reasonable pricing for higher- performing homes, experts say.

Currently, Freides’ clients are building two new showcase green homes, one in The Settings of West Point Lake near LaGrange, and one at Achasta, a golf community near Dahlonega. Both houses are being built by Johnna Barrett of SUSTAIN house, the residential division of Atlanta-based architecture and interior design firm Barrett Design Inc.

“We started with a budget and we’re learning that it doesn’t have to cost that much more to build green,” Freides said.

Among other products, the green houses incorporate a radiant barrier sheathing that reportedly reduces monthly air conditioning bills by 17 percent, green bedding products, and tile and wood components made from recycled materials.

“A lot of this stuff is common sense and people need to be educated about the products and building practices that are available,” Freides said.
Read more: Sustainable homes no longer seen as just a fad – Atlanta Business Chronicle

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2nd Quarter 2010 Atlanta Green Home Sales Report

July 15, 2010

Welcome to the 2nd Quarter 2010 Atlanta Green Home Sales Report.

Carson Matthews, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Carson Matthews, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

In the 2nd Quarter I am happy to announce that certified green homes represented 12.3% of the total new construction market.  This is the highest percent of market share for green homes in Atlanta since I began reporting this in 2008.  Green homes sold for 97.1% of asking price in 99 days compared to 92% of asking price for conventional new construction in 110 days on the market.

Here is a link to the 2nd Quarter 2010 Atlanta Green Home Sales Report.

This study looks at detached single family homes that were built 2007 or later and sold as “new construction”.  The Green Home Sales Report looks at homes listed between $250,000 and $2,000,000 in Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties.  The green homes have all been certified by a third party Green Building Certification including EarthCraft House, LEED for Homes, NAHB Green Building Standard and Energy Star.

Please leave your comments if you have any thoughts or questions about green home sales in Atlanta.

For historical reports, visit Atlanta Green Home Sales Reports.

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Facebook’s real-world implications-Community is paramount for consumers, homebuyers

June 16, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO — The financial crisis and the evolution of the Internet away from a culture of “search and surf” to a “friend era” driven by social networking sites have produced profound changes in consumer attitudes that must be understood in order to thrive during the recovery, consumer behavior experts told attendees at a homebuilding industry conference this week.

Consumers feel burned by the advice they received from their “trusted advisers” in the lead-up to the financial crisis, including real estate professionals, said J. Walker Smith, executive vice chairman of market research and consulting firm The Futures Co.

“The outrage simmering beneath the surface is not to be underestimated,” Smith said. People feel they were “cheated” and “conned” by bankers, mortgage lenders and politicians, among others, and that those “betrayals” have gone unpunished, he said.

That’s one reason consumers are increasingly turning to the networks of friends they’ve created on social networking sites like Facebook for guidance, Smith said.

That may seem obvious to real estate professionals who have already embraced social networking. But Smith unleashed a barrage of statistics to back up his contention that the “friend era” made possible by social networking and technology in general is facilitating deeper changes in society that have been accelerated by the economic downturn.

Americans are moving away from the notion of an “almost radical sense of individualism” — in which success is achieved at the exclusion of others — to “a more collective sense of how we achieve individual success,” Smith said.

There’s a growing belief that personal accomplishments require connections with others, and that networks, and not just hard work, are a requirement for success.

“This is a fairly big change in American society in the last two decades,” Smith said — one that is also manifesting itself in the real world.

While the American Dream will still involve homeownership, this change in attitude means the notion of community and locale are becoming increasingly important to consumers, he said.

Others participating in a panel discussion, “Reframing the Dream: A Future Vision of the Way We’ll Live,” at the California Building Industry Association’s Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC), agreed.

Studies show that participation in social networking also drives people to engage in more real-world activities, whether that’s seeking out face-to-face meetings with friends in cafes or getting together to play soccer in a local park, said Alex Steffen, founder of Worldchanging, a Seattle-based nonprofit that fosters discussion of sustainability issues.

While homebuilders have been focused on the “house product,” consumers are “all about neighborhood” and community, said David Howerton, chairman of Hart Howerton, a consulting firm that offers to help landowners and developers “create places that have a competitive edge in their markets.”

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Home Trends 2010: Consumers’ Most Sought-after Features (Jack and Doranne Strama)

June 2, 2010
Jack and Doranne Strama, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Jack and Doranne Strama, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

From: Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council, Inc.

Those dreams are closely examined by builders, architects and designers of home spaces. To survive the current economic downturn, these professionals must be highly attuned to which home features and preferences will prompt consumers to open their wallets. More than ever, staying in business requires appealing, economical housing solutions.

Buyer’s representatives, on the other hand, must listen to buyer-clients one at a time-understanding individual preferences and helping buyers find the home of their dreams.  That said, it’s also helpful for today’s REALTOR® to share their knowledge of larger consumer trends with their client.  Most buyers want to make sure the home they buy now will appeal to a future buyer once it’s time to sell.

To understand today’s housing trends, it’s helpful to first review some of the recent facts about the residential construction industry. Housing starts began declining in 2006 and have yet to show any significant rebound.

