Hot Trends in Master-Planned Communities & Home Design
From Multi-generational Vacation Homes to What Women Want in a Home
By Scott Kauffman and Kelly Godbey. Previously published in the 2016 Winter Issue.
Catering to the various demands, attitudes and tastes of today’s retirement and vacation home buyers has become so much more complex. Indeed, the days of simply designing a first-class vacation or second-home community in a sunny locale like Florida or marvelous mountain resort town in the Carolinas are long gone.
Basically, the traditional singular-focused golf course community of old or lakefront development with a series of cottages and comfortable clubhouse amenities has evolved into a much broader “lifestyle community” that reflects the wants and desires of today’s families. To be sure, the fundamentals that drive retirement and vacation home buyers toward purchases, year-round sunshine, majestic mountains, and sparkling lake or oceanfront vistas, are as strong as ever.
There’s just a richer or more experiential element expected these days at most master-planned resort-style communities. What follows are some of the ongoing trends within this changing marketplace.
High-End Design for the Masses
When Martin Horner of Chicago-based Soucie Horner, Ltd. Architectural Interiors Design got involved at Brunswick Forest in Wilmington, NC, his brother, Dan Horner of Tribute Homes, wanted to bring high-end detailing to the mass audience. As brother Martin put it, design should no longer be reserved for the elite one-off client building the ultimate custom home. As it turns out, this aspiration for authenticity and innovative design and construction techniques is in high demand by the mass population.
“Every home can benefit from thoughtful architecture and design, regardless of its price point,” Martin Horner adds. “It doesn’t have to cost more money to ensure sight lines are pleasant, or that traffic patterns make intuitive sense, or that attention is paid to the details on side elevations, and not just the front. But it does require that architects and designers think about these sorts of things. That takes a lot of upfront planning, and a keen understanding of scale and proportion – which not everyone possesses. But a house that has been thoughtfully designed is going to feel as good as it looks, in ways you may not even really recognize. You’ll just know how comfortable you feel in it, and how it seems to work so well. That’s always important, whether you’re buying a luxury custom home or a mass-produced home.”
Indoor-Outdoor Is In!
Open spaces are in! Visit any home in an upscale community these days and expansive outdoor entertainment spaces with summer kitchens – seamlessly connected via palatial sliding pocket glass windows/doors – are as ubiquitous as the golf course greens or glistening water views these homes often overlook.
“We continue to see growing importance on connections between indoor and outdoor spaces, especially as the quality and variety of outdoor furnishings continues to explode,” Martin Horner of Chicago-based Soucie Horner, Ltd. Architectural Interiors Design says. “Five years ago, choices for outdoor furniture – and cushions, rugs, and pillows – were somewhat limited. Today, the options are almost endless, and a lot of them are truly gorgeous.”
Construction on the Move
One of the biggest changes in luxury real estate marketing in the past few years is a growing confidence from consumers to start building custom homes on lots they’ve been holding. According to real estate marketing specialist Jim Matoska of Red Earth Corporation, a few years ago, people were searching for the distressed property to pick up and now people are ready to build. “We are selling more units and raising prices. It’s just a very steady rise in demand.”
Homebuyers know what they want and are now ready to make the move to build a custom home that fits their needs.
New Home Trends
“When I speak with retirees, I find they tell me they want the exact opposite of what they have now. People are finished with their current lives and want to start fresh. They are trying to detach from chaos and want to break away from what they had,” says Annah Norris of Bill Clark Homes in Wilmington, NC.
“Although it’s hard to keep up with the trends, homebuyers are choosing more traditional styles and color palettes. People want much calmer, softer spa-like colors, like light bluish greens. They have transitioned away from cooler to warmer tones. Trim colors have even gone to creams and off-whites instead of stark whites.”
Although stainless steel is still a popular choice, you will see more paneled appliances and cabinet hoods over stoves. People want to build more character into their homes today from statement moldings and unique ceiling treatments to spa-like bathrooms.
“In my opinion, design can change someone’s life. Color schemes and furnishings can affect how comfortable you are in your home.”
What Women Want
“We’ve found that women in the 50-plus age range like to entertain and have friends over. Entertainment inspires many of the trends women want in a home from outdoor living spaces to pet centers to a spacious foyer,” said Connie Pollard, Sr. Vice President of East West Communities.
In September 2015, East West Communities partnered with builders to create the “2015 Massey Street of Hope” that features eight designer furnished homes on one street in Hallsley, a community in Midlothian, VA. These homes highlight the latest in trends with an emphasis on “What Women Want.”
