those 3,000-square-foot-plus monstrosities that seemed to swallow up
suburban landscapes in the early 2000s, are quickly becoming a thing
of the past. According to the National Home Builders Association, the
average size of a new home is expected to shrink to 2,150 square feet
by 2015, which is down 10 percent from 2009.
recession changed everything," says Mike Ruzicka, president of
the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS. "It’s a
different economic climate and buyers’ needs have changed."
A recent NAHB
survey concludes the recession has had a lasting impact on people, who
have shifted their perspective on what they want and need from their
homes. For instance, current home buyers are seeking practical and
functional space over surplus square footage.
today prefer quality of space over quantity of space," says Beth
Jaworski, a real estate agent with Shorewest Realtors.
Along with the
recession, lifestyle is also playing a role in the growing demand for
smaller houses. Baby boomers in particular are seeking downsized
living spaces that require less maintenance and will remain accessible
as they age and their needs change.
beginning to understand that they can make changes to their home, big
or small, to improve their lifestyle," says architect Richard
Sherer, principal with Deep River Partners architects in Milwaukee.
architectural design has taken on a multigenerational approach so that
living spaces can accommodate any age group and physical condition.
"You have all these different scenarios like adult children
moving back home, grandparents watching their grandkids for extended
periods, aging parents moving in with their grown children," he
says. "People want the family home to be accessible to
overall footprint of new homes is shrinking, buyers are still looking
for flexible living spaces and open areas for entertaining, such as a
family room or great room open to the kitchen. Essentially, builders
are designing floor plans to fit families’ needs — a sensible
approach often referred to as "right size" design.
thinking about how their homes can support their families," says
Sherer. "They want to create a home that identifies with their
With home sizes
falling, more efficient design trends are emerging, including:
formal spaces like dining rooms and dedicated home offices that aren’t
• Carving out
niches in the kitchen or family room for home organization
spaces like the laundry room and mudroom for more convenience
kitchens with plenty of storage and lots of counter space for easy
buyers really want is functionality," says Jaworski.
But a better
functioning home doesn’t have to mean sacrificing aesthetics, Sherer
incorporate building materials that are durable, but also
aesthetically pleasing like natural stone and slate," he says.
"People are recognizing the value of architectural details that
feed the soul. That emotional response has become greatly valued by
New homes today
are greener than their counterparts a generation ago. Buyers are
driving the trend with their concern for energy efficiency, which has
resulted in more solid, better-insulated and more comfortable homes.
more worried about energy efficiency today," Jaworski says.
"They don’t want to overpay for utilities."
energy-saving windows and water-conserving appliances like direct vent
and tankless water heaters top the list of green demands in the area.
"They’re great selling features," Jaworski says.
By 2015, the
NAHB predicts the green checklist for new homes will expand to include
even more energy-saving features and technology like Low-e windows,
engineered wood beams, joists and tresses; water-efficient features
such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets; and an Energy Star
rating for the whole house.
economy and resulting trend toward smaller, better-quality homes has
had a subtle impact on home décor as well. Designers today are
focusing on more efficient space planning, and incorporating
homeowners’ existing belongings.
Mixing the old
with the new has resulted in an eclectic style that doesn’t evoke
any particular period. Rather the concentration seems to be on making
rooms fresh with wall color, accent pieces and accessories.
aren’t looking for a particular style," says Geneane Francour,
an interior designer with Peabody’s Interiors in Brown Deer.
"We’re mixing styles and working existing furnishings into the
palette for 2013 is leaning toward strong, vibrant colors that some
professionals refer to as jewel tones. But Tara Wilke, co-owner of
McNabb & Risley in Thiensville, says it’s not reminiscent of the
1990s. "This palette is lighter with citron, aquamarines and
bright pinks," she says.
Wilke says the
return to brighter colors reflects people’s desire to create a
happier, more comfortable home environment. Similarly, she says
homeowners are craving textiles, pairing bold patterns like florals,
stripes and hand-painted prints with more natural fabrics like linen.
sees her clients leaning toward a simpler, more casual look for their
space. "They want less fussy design, nothing heavy or
ornate," she says.
Though new home
construction is still down substantially from the heyday of the late
1990s and early 2000s, municipalities in the Milwaukee area are
encouraging development again. "That’s a huge change from 15 to
20 years ago," Ruzicka says. Back then, communities looking to
contain residential development put provisions in place that
essentially made building more expensive. From higher impact fees to
increased lot sizes and bigger setbacks to strict architectural
control, building a new home was a costly endeavor.
The real estate
market flip-flopped after the bottom dropped out of the market in
2008, and continues to be a buyers’ market. "In the booming
years, homes were basically being sold as is," says Ruzicka.
"But now buyers want move-in ready."
has been selling real estate since 1992, agrees. Her clients routinely
seek well-maintained properties with updated kitchens and bathrooms.
"Buyers, especially those with dual incomes or kids, want to move
in and start living."
rates and employment stabilizing, the Milwaukee area real estate
market appears to be rebounding. Over the past year, homes that
dropped significantly in value a few years ago are appreciating again.
A lack of inventory in the Milwaukee market is also driving up demand.
"Sellers are still holding back, waiting for the market to get
better so there aren’t enough properties to support the demand for
housing currently," Ruzicka explains. "Hopefully, home
prices start rising soon so more properties come on the market."
still reign supreme for families, Jaworski says first-time buyers
without kids and empty nesters prefer a walkable community. The trend
has taken such a strong hold in the Milwaukee area the Multiple
Listing Service now includes a walk score on its property listings.
walkscore.com, a website dedicated to measuring neighborhood
walkability, ranked Milwaukee as the 15th most walkable large city in
the United States, noting city neighborhoods like Northpoint and
Murray Hill for their walkability. "It’s a big deal," says
Jaworski. "Buyers today value what an urban community has to
offer like public transportation and walkability. It’s a whole
different mind-set than 10 or 20 years ago."