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posted: 10/6/2017 7:00 AM

Special touches that make a home truly yours

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  • William Ryan Homes offers a signature morning room with a vaulted ceiling.

    William Ryan Homes offers a signature morning room with a vaulted ceiling.
    Courtesy of William Ryan Homes

  • Builders are offering flex space on the first floor. This room can be used as a den, child's playroom or a home office.

    Builders are offering flex space on the first floor. This room can be used as a den, child's playroom or a home office.
    Courtesy of Shodeen Homes

  • Builders are offering flex space on the first floor. This room can be used as a den, child's playroom or a home office.

    Builders are offering flex space on the first floor. This room can be used as a den, child's playroom or a home office.
    Courtesy of Shodeen Homes

  • A mud room with storage is a popular choice for buyers of new homes.

    A mud room with storage is a popular choice for buyers of new homes.
    Courtesy of Shodeen Homes

  • Open floor plans with large kitchens and islands are the norm in new construction today.

    Open floor plans with large kitchens and islands are the norm in new construction today.
    Courtesy of Shodeen Homes

 
By Sherry Giewald
Daily Herald Correspondent

Outfitting a home with amenities, upgrades and extras is an exciting aspect of purchasing a new-construction home. Today more and more buyers are spending money on custom features that bring their new home from bare bones to dressed up and ready for living.

With today's busy lifestyles, many buyers select features that make their lives easier and their homes more functional.

Here's what buyers are choosing for their new homes today.

• Personalization

Homes today are no longer comprised of closed off rooms, each designated for a specific purpose. And buyers more than ever before want the ability to personalize, customize and select options that make a new home their own.

Rock Creek Homes, which builds only single-story ranch-style houses, has had record home sales since enhancing its offering of custom options. The builder attributes this also to its willingness to accommodate the unique requests of its customers.

"We find that our buyers, which include many empty-nesters, want to customize their homes to fit their specific needs," said Ryan VanLue, president of Rock Creek Homes, the developer and builder of Henning Estates in Huntley.

• Flex space

The desire for customization combined with the way people live is driving the popularity of flex space, a must-have design feature in today's new homes. Flex space allows homeowners to choose the purpose of a room and to adapt it to the family's changing lifestyle needs.

"Buyers like the versatility of flex space," said Jennifer Mencias, director of sales for William Ryan Homes. "If they don't want a dining room, they can convert the space to an office or whatever fits their lifestyle."

A lot of people like a flex room on the first floor for a home office, study room or playroom, said Anna Harmon, director of marketing for Shodeen Homes. "Buyers with children can keep an eye on the little ones while cooking. And those who like entertaining appreciate the ease of interacting with guests while putting last-minute touches on for dinner."

• Open concept designs

Today's open concept designs with the kitchen at the heart of one massive living space reflect buyers' more casual lifestyles. The floor plan allows homeowners to entertain with ease and promotes more interaction among family and friends. Open plans make a space feel larger, create sight lines extending through to the outdoors and promotes a sense of relaxation and easy living.

With the prominence of kitchens in new homes, islands are getting bigger and designed for multifunctional use. "Some of our plans allow for a 9-foot island, and people are getting away from the dining room as they look to the island for eating and congregating," said Scott Ballard, director of homebuilding for Plote Homes.

To enhance the feel of the open design, higher 10-foot ceilings and taller interior doors are popular features in ranch homes, said Kim Meier, president of KLM Homes. "It makes the home feel spacious, more luxurious, and the home lives larger."

"With many buyers investing money in nice cabinetry and railing options, buyers like our new stair rails, especially the mission rails that are open to the basement stairs, which amplifies the openness of the home," said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes.

• First-floor master

M/I Homes and Shodeen Homes say a lot of their buyers want ranch homes with a first-floor master suite and a large walk-in closet. "That's been a popular trend lately," Harmon said.

In its ranch homes, Rock Creek Homes typically finishes the lower level with a more traditional recreation space along with a newer trend -- a full master suite and a large bathroom to accommodate visiting family and friends in a space that's separate from the main level.

Ballard echoes the positive aspect of finishing the lower level for more living space that can be used for an in-law suite, recreation room with bar and large TV for viewing sports or a room where teenagers can hang out and play games, Ballard said. "It offers a lot of opportunities."

• Morning room, screened porch

Many homeowners love to greet a new day with a cup of coffee in their morning room or screened porch as they look out at scenic views. It conjures up images of coziness, warmth, reading and relaxation. The morning room and screened porch often extends from the house, and the morning room has three walls of glass. It's almost like being outdoors.

A popular option for William Ryan Homes is its signature morning room with vaulted ceiling, which is light and bright and accesses the deck. And the No. 1 structural option for Plote Homes is a screened porch with an open deck that homeowners like for grilling. A morning room or screened porch are also popular options for KLM Builders.

• Garage, mud room

Many buyers at Henning Estates want a large garage with room for at least two cars and extra space for a workshop or storage, VanLue said. This is also a hot button for William Ryan Homes where a large garage with storage space is huge, Mencias said.

A mud room off the garage entry is also on the want list for families, and the builder offers a mud room with bench, cubbies and cabinets.

• Technology

As telecommuting becomes more commonplace, people need high speed fiber internet, which increases a home's value by 3 percent, Harmon said. "A lot of our buyers at Elburn Station are asking about the internet provided and the speed."

What's out

Buyers are shutting the door on some amenities that have lost their appeal or have been replaced by a more desirable alternative.

Formal dining rooms, living rooms and home offices are losing popularity. Dark kitchen cabinetry steps side as white kitchens become all the rage. And busy granite slabs make way for quartz countertops. Even the kitchen table may be disappearing as homeowners trend more toward larger kitchen islands for eating and other activities.

In the master bath, large, luxurious showers in lieu of the soaking tub have become the norm. If there's room, buyers might put in a free-standing tub.

Flooring is trending away from carpeting and moving to hard surfaces, even in the bedrooms. Wide plank hardwood flooring remains strong.

In today's open plans, clutter is not cool. Clean and lean is in.