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What's Hot Today May Be Even Hotter Later

October 20, 1996|ALAN FIELDS and DENISE FIELDS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you plan to sell your home at some point, you would be wise to make sure it contains some of the items that other buyers want.

To learn what's hip, we turned to a study of home buyers conducted by market researchers Myril Axelrod and George Fulton and reported in Builder magazine. The study provides a window into what's happening in the new home market. So, what's hot and what's not? Here's a rundown.

* Fewer frills, more space. Home buyers are forgoing the fancy marble foyers and cherry kitchen cabinets. What do they want instead? More space. More "value." Forget those fancy cathedral ceilings; folks would rather have bigger bedrooms.

Buyers walk into two-story entryways and think, "Gee, that space could be a spare guest room." Parents with giant master bedroom closets are perhaps feeling guilty that their children's rooms are tiny boxes.

* Forget the power bathrooms. Here's one sure sign that the 1980s are over: the decline of the "power" bathroom. This trend was typified by master baths with giant whirlpool tubs and gilded faucets. Although these amenities are still in vogue with luxury home buyers, most others see these water-guzzling bathrooms as passe. Buyers in areas with water shortages seem especially guilt-ridden.

* Storage, storage, storage. That's the key word for new home buyers. This trend is probably driving the three-car garage as a standard amenity in some areas. It's not for a third car but for all the important junk folks seem to acquire. In parts of the country where basements are rare, storage areas in inventive places (as in under staircases) are hip.

* That's entertainment. Media rooms have replaced dens as many new home buyers go for big-screen TVs and home theaters.

* Real home offices. Whether you work full time at home or just occasionally, the home office is becoming a standard amenity. Obviously, multiple phone lines and electrical outlets are a necessity. For serious home offices, counter and storage space are a must.

And the location of the home office is important to consider as well; the old days when home offices were crammed into a secondary bedroom or a small space off the front foyer are gone. The best home offices offer views or have lots of natural light.

* Mom, can I get a Power Mac? You can't be a kid today if you don't surf the Net. And most kids' bedrooms today need to be larger to accommodate all the computer equipment. Instead of the standard 10 feet by 10 feet, consider adding at least two to four feet to each dimension.

* Flexibility. Rooms that do double duty (like a sitting room that converts to a guest room) are hot. Another hip trend: "accessory dwelling units," a fancy term for a separate nanny's quarters or an apartment over the garage for a live-in grandparent or adult child. These spaces often have private entrances and kitchenettes.

* Relaxing on the porch. Many communities are trying to make neighborhoods more "pedestrian friendly." Designers have responded to this trend by including 6-foot front porches on many new homes.

* The all-purpose kitchen. The plain kitchen desk has transformed into a "planning center" complete with computer and storage. The widely reported death of the formal dining room has given rise to plush "casual eating spaces" that function for both everyday and special occasions.

Excerpted by permission from "Your New House--The Alert Consumer's Guide to Buying and Building a Quality Home," Second Edition, by Alan and Denise Fields (Windsor Peak Press, $13.95). Available in bookstores or by calling (800) 888-0385.

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