Builders aim to please when it comes to luxury buyers

 
By Sherry Giewald
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/24/2018 6:21 AM
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  • Master bathrooms get the luxury treatment in a high-end home. Toll Brothers is building The Woods of South Barrington, where homes start in the mid-$800,000s.

    Master bathrooms get the luxury treatment in a high-end home. Toll Brothers is building The Woods of South Barrington, where homes start in the mid-$800,000s. Courtesy of Toll Brothers

  • William Ryan Homes owns North Shore Builders, which is developing Westleigh Farm in Lake Forest. Its model home will open Oct. 20.

    William Ryan Homes owns North Shore Builders, which is developing Westleigh Farm in Lake Forest. Its model home will open Oct. 20. Courtesy of North Shore Builders

  • Luxury buyers want to feel safe and secure in their new homes.

    Luxury buyers want to feel safe and secure in their new homes. Courtesy of Toll Brothers

  • Samuel Homes provides high-end appliances and finishes at its Victoria Park development in Libertyville.

    Samuel Homes provides high-end appliances and finishes at its Victoria Park development in Libertyville. Courtesy of Samuel Homes

  • Automated systems and remote stationing for entertainment systems are important for most buyers at Norton Lake in Campton Hills.

    Automated systems and remote stationing for entertainment systems are important for most buyers at Norton Lake in Campton Hills. Courtesy of Shodeen Homes

What do luxury homebuyers want today? Are they going for over-the-top amenities or keeping it practical?

Jeremy Lund, director of sales for Shodeen Homes, says its buyers are doing what makes sense -- investing money in wise ways where they get a lot of bang for the buck now, while making practical decisions about what will attract buyers for resale.

Ninety percent of buyers have decided what they want in their new house before even stepping into a model home, Lund said. "With so many resources available to buyers today, they've seen a lot of homes on the internet and Pinterest from the convenience of their homes. They already know they want a white kitchen."

Here's what luxury homebuyers in suburban Chicago desire.

Security and convenience of automation

Because it's important that people feel safe and want their homes secure, builders today integrate smart home technology in their new houses. This includes technologies that control lights, thermostats, locks, cameras and other systems.

At The Woods of South Barrington, where homes start in the mid-$800,000s, homes are selling with a lot of automation, said Allison Keifer, director of sales for the Chicago division of Toll Brothers.

Most buyers at Norton Lake by Shodeen Homes are upgrading to remote stationing for DVDs and stereos, Lund said. "We're not seeing so many wires these days. Equipment in a closet or basement space centrally controls everything."

"Our buyers often want a very elaborate sound system and smart electrical system where one button turns off all the lights in the home," said Peter Di Iorio, president of Dior Homes.

Other comfort features at Dior Homes include showers where the water temperature is set for each member of the family and commodes with heated seats, also with desired temperatures in memory, Di Iorio said. "That's what technology does for you."

Dior Homes, which has been building luxury homes for 25 years, also offers a system that injects fresh air into a home 24 hours a day. With today's homes always closed up, the air quality is very poor, Di Iorio said.

Many people have allergies that they don't even know about; toxic items can be lurking in building materials, such as tar paper below the flooring.

Desired amenities

Today's luxury buyers give the kitchen and bath royal treatment.

At Norton Lake in Campton Hills, upgrades in the kitchen and bath are still strong, Lund said. "People like quartz countertops and the best cabinets they can afford in the kitchen and master baths."

Most people are choosing engineered or laminate flooring that looks just like wood. They like the look; it's maintenance-free and comes with a 25- to 30-year warranty, Lund said.

At The Woods of South Barrington by Toll Brothers, a lot of granite and high-end finishes are popular, Keifer said. "Our buyers all have champagne tastes."

Many of its buyers do a lot of entertaining with large groups of people, and they want a wide open entertainment space, Keifer said. Because they use a lot of oils and cook food with strong flavors, they like the practical option of a spice kitchen where they do a lot of food preparation with an oven and cooktop, Keifer said. "We're starting to build a lot of these."

Many luxury buyers want a first-floor bedroom of some kind, either a suite or a bedroom with a walk-in closet, especially for families with multigenerational living -- they want that space.

Toll Brothers receives a lot of requests for a bedroom for guests because many of their buyers have visitors that travel from outside the country and stay for a few months.

Even younger people want a first-floor master bedroom; with today's technology, a camera serves as surveillance, Di Iorio said.

"Some of our homes provide elevators where you can easily get up and down three floors. They're also structured so buyers can add an elevator later. In-laws or relatives may need an elevator."

While many selected amenities are based on offered options and upgrades, homes at Westleigh Farm in Lake Forest by North Shore Builders are built with "luxury inclusions," said Joe Balistreri, project manager.

That means integrated smart home technology, such as video doorbells and smart deadbolt locks, energy conserving features, and conveniences like zero-step showers. "We include Viking appliances throughout the kitchen, Andersen windows and doors, Lennox high-efficiency furnaces, and Amish handcrafted cabinets," Balistreri said. "The standard kitchen countertop is granite." The builder also offers upgrades.

Setting and homesite

Homebuyers that spend money on a high-end home also want an environment that fits their lifestyle.

The new Westleigh Farm community in Lake Forest is built on the pastoral grounds of the original King Country Estate (famed for inspiring F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby").

"All of our homes have a rich, luxurious look that partners well with the surrounding landscape," Balistreri said. "And each house is strategically placed to have sweeping views of the orchard."

The Woods of South Barrington sits next to the Barrington Conservancy, 35 acres of lightly wooded prairie and wetland where residents have access to walking trails and a picnic area.

Norton Lake offers picturesque homesites surrounded by parks, walking trails and beautiful lush landscaping with the convenience of an on-site elementary school.

"We are sold out of our premium pond lots," Lund said. "People want a nice homesite, and they like a walkout or lookout basement."

For Airhart Construction's luxury buyers at Courthouse Square in Wheaton, it's all about a desirable in-town spot in the heart of the community where residents can walk to everything. Residents are typically two people and a few college kids that come and go, and they want to be in town or in a development near town because their lives are already established, said Christy Whelan, director of sales.

"They have a church, shopping and hobbies, and they want a new home near familiar places," Whelan said. "That's important to them."

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