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Pumping up a home's appeal

Although no magic bullet, workout spaces can be healthy choices -- for property values.

July 29, 2007|Della De LaFuente | Associated Press

There's no monthly membership for a home gym, no lines for exercise machines or commute times to the local fitness center. For some homeowners, it's making a lot of sense to stay home to work out.

Real estate developers and builders say homeowners increasingly are choosing to build in-home gyms as a must-have amenity, mainly to get and stay fit, but also to pump up the appeal of their property.

Roughly one-third of new and potential home buyers cite a home exercise room as either essential or desirable, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders, a Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group.

"The home gym is one of the top amenities that homeowners want to incorporate into their homes," said Gabe Pasquale, vice president and chief marketing officer of WCI Communities' Northeast region, based in Valhalla, N.Y. WCI Communities is a developer of luxury residential communities and gated enclaves in six states.

Today's active baby boomers, Pasquale said, see themselves "as being about 15 years younger" than their actual ages, and they want their own space to work out at home.

WCI began noticing the shift in luxury home design to more lifestyle-driven floor plans in the 1990s, as baby boomers began demanding health-related amenities such as home gyms, spas and meditation rooms aimed at helping them live longer.

Consumers made significant strides to get in shape in 2006, with 25.7 million Americans -- a nearly 30% increase from 19.8 million in 2000 -- working out in a home gym, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assn. in Washington, D.C. Others in the fitness game, including some architects, designers, manufacturers and retailers of home-gym equipment, say the move to working out in the comfort and privacy of one's abode is being driven largely by time-strapped homeowners who want to work out when they choose.

"Some of the women are very busy, but they are also very health-conscious, so it's important that they exercise every day," said Trevor Abramson, partner in charge of design at Abramson Teiger Architects in Culver City. Having a room right there at home "makes it a lot easier and more convenient."

And home gyms may provide a respite from the nightclub-scene mentality that's sometimes associated with the neighborhood health club. "The fitness-crazed baby boomers that in the 1980s were going to the health club to hook up and get married now are bringing the gym home for themselves and their families," Pasquale said.

Ninety percent of the custom homes designed by Abramson's firm in Southern California, Colorado and Canada include home gyms for affluent clients. Many of these clients are entrepreneurs with a taste for modern architectural homes -- which, as Abramson points out, "tend to make a statement."

One oversized exercise room on the second level of a home was tricked out with its own bathroom and shower facility and stocked with 15 pieces of fitness equipment.

But usually, Abramson said, in-home gyms designed by his firm are about the size of a regular bedroom. Most have just a few pieces of fitness equipment. There might be a treadmill, or an elliptical trainer, or both, plus a multifunctional home-gym machine to work all parts of the body. Specially reinforced flooring may be added and sometimes the room is soundproofed. Often buyers want wiring for ceiling or wall-mounted music speakers. "We mostly do homes that have some sort of workout space that's either associated with the master suite or with an outdoor living environment, either near a pool or opening up into a garden," Abramson explained, adding: "It's still an important room, and we try to find a spot where it has a view because it's spiritually uplifting to look out at something beautiful."

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