By Jean Murphy (Daily Herald Correspondent)
The only “constant” in this world is “change.” That even applies to houses.
According to local builders, the new homes that first-time buyers are purchasing today are markedly different from the newly constructed homes their parents purchased 20 or 30 years ago. They still provide four walls and a roof, of course, but the nuances within the homes have evolved.
“We are seeing the de-formalization of the home among all buyers,” said Chris Coleman, Chicago Division president for William Ryan Homes. “We need to design for the way that people live today. So, they want open floor plans and the rooms need to be flexible enough to be used for whatever the individual buyer’s needs are. But all of the buyers want a great relationship between the family room and the kitchen.”
“Interestingly, too, today’s first-time buyers don’t look at a home’s total square footage when purchasing. They look at how a home feels to them and whether it has square footage where they want it — specifically in the family room and maybe by adding a morning room off the kitchen,” he said.
“They have also seen a lot of home amenity options in the media, so they have very discriminating tastes. They want hardwood floors, particularly in the entryway where they can make a statement, and they want granite counter tops in the kitchen. Energy efficiency is also important — a feature which the older homes on the market cannot offer.”
People used to buy and sell a home every six or seven years. That is no longer the case, so we feel we need to put in from the beginning the 9-foot ceilings and the other structural things that are hard to change later.
First-time buyer homes typically average between 2,200 and 2,500 square feet (although some come in at 1,800) with a partial basement and crawl space and a two-car garage (or sometimes an extended tandem garage for added storage). They feature three bedrooms, vinyl siding with a little stone or wainscoting and a smaller yard than in the past because children are so involved today in organized sports and other activities that a large yard is no longer as important and their parents don’t want to maintain a lot of property.
Buyers generally choose an oversized shower with a bench seat and glass walls for the master bathroom and only install a tub in their secondary bathroom. The days of the large whirlpool tubs are gone.
Fireplaces are nice, but no longer highly sought after, he added. And when they are requested, buyers choose the much less expensive direct-vent fireplaces, not masonry ones with chimneys.
“In my experience recently, first-time buyers are looking for good neighborhoods, good schools, good park districts, bike paths and great communities. They want to live somewhere that offers a sense of community and nice local events. And they want to live where it is quiet but is still close to everything,” Harmon said.
“Young buyers are well-versed in the benefits of new construction, like its energy-efficiency, but even though we offer Nest thermostats to allow them to control their home temperature remotely, very few opt for that. They do, however, expect open floor plans, second-floor laundry rooms, 9-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and granite kitchen countertops,” she said. “Our full basements are also a selling point.”
Shodeen has one entry-level home now available for immediate delivery. It is located in Sycamore at its Reston Ponds community. The 1,868-square-foot home features three bedrooms and 2½ baths and lists for $249,921. Models of other Shodeen homes can be viewed at Squires Crossing in Maple Park.
William Ryan Homes has three communities that offer first-time buyer, single-family homes. There is Renwick Place in Romeoville that has homes starting the $240,000s, Hampshire Highlands with homes also starting in the $240,000s and Walnut Glen in Island Lake that has homes starting in the $250,000s.
When it comes to single-family home communities for first-time buyers, Homes now offers Somerset in Plainfield, which starts in the high $290,000s, Sagebrook in South Elgin, which starts in the $320,000s, and Hanover Estates in Manhattan, which starts in the $280,000s.