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Originally published November 15, 2013 at 8:05 PM | Page modified November 16, 2013 at 8:48 AM

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Buyers of new homes seek great rooms, spas, connectivity

The new homes combine practicality with the way we want to live now, builders say.


Sacramento Bee

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New-home buyers are coming back, but they don’t want the same old McMansion. They want a house they can use.

That means a “great room” where everyone can gather — and a spalike bathroom to escape from the crowd.

But usefulness also extends to lots of storage space for big-box buys. It means “drop-off zones” for recharging smartphones and pet-friendly “puppy showers.” It means a home office designed for work and media centers made for play. It means big closets and little nooks.

These new homes combine practicality with the way we want to live now, builders say.

“We’re rolling out all new designs,” says Jeff Lake, national head of architecture for homebuilder Standard Pacific Homes.

These designs are the culmination of a three-year process, Lake says. “We studied how people actually live in their homes. We found they’re more connected than ever — and not just texting.”

They want to feel connected to their family as well as to their media, Lake says. In some places, they also want to feel connected to the great outdoors with windows everywhere and “outdoor rooms” that look like their indoor counterparts.

According to experts, today’s homebuyers are much more budget conscious, a natural consequence of the recession. They demand more value per square foot. They’re not interested in rooms they will rarely use, such as a formal dining room. Most of all, homebuyers want a house that “works” for them, Lake says.

“McMansions put a huge percentage (of square footage) into hallways and formal spaces that are used infrequently,” he says. “It adds up to a lot of square footage.”

A walk-through of the model homes at Standard Pacific’s Manzanita at Whitney Ranch in Rocklin, Calif., illustrates his point. Priced from $454,000 to $504,000, each home features a great room combining a kitchen with family, dining and living room space into one very large area without halls.

Great rooms are the No. 1 requested feature among homebuyers, real estate experts say. “Everybody ends up in the kitchen, so why not make room for them?” Lake says.

One kitchen/great room combo has a layout that could double as a small restaurant. The L-shaped area had space for three dining sets: one adjacent to the kitchen, another for more formal gatherings in the living area and a third near a media wall that could double as a game table. Separating the kitchen from the great room, a 14-foot island serves as a buffet and breakfast bar. Every eating area can see the media wall, which is anchored by a 70-inch flat-screen TV.

Meant for entertaining, this great room can hold a crowd. At a recent community event, 75 people gathered in this space.

“And it still felt comfortable,” says Danielle Tocco of Standard Pacific Homes. “It’s the perfect kind of room for a large family.”

New inventory and new designs can help lure buyers back into the market. Alicia Eckman of Rocklin, Calif., recently toured the Manzanita models with her mother, Sylvia Vining.

“Builders are getting smarter,” Eckman says.

Besides the great room, the women pointed to other thoughtful touches such as mud rooms — some with a dog-friendly shower to wash dirty paws — and “drop zones,” located near the entrance doors and designed to encourage organization. “It gives you a place to drop your stuff right when you walk in,” Eckman says.

Other highlights: a home office near the front door (convenient for deliveries), an upstairs laundry room and state-of-the-art smart technology to keep the home running as efficiently as possible.

Lake says new homes also tend to feel like resort living, an outgrowth of “staycations.” Next to the great room, the most requested amenity is a spa bathroom. That includes “the whole idea of a spa,” he says, with such amenities as a soaking tub, steam shower, luxurious cabinetry and natural stone.

“People want huge showers — uber showers, carwash showers,” Lake says. “I haven’t found a limit yet on a shower that’s too big. Everybody wants a seat in the shower, too. It’s another case of dedicating square footage where people use it every day.”



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