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Luxury Homes: What’s In, What’s Out?

David McCarthy, Principal of 5 Keller Williams Realty Offices in Boston/Newton
David McCarthy, Principal of 5 Keller Williams Realty Offices in Boston/Newton

With a robust local real estate market predicted for 2014, home buyers are already hitting the streets, visiting open houses and scheduling showings.  Aside from move-in-ready – the consumer buzzword of the last few years – what are buyers looking for?

The easiest place to spot new design trends is in a high-end home.  Upscale properties tend to be renovated and often come with all the bells and whistles.  To discover which amenities luxury homebuyers can expect to find in today’s market, take a look at the Real Estate Lab Report which recently studied luxury listings from the past few years to see which phrases were trending up and down. 

According to the report, marble baths are more popular than ever before, and marble floors are often prominently noted on listings sheets these days.  Outdoor space also seems to be taking center stage these days – with roof decks and terraces on the top of many urban wish lists.  Another design element that never seems to go out of style is storage space.  It’s always high on a homebuyer’s radar – and yet can be so elusive in downtown properties, condos or vintage homes.

Fitness amenities, for today’s busy professionals or even stay-at-home moms, are sought-after more often these days.  Depending on the size and location of the property in-home gyms, onsite tennis courts or on premise work out spaces gained popularity in the luxury market last year. Today’s consumers definitely want to stay in shape, for sure, but it’s important to note they also want to chill at home and in style. There has been an increase in the demand for wine rooms.  Many listings in the Metro-West area right now, in fact, have dedicated spaces for your favorite chateaus.   

Another design feature that seems to be in vogue these days is the “oversized window.”  Floor-to-ceiling, large glass windows and French doors are more prevalent than in the past, indicating that homeowners want to be connected with their outside surroundings. Buyers are interested in a panorama, and are increasingly paying for this visual access, whether it’s to enjoy a water view, city scape, small garden, abutting woodlands or a nice lawn.

As to where interest seems to be waning – it’s in formal rooms and top of the line kitchen features.  These days both are less likely to be mentioned in listings than in years before. Formal rooms have slowly been replaced by “great rooms,” or open spaces off the kitchen where friends and families can gather to celebrate.  Upscale kitchens are still a must for luxury properties – but mentioning specific features and posh amenities is less common these days.    

Also trending downward in the marketing of high-end properties are mentions of outdoor, built-in barbeque spaces, hardwood floors, plantation shutters and lush landscaping.  Whether these features are simply considered “the norm” now in luxury homes, or just aren’t as sought-after remains to be seen.

What is stimulating some of the trends in luxury listings? One consideration is the location of luxury homes. In the past, palatial estates in the suburbs with large lots may have been considered luxury property – and those homes still fit that billing. In markets like Greater Boston, however, the term luxury home or premiere real estate applies to pricey downtown condos, brownstones and urban lofts – settings that are less likely to have the space for expansive, stuffy spaces.

One constant in real estate is that home buyers looking for the perfect place to live – consider the overall picture of the property and its surroundings. Buyers just “know” the right home to buy when they see it.  Working with an informed professional real estate agent will help the consumer to whittle down choices, consider market data and ensure that the house that they purchase includes the features that are most important to them.

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