New modern home designs, move-in-ready homes and confident homebuyers add up to good news for area homebuilders, who have geared up for a better housing market.
The housing market is improving nationally and within areas of the Chicago region, with new construction strong and improving at a quicker pace than other submarkets, said Lance Ramella, senior vice president at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
"Closer-in areas in DuPage County -- Naperville and Lisle -- are doing very well along with closer-in Kane and south Lake (counties), pockets of Cook (County) and downtown condo sales," Ramella said.
"Certain builders are reporting that new subdivisions, if in the right location, are selling extremely well, and builders are increasing prices and actually slowing the sales pace intentionally so they can keep up with production.
"Things are looking up. There is more demand than supply right now, which means prices will start to increase at a faster pace."
Suburban homebuilders are beginning to reap the benefits of a stronger market.
"People coming in the door are a lot more serious; they've sold their homes, and they're ready to buy," said Joelle Tilche, director of sales and marketing for King's Court Builders. "Our sales have increased quite a bit."
Nathan Amidon, representing Shodeen Homes, echoes Tilche.
"We've seen an increase in demand mainly because inventory is down and the number of homes on the market has decreased," said Amidon, division manager for New Home Star Illinois Division.
Builders are also preparing for more visitors and potential buyers at their new home communities.
Airhart Construction, known for its striking contemporary, prairie and traditional homes, is rolling out a new set of more modern designs -- its Mid-Century Modern Design Series, said Bill Whelan, marketing manager.
"These homes are what were modern about 50 years ago. We've taken that look and updated the design to meet today's lifestyles with real clean lines for a sophisticated, urban look," Whelan said.
"We've included more closet space and better laundry rooms and more natural products, such as stucco and wood exteriors and bamboo flooring."
The Skyline, one of the Mid-Century Modern home designs, features amenities such as a gourmet kitchen island with warming drawer, Hanstone countertops, and custom shower in the master bathroom.
These new home designs can be built in Airhart Construction's Fisher Farm subdivision or on lots available in Wheaton and Winfield. Airhart will also build for people who have their own lot in the West suburbs.
Shodeen Homes is staying ahead of the game by building several move-in-ready homes that give people a wide range of houses to choose from at Mill Creek, a master-planned community in Geneva. The Hartford is one of the homes available for immediate occupancy in the Tanna neighborhood.
"A big strategy for Shodeen is to always have homes available for occupancy and to show people just about every different floor plan that we build," Amidon said.
Mill Creek offers several types of housing options including condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes, including entry level, semi-custom and custom homes.
"We've also seen a lot of demand for custom homes recently because people who are moving to a second move-up home are finding market conditions, home value and good interest rates," Amidon said.
"The market conditions are favorable for purchasing a custom home because people can afford to get what they want, and now is a good time to take advantage of that."
King's Court Builders stands ready for homebuyers with both ranch and two-story homes in a wide variety of designs and prices at active communities in Plainfield, Naperville and Elgin.
It also has a few inventory homes under construction for December delivery: one in Plainfield and the other in Naperville.
"Although we're a 100-percent custom builder, our standard plans give people ideas for their homes and a starting point with the option of customization. Or they can build a totally new custom home," Tilche said.
"We've been around for a long time, and our reputation for building a quality home allowed us to stay active when some builders were closing their doors. We remained consistent, which helped us stay strong and in the forefront. A lot of our business comes from referrals from our customers."
Some builders see emerging trends while others note popular features in their new homes.
Airhart Construction sees a demand for more and more teardowns, where people want to live in a mature neighborhood close to the train station and downtown. "In some cases, the land is more valuable than the house," Whelan said. "Most of this activity is happening in Wheaton and Winfield, both well-established communities."
Recently Airhart has worked on two handicapped accessible homes of which one is under construction at Fisher Farms. One, for a homeowner, features an accessible first-floor master bedroom with bath and shower, while the other features an accessible second bedroom and bath for a child.
"With recent advancements, the accessible showers are easier to do than in the past because we can buy a completed unit without doing a full custom shower," Whelan said.
"We're doing a lot of different things, which is pretty exciting."
King's Court Builders is receiving rave reviews for its big, winding custom staircase in its model at Lakeside of Grande Park in Plainfield. "It gets a lot of attention," Tilche said. "When people see it, they want a staircase just like it."
Another feature people really like is the mud room, also shown in the model, that is separate from the laundry room and features built-in lockers for shoes, coats and backpacks, Tilche said. "This room is especially appealing to people with multiple children."
At Shodeen's Design Center, kitchens and flooring feature a lot more of the darker stains in cabinetry and hardwood floors, with the contrast of white or lighter granite, said Diane Durpetti, design center director.
"A lot more people like the stainless steel apron for the sink, which is becoming pretty popular now," Durpetti said. "Also, for stairways, people again like the contrast of the dark banister with white spindles."
For Airhart, there's still a big focus on lower maintenance and energy efficiency, Whelan said. "People don't want heavy-duty, expensive green options, but basic things such as a tighter house, better windows and Hardi plank siding."