Builders Customizing Luxury Designs To Fit Owners' Needs

Today, luxury homebuyers expect more than "ordinary" when they purchase a new home, and builders strive to meet the needs of this niche market.

Luxury homebuyers want quality-built homes that show cutting-edge design, architectural details, high-end finishes and on-trend amenities, builders say. Buyers may expect smart house automation such as LED wall pads where they can adjust lighting and thermostats. Voice activation, top-of-the-line security systems and infrared exterior cameras may also be requested options for the luxury homebuyer.

K. Hovnanian Homes caters to luxury homebuyers' needs by showcasing upscale designs and furnishings that appeal to this segment of the market, said Andy Konovodoff, president of the company.

"If buyers were in a smaller or older home, they want the latest and greatest -- what they see on TV and on the internet. We're one of the few builders that offers a design center where buyers schedule two appointments with a trained professional designer to select options and upgrades that fit their lifestyles."

Jay Dulla, executive vice president of Meritus Homes, believes the company's ability to customize floor plans is an attraction for luxury buyers.

"When move-up buyers prefer a different layout than the home we're building, we're willing to customize it to meet their daily living needs. We feel pretty strongly about the importance of this to our buyers."

This is also the focus of North Mark Homes, a division of Revco Ventures Inc., which tailors its homes to a buyer's specific needs.

"People like our flexible floor plans where they have the option to add a full bath and in-law arrangement on the first floor, a bonus room, loft, sunroom or porch," said Jeff Pelock, president of the company.

"Our luxury homes feature full brick or stone fronts, hardboard siding and concrete driveways," Pelock said. "We're putting more into our homes for better value and a longer-lasting product."

M/I Homes offers new exterior single-family home elevations that represent the vintage farmhouse trend that is becoming more and more prevalent, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for the builder.

Interior amenities

Today's luxury homebuyer expects amenities that used to be upgrades, Dulla said

"Now we need to do more to attract them; 10 years ago, we didn't need a tile floor or granite seats in the shower."

Builders say luxury homebuyers typically expect 10-foot ceilings and hardwood flooring, or vinyl planks that look like wood floors, throughout the first floor. With today's open floor plans, this scenario calls for lighter colors to retain the feeling of spaciousness.

In the kitchen, granite or quartz countertops are on the menu along with the large open entertainment space where you can be involved in cooking and still see what's going on in the space.

Luxury buyers often look for high-end brand name appliances that are known for their quality performance. At Courthouse Square, a row house development in Wheaton, buyers select appliances that reflect their lifestyle, said Christy Whelan, director of sales for Airhart Construction. Their choice depends on how they use the kitchen and how much they entertain. Some enjoy cooking as a hobby, so they'll do a cook's kitchen, while others might choose a simpler cook top and a Wolf stove.

Whelan sees buyers choosing all kinds of fun, creative decorator items depending on their tastes. They don't all want white cabinetry; some want very sleek modern cabinets and others prefer an art deco look. They often have some money -- the kids are gone and they want something unusual when they downsize.

Buyers' creative desires extend to the fireplace, where they might go for something unusual such as a modern fireplace with glowing stone that lights up. Even those with a traditional fireplace with a mantle will do a tiny mirror or unique tile work around the face, she said.

For M/I Homes, master baths with walk-in showers, free standing tubs, European-height vanities and unique lighting options continue to be the trend.

Pat Curran, president of West Point Builders, says the master bath is an important space that luxury buyers like to personalize to their desires.

"We just sold a home with a huge walk-in shower with body sprays and rain heads -- a real glamour, deluxe shower."

Bonk adds that M/I Homes also sees demand for white painted cabinets, subway tile backsplashes; solid, straight-lined interior door and trim packages; farm sinks and sliding interior barn doors.


M/I Homes offers new townhouses in premier locations that appeal to affluent downsizers. The builder recently opened its Ashton Place community in Lisle and will open Brentwood in Barrington to meet this demand in the marketplace.

"These homebuyers are typically downsizing from a large home in a similar location and they prefer to live in a less traditional, age-targeted community to stay near family and friends so that they can enjoy the vibrant social lives that they have in place," Bonk said.

For Airhart Construction's luxury buyers, it's all about location. Courthouse Square offers a desirable in-town spot in the heart of Wheaton where residents can walk to everything. Residents are typically two people and a few college kids that come and go, and they want to be in town or in a development near a downtown because their lives are already established, Whelan said.

"They have a church, shopping, hobbies, and they want a new home near familiar places and don't want to start over. If they're golfers, they want to live near their golf course. That's important to them."

Infill sites provide a great opportunity for small builders and an excellent location for new homes in established areas. Often the home sits near in-town amenities where one could even leave the car home and walk to a coffee shop, bookstore or restaurant.

North Mark Homes features Springfield Pointe in an infill location in Bloomingdale adjacent to Stratford Square Mall with shopping, good restaurants and entertainment, top-notch schools and plenty of outdoor recreation nearby.

Meritus Homes has been successful with purchasing older homes in North Shore communities, tearing them down and building new custom homes on the property.

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