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High-end homebuyers want the hottest when it comes to kitchens

Amenities in high-end homes have evolved over the years. Builders say kitchens — indoor and outdoor — are now often the star of the home. Other popular features include non-carpeted flooring, high ceilings, built-in high definition entertainment components and large moldings.

Gulfport designer and builder Dalton McGuire Jr. says it’s nothing for a kitchen in an upper end home to run $25,000. “It’s a big-ticket item with commercial-grade appliances such as Viking ranges and wine coolers,” he says. “Outdoor kitchens are big now, too. They have covered areas, high-end patio surfaces and appliances.”

He sees homeowners wanting to make their homes a sanctuary where they relax and entertain. “I have a friend who has a room with 10 feet by 18 feet glass windows overlooking a bay. It’s a panoramic view,” he says. “If we’re going out, he asks ‘Why are we going anywhere?”

McGuire thinks beautiful natural views add to the appeal of staying home, but the post-Katrina factor may play a role in the coastal area. “Since Katrina, people are more home bodies. They want to have everything at home,” he says. “I’m also getting more requests for mother-in-law and nanny rooms. It’s definitely that kind of thing and the entertainment value at home.”

Location and much, much more

Jackson Realtor Nell H. Wyatt, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker Nell Wyatt Realtor, says location is still very much an issue with homeowners. Bridgewater and areas on Highway 463 out from Madison are currently prime locations in the metro area.

“Homeowners want wide-plank heart pine floors, slab granite, travertine, receptacles in baseboards, outdoor kitchens, upscale appliances, gated communities,” she says. “Some of the changes I’ve seen are that the kitchen/keeping room is important along with a separate playroom or bonus children’s den.”

A builder for 30 years, Kevin Taylor owns Plum Homes on the Coast where he sees a lot of hardwood floors, 11- and 12-foot ceilings and wide moldings.

“We don’t cut back on framing and have a lot of two-inch by six-inch interior walls,” he says. “We’re also seeing more open spaces with large, cased openings so that rooms flow better. In some homes, hallways are eliminated to open up the spaces more.”

Downsizing without sacrificing

Taylor believes that size is not an issue with luxury homes and sees a national trend for smaller homes beginning.

“I think we’ll see smaller homes with high-end amenities — not so much big sprawling homes to heat and cool and clean,” he says. “A home that entertains well doesn’t necessarily have to be huge. Baby Boomers want to do other things. They’ll also invest in homes and condos in university towns to be near those activities and for their children to use while going to school.”

McGuire agrees that couples are often opting for 2,500 or 3,000 square feet but he’s still building homes of 5,000 square feet for families.

Mike Boudreaux, president and CEO of Gulf Coast Investment Developers of Biloxi, says amenities have changed to keep up with technology. Kitchen features often include a custom-built island work space, walk-in pantries, larger linen closets and bathrooms may have separate shower enclosures with water temperature controls.

“Items such as granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, oversized bathtubs, nine- and 10-foot ceilings are pretty much standard in today’s amenity package, but a few years ago they were considered luxuries,” he says. “If you look back over the past 30 years, you will see just how rapidly home building has changed from an assembly line industry of the same home over and over into a more customized, luxury-oriented consumer-driven industry today.”

He points out that the average home size in the 1970s was 1,500 square feet. In 2003, just 22% of the new homes built were less than 1,600 square feet. Some 41% of the new homes built were between 1,600 and 2,399 square feet.

“Although the size of the average home has been on the rise, to 2,495 square feet last year, consumers are beginning to choose higher quality living spaces over additional square footage,” Boudreaux says. “The large massive homes, ‘McMansions,’ will give way to smaller but highly customized and luxurious homes that are more cost efficient in terms of energy.”

As for location, he says waterfront living is a national trend that the majority of the population yearns to have. “Additionally, in each local market, there are locations that are deemed affordable and those deemed luxury living where the new amenities are the marketing niche attracting these buyers,” he added. “The same rationale can be said about the choice of condo/town home living over single-family homes. Many new homebuyers are choosing this lifestyle whether it’s to have resort quality amenities without having to get in a car or to save money on utilities and taxes or to not have to care for a lawn.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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