Women want space for entertaining. Pollard said one of the more popular features is a catering kitchen with a sink that you can close off when entertaining.
“Outdoor living spaces are very popular—we see more open spaces and fewer screened porches. They want a kitchen that opens to an outdoor patio through a nano wall that enlarges a home,” continued Pollard.
“You also see a lot of reclaimed wood flooring, staircases and even structural supports,” said Pollard. “Multi-purpose rooms are quite popular, such as a laundry room with lots of counter space that doubles as a catering kitchen or crafting area and mini office. Storage is paramount in a new home.”
One other trend is a sleeping room (or snoring room) off of the master bedroom. That’s perfect to make sure both of you can get some sleep when you need it. In essence, women want comfort and to make their guests feel comfortable.
Wycliffe Golf & Country Club in Wellington, FL, is a relatively mature private club community built out with no new phases left to develop. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an appetite for construction activity.
In fact, one trend this club is beginning to see is many homeowners or investors starting renovation projects to upgrade or modernize their homes for future buyers or future use. The club sees such a great opportunity with this buzz of activity, it is considering a Renovation Incentive Program in 2016. The idea behind the marketing program is to incentivize homeowners to invest capital into their homes in exchange for preferred pricing from featured builders or possibly some kind of discount or rebate on club dues.
Longtime membership and marketing director Cheryl Loder says the program is perfect timing for those homes that need some revamping or updating.
“The number one thing we hear are the kitchens being modernized,” says Loder, whose community has condos priced from $125,000 and single-family residences going for up to $950,000. “They usually want new appliances or new cabinets with nicer backsplashes. Bathrooms are another key area.
“We’re also seeing homes going for entirely new floor plans and updates to make the house their own. Some are taking the third bedroom and setting it up as an office or maybe adding an extra bedroom or reading room.”
Sense of Community
“One of the things I’ve noticed at successful places like Bay Creek [a golf and resort-style community along the Chesapeake Bay in Cape Charles, VA] is that you have to have a sense of community,” says Wade Adler, whose Waypoint Partners marketing firm has experience working with multiple master-planned communities. “All of our residents are friendly and spend a lot of time with each other. It’s not unusual for them to celebrate holidays together.
“We recently had a sales event for new prospects and residents and after the event we had a dozen owners drawing straws for where the after party was going to be. We just have this sense of small-town charm where the kids can safely ride their bikes throughout the property and everybody knows each other. It’s a feel most metro places have lost.”
Indeed, it’s an intangible asset that no developer can build. When it works, it’s a culture that resonates from younger families to retirees, according to Adler, from townhomes starting in the low $400,000s to multi-million-dollar estate homes on the bay.
Social Activity Clubs
One of the biggest trends in master-planned communities is flourishing social and activity clubs. From the traditional golf to pickle ball and cycling, from paddle boarding to art and dinner clubs, master-planned communities have realized that it takes an active lifestyle to create an environment to attract buyers.
Raoul Rushin, president of The Landings Company on Skidaway Island just outside of Savannah, GA, says, “Whether it’s book clubs, wine clubs, paddle boarding or photography, just about every group you can name, people meet regularly in The Landings.” Activity among members brings an overwhelming sense of life and vitality to the development.
Rushin continued, “After a banner year in 2014, we were up 27% in sales and, in 2015, we’ll be up an additional 10%. The Landings is one of the largest private clubs in the country. As with any community of this size, with six golf courses, two marinas, 40 miles of trails, and countless amenities, constant upgrades are required to keep us fresh and at the top of the game.”
Multi-Generational Mega Homes
To be a successful community these days, many developers are realizing they need to market and design their developments around multiple generations. By including homes large enough to accommodate multiple generations, developers are helping homebuyers to achieve their dream of building a family legacy home.
In an “AARP Travel Research: Multi-Generational Travel” study released last spring, the organization for retirees notes “approximately half of the 45-plus travel audience have either taken (37 percent) or intend to take such a trip in the next year (16 percent).”
Emphasis is on the family and creating a home where there is enough space to accommodate grandparents, parents and children.
At Blue Ridge Mountain Club in Blowing Rock, NC, sales and marketing director Reggie Bray has a new term for this type of home purchase: Primary Gathering Place. Bray says an estimated 70 percent of the homeowners at Blue Ridge Mountain Club are “second-home purchasers” with a number of them transitioning into permanent residences within three to five years. What is different, Bray notes, is a “very cool phenomenon where families are saying this isn’t a second home or a primary home, but a Primary Gathering Place for their families.”