Large, luxury custom homes remain as popular as ever
Many people envision their dream home.
It might be a castle-like European design with picturesque gables and turrets, a classic Georgian with stately columns or a more rustic residence with Old Word craftsmanship -- each with spectacular interiors and state-of-the-art amenities.
We're surrounded by images of fabulous homes in the movies and on television. The rich and famous have always enjoyed lavish lifestyles in large estates. And we love to peek into homes of the wealthy and go on celebrity house tours in Beverly Hills or closer to home.
In the Chicago area, large luxury homes remain in demand. While most people don't own a mansion worth millions of dollars, there's no reason homebuyers can't have a smaller slice of the pie.
Those who can afford large luxury homes have always been attracted to them, and, if history offers an indication of the future, beautiful homes in ideal locations will always draw homebuyers, builders say.
"I don't think there's a (renewed) trend for large homes," said Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes. "People are always gravitating to the level home they can afford."
Nathan Amidon, director of sales for Shodeen Homes, echoes Benach. "People have always aspired to having that large, custom home."
The upper end of the market has been less affected by the recession, and when the market started improving, people wanted to upgrade to the right size home because they could afford more square footage.
"Our custom neighborhoods with larger homes have done really well during the last six months," Amidon said.
"This area has steadily grown, and a lot more people are buying custom homes now than in the past. Typically we sold a few homes a year; now custom homes account for 10 (percent) to 15 percent of sales," Amidon said.
"Many people coming in want to customize a larger home and move up in the community to their 'forever' home."
The concept of homebuyers purchasing a home for the long-term is also what Brian Brunhofer experiences at communities by Meritus Home Builders.
"We see a lot of people who want to fit their needs not only for today, but for the longer term. They're not buying a home for the next two or three years, then moving on," said Brunhofer, president of the company. "They're looking ahead to what their families will look like in five years when they might want to finish out the basement or make other changes. They want the flexibility in their homes to carry them through the years."
Benach also sees buyers settling in at Woodleaf at The Sanctuary Club in Kildeer.
"We have all local buyers who are at that stage in their lives where they're looking forward to the next 10 years and getting into a good high school district," Benach said.
Many homebuyers are looking to right-size and not necessarily focusing on the square footage of the home, but rather on the characteristics they want. They might like an office now but will later convert it to a bedroom for visiting family members, Brunhofer said.
Lexington Homes also builds an unusual semi-custom hybrid that is not a completely designed tract home, yet buyers also do not start with completely blank sheet of paper.
"We have custom plans from architects, and clients can select the home they want from these plans and make whatever changes they want," Benach said. "We have very upscale inclusions -- top-of-the-line appliances, crown molding, site-stained hardwood flooring."
Large homes usually have big, beautiful interiors. Open floor plans have been one of the biggest changes in home design in the last five years -- a trend to not relegate rooms but to intertwine them into one large open space.
"In keeping with the open look, people don't want a living room and are putting the space into more practical functions," Benach said. "Families used to gather in the living room at night; now the only thing they do there is meet their insurance man.
"We might include a den and keeping room just off the kitchen that can be used in any way."
In these beautiful interiors, you may see a grand foyer, the welcoming focal point of the home, and a winding staircase. A great aspect of the cavernous space is the amount of natural light that will flow throughout.
Also, in the large space, homeowners can designate areas for various uses with the ability to change the size of these areas to fit the situation. They can bring another table into the dining area or add chairs to the great room for large gatherings. They can create niche areas on an as-needed basis.
Emerald Homes, the luxury brand of D.R. Horton Homes, offers beautiful interiors that feature unique appointments and also include volume ceilings, luxury kitchen spaces with granite or quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances, said Chris Naatz, vice president of sales and marketing for D.R. Horton's Chicago division.
Many of these homes feature a finished basement, which adds even more space new owners can enjoy immediately.
Why do people buy these large homes?
They purchase them because they can. People often purchase large homes to fit their lifestyles. They may entertain large groups as a requirement for their position or for their social involvement.
Perhaps they prefer to cook and entertain at home rather than going out to a restaurant or having an event catered.
Large homes appeal to upsizers as well as downsizers, Brunhofer said. People may be downsizing from a 6,000-square-foot home to a residence with 3,000 square feet.
Some buyers are younger, wealthy people who may bypass the starter home. These people are accustomed to a particular lifestyle and can continue to live in that vein when they purchase their own homes.
"We believe there are folks that want to maximize their buying power," Naatz said. "They want to take advantage of today's attractive interest rates and prices before they increase."