Consumers want newly built residences to have plenty of "green" technology -- but old standbys such as walk-in closets are even more important, a recent survey of developers shows.
"A good walk-in closet or laundry room might not be sexy, but they do make a household run better -- and what's the point of moving to a [newly built] home if it's not going to make your life easier?" says Stephen Melman of the National Association of Home Builders, which conducted the study.
The NAHB polled some 400 of its members to find out what household features developers expect to most frequently include in new-construction homes.
Melman says the survey -- which asked about everything from granite counters to media rooms -- shows not only what's important for builders to add, but also what homeowners who plan to renovate existing properties should include.
"You want to make sure that your home is designed to be sellable at the end of your time there," he says. "You probably don't want to do something that's so unique that no one else will find it of any interest."
Read on to check out the items that poll respondents told the NAHB they're most likely to build into typical homes. All of the amenities below averaged four or better on a five-point scale of how likely builders said they were likely to add a given feature to a new-construction home.
Laundry rooms and walk-in closets
Score: 4.8 and 4.9, respectively
A walk-in closet in the master bedroom ranked No. 1 in the NAHB's survey -- scoring 4.9 out of a possible five -- while laundry rooms tied for second place at 4.8.
Melman says that while pretty much all newly built homes have laundry rooms and walk-in closets these days, today's versions are way more elaborate than those of years gone by.
"Closets and laundry rooms have to be a lot more efficient because people just don't have as much time to deal with things any more," he says.
For instance, the expert says state-of-the-art laundry rooms have skylights, build-in ironing boards and "basically the ability to do pretty much everything but fold the laundry and put it away for you."
Energy-efficient windows, appliances and thermostats
Score: 4.5 to 4.8
"Low-e" windows tied laundry rooms for second place in the NAHB's poll with a 4.8 score, while programmable thermostats and Energy Star-approved windows/appliances all tied for fourth place at 4.5.
"The whole trend in new-home construction is to help people be more efficient with everything and make their lives easier -- and if you can lower someone's monthly energy bill, that does both," Melman says.
Low-e windows have special "low-emissivity" coatings that keep warmth in your home during winter while stopping solar heat from entering in the summer.
Energy Star-approved windows meet strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for efficiency, typically by using low-e coatings and other features such as multiple panes of glass.
Similarly, Energy Star-endorsed refrigerators and other appliances use special materials for maximum efficiency, while programmable thermostats allow consumers to turn down the heat or air conditioning automatically when no one will be home.
Great rooms -- giant open spaces that sometimes take the place of dining rooms, livings rooms and even kitchens -- placed third on the NAHB's poll.
"As fond as we all are of the 'Ozzie and Harriet' days, those old kitchens were usually small and dark," Melman says. "Today's great rooms are large, bright and just make you feel good being there."
He adds that great rooms fit in well with today's lifestyle of family members all doing their own thing at the same time. "Great rooms are wonderful places where everyone in the family can sit around, or where the kids can do their homework while you get dinner ready," Melman says.
High ceilings on the first floor
Homes traditionally have 8-foot ceilings, but buyers often prefer 9-foot ones or taller these days -- but only on the first floor.
Melman says that's because many consumers want living rooms, dining rooms and other shared spaces to feel more open. "That extra foot or two makes all of the difference in the world," he says.
But while high first-floor ceilings tied for fourth place in the NAHB's poll, Melman says consumers don't typically want the extra height on upper floors. "Many people want the second floor to feel more cozy," he says.
This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.