No matter how you look at the data, new homes are definitely smaller:

  • Homes with at least three bedrooms: down in 2009, for the first time since 1992.
  • Homes with four or more bedrooms: falling since 2007.
  • Homes with two or more stories: peaked in 2006 then began downward trend.

Even though today’s homes are smaller, builders, architects and designers insist that they don’t necessarily have to feel smaller. Indeed, some consumers actually prefer a smaller home, complaining that some houses had grown to excessive proportions.  Just like driving a Hummer carries a negative connotation in some circles, living in a space-wasting, energy-guzzling home is not desirable. Although homeowners still want the “wow” factor, builders are looking for ways to achieve that without breaking the bank.  That point was evident when the National Association of Home Builders surveyed builders earlier this year and learned that 9-foot ceilings on the first floor were one of builders’ top ten priorities in 2010.

There is a prime emphasis on good design that helps homes feel larger by raising overall ceiling height, adding more light through windows, and using space more efficiently.  “Efficiency” has become a buzz word in the industry for virtually every aspect of new homes. Its has meant the death of the two-story family room atrium.  Instead, the trend is now towards one-story multi-functional space. Kitchens, eating areas and family rooms are open and connected, catering to busy families that want optimal useable living space from their home.  Food prep, entertaining, homework and relaxing can all be accommodated in a cohesive layout that relies on strategically placed architectural details or area rugs to define where one area begins and another ends. Storage elements, including laundry spaces and mini mud rooms help bring much-desired order to life at home.

Still in demand: Master bedroom suites

Consumers are reluctant to give up full-featured master bedrooms.  You may not see multiple shower heads but most consumers still want the master bath to feel like a small oasis, providing features that are a significant step above other bathroom in the home.

What ‘s not on the list?

With affordability and efficiency in mind, what feature won’t be included?  Builders say that an outdoor kitchen is the first to go. Other features least likely to make the list are: an outdoor fireplace, a sunroom, a butler’s pantry and a media room.

10 Most Likely Features that builders will include in 2010:

1. Walk-in closet in master bedroom

2. Laundry Room

3. Insulated front door

4. Great Room

5. LOW-e Windows

6. Linen Closet

7. Programmable thermostat

8. Energy Efficient appliances and lighting

9. Separate Shower and Tub in master bedroom

10. 9-Foot Ceilings or higher on 1st floor

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Survey Reveals New Information on Single Homebuyers

May 12, 2010

With low home prices, interest rates and government tax incentives for the first-time homebuyers, agents are seeing an influx of singles walking through the door.  In order to gain a greater insight into this demographic, Coldwell Banker Real Estate conducted a survey of over 1,000 single homeowners in April 2010 on what factors played into their decision to purchase a home.

While conventional wisdom may be that most singles are buying bachelor or bachelorette pads downtown, surprisingly, the survey found that 52 percent of surveyed single homeowners chose suburbia over urban or rural areas.

According to the survey, over half of single homeowners reported that they purchased a home because it was more cost-effective than renting in their area. However, more than just financial analysis contributes to their decision. The desire for independence played a role for more than one-third of single homeowners (35 percent) according to the same survey.

Finding good deals is important, but so are modern amenities and outside space.

Sixty-eight percent of homeowners purchase a home that below their price range, rather than the most expensive home they could afford.

Meanwhile, modernized home updates and appliances, having a yard and outside space were rated as the most desirable features in a home over lesser considerations like space for entertaining.

Some may have flown the coop, but others get help from their parents.

Of the 13 percent of single homeowners who own their home jointly with another person, almost half made the purchase with their parents.

Singles hunt for homes that close to their work and their family.

Fifty- five percent have less than  a 30-minute commute to their office or work from home and 40 percent live less than 30 minutes or even in the same neighborhood as their parents of extended family. In fact, an additional 12 percent live with t at least one family member.

Single women may be more likely to think of growing their family then single men.

More single women (27 percent) said that the number of bedrooms was the most desirable feature in a home, then did men (18 percent)

Single and ready to bargain hunt.

Singles don’t shy away from foreclosures especially single men.  Thirty-eight percent would currently consider purchasing a foreclosed/short sale home, compared to 29 percent of single women.

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Pending home sales jump 5.3 percent (Natalie Ransom)

May 5, 2010
Submitted by: Natalie Ransom, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Submitted by: Natalie Ransom, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Taken from The Atlanta Business Chronicle

Buyers racing to beat the home buyer tax credit deadline pushed pending sales of existing homes in March up 5.3 percent from the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Pending sales were up 21.1 percent from a year ago.

The Pending Sales Index does not break out specific metropolitan areas. But by region, pending sales in the South were up 28.3 percent from a year earlier.

The tax credit expired April 30, and lack of that incentive may slow sales in the next few months, the Realtor’s group said.

“In the months immediately following the expiration of the tax credit, we expect measurably lower sales,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Later in the second half of the year, and into 2011, home sales will likely become self-sustaining if the economy can add jobs at a respectable pace, and from a return of buyer demand as they see home values stabilizing.”

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Report: 77 percent of Americans expect stable or rising home prices (Alice Belko)

April 22, 2010

Alice Belko, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Alice Belko, Buckhead Office, REALTOR®

Article extracted from the Atlanta Business Chronicle and submitted by Alice Belko of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty