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posted: 2/24/2013 4:00 AM

What's in and what's out in today's houses

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  • Ranch homes with an abundance of high ceilings, like this model at Fox Run in Plainfield, are popular with buyers today.

      Ranch homes with an abundance of high ceilings, like this model at Fox Run in Plainfield, are popular with buyers today.
    Courtesy of Epcon Communities

  • Open floor plans, like this one at Airhart Construction's Fisher Farm development in Winfield, do away with walls that partition off kitchens and formal living and dining rooms.

       Open floor plans, like this one at Airhart Construction's Fisher Farm development in Winfield, do away with walls that partition off kitchens and formal living and dining rooms.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer, 2012

  • Modern kitchens have always been popular with buyers. Center islands are desired for their extra counter space.

      Modern kitchens have always been popular with buyers. Center islands are desired for their extra counter space.
    Courtesy of K. Hovnanian Homes

 
By Michelle Jennings Wiebe
Tampa Bay Times

House-hunting can be so much fun and so overwhelming at the same time. If you are out looking for your next castle, it is wise to create a wish list of what you personally desire for your home, including the interiors.

While viewing different houses, take a camera and a notepad to document how each compares to your list. In today's real-estate market, the features below are definitely on many homebuyers' wish lists.

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What's in:

• Modern kitchens

The kitchen is the heart of every home and, therefore, has become the most important space for homebuyers. Increasingly, buyers want a modern open kitchen with an informal eat-in area, for both meals and homework.

Center islands are desired, for their added counter space and storage. Large sinks under a window always are a hit.

Appliances are one of the most expensive items in a home, so make sure to look at the condition, age (including energy efficiency) and overall appearance. A lot of buyers are inclined to show status by having high-end appliances such as Wolf and Sub-Zero.

As for countertops, natural stone such as granite is still popular, but quartz counters such as Silestone and Caesarstone are becoming more in demand.

What's out: Long, narrow galley kitchens and separate dining rooms.

• Open floor plans

In newer homes, buyers desire open spaces with numerous windows and high ceilings.

Open designs are ones with great rooms, as the kitchen and family room have open access to each another. Superior natural lighting is on most homebuyers' wish lists, so large and abundant windows achieve this. High ceilings create spaciousness and give good lighting and decorating options.

What's out: Low ceilings covered in popcorn or knockdown textures.

• Durable hardwood floors and tile

More and more, buyers are opting for homes with hardwood flooring and/or tile due to the resilience and maintenance. These floors also can give style and beauty to any room.

In older homes, original hardwood flooring may be hidden under old carpet. It's important to see what is underneath, and see if the hardwood can be refinished. Broadloom carpet may still be considered for bedrooms.

What's out: Different flooring in every room, dirty carpeting.

• Lavish bathrooms

Buyers typically want at least two full bathrooms, preferably with windows for natural lighting and ventilation. They also desire walk-in showers instead of shower and tub combinations. However, at least one bathtub should be in the home.

For the master bathroom, most buyers wish for two sinks, a free-standing tub, a shower with myriad water features, and a separate water closet for the toilet.

What's out: Whirlpool tubs with expansive tub decks.

• Plentiful bedrooms

On average, most buyers want a minimum of three bedrooms, even if they are single or a couple without children. Bedrooms can serve multiple purposes, such as a home office, exercise room or man cave. Some buyers want all the bedrooms on the same level, especially if they have small children.

Most like the master bedroom to have some type of separation from the children's rooms and have their own in-suite bathroom and closet area. Boomers are seeking a full bedroom with bath on the first floor for aging parents, or for their own room later in life.

What's out: The master bedroom sharing a bathroom with another bedroom.

• Media-filled family/gathering room

The cocooning trend continues, as spending time with family and friends is paramount to well-being. Large flat-screen televisions and a comfortable seating area to accommodate many people are preferred by most buyers. Families now spend a lot of time on laptops and tablets while hanging out in this area.

What's out: Formal living rooms only used during the holidays

• Outdoor living spaces

Buyers want an area to enjoy the great outdoors. This includes pool decks, outdoor kitchens, TV viewing areas and even fireplaces. Also in newer homes, there is a trend to integrate the interiors with the exterior and views, with large sliding glass doors, partitions and windows.

What's out: Heavy window treatments that don't permit natural light and views.

• Storage, storage, storage

Older homes provide less of this, whereas newer homes typically have more. Most buyers want large walk-in closets in the master bedroom. In luxury homes, custom built-in closet systems are a must. Savvy buyers also want ample closets for sporting equipment, holiday decorations, seasonal clothes and crafts supplies. If closets aren't prevalent, buyers may consider using a spare bedroom for additional storage.

What's out: Tiny closets with white wire shelving that yellows and becomes sticky.

• Michelle Jennings Wiebe is president and principal designer of Studio M in Tampa, Fla.

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