Today's homebuyers value services and retail outlets above all other community amenities, according to a new survey from John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, California.
Even when preferences are broken down by cohort -- Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1979 and Gen Yers born from 1980 to 2000 -- having grocery stores and restaurants nearby are the No. 1 and No. 2 most desired among a list of 25 amenities.
Next on the list for Boomers and Gen Xers is walking trails, then fitness centers -- with the order reversed for Gen Y. A community-wide, high-speed Internet system is also a top choice. If a park is included at a property, prospects would prefer it be a dog park.
Actually, the only major differences among the more than 20,000 new-home shoppers who took part in the study relate to the presence of children in the younger housheholds.
Another finding: Community-wide events and experiences rank above pools, parks and other tangible amenities typically found in new properties. And the good news is that they are usually less expensive for developers.
ADDING SQUARE FOOTAGE
Homebuyers looking for more square footage without increasing the size of the house may want to consider pocket doors, which slide into the wall cavity when open.
According to Johnson Hardware, which makes pocket door hardware and other building materials, traditional swinging doors require 8 to 10 square feet of usable floor space, whereas pocket doors need none. Replacing, say, a dozen swinging doors with pocket doors could yield an extra 120 square feet, or the equivalent of a 10-by-12-foot room.
Pocket doors tend to make rooms appear bigger. And double doors in which one slides one way and the other slides the other way -- converging doors, if you will -- can make for one large room when open or two smaller, more intimate rooms when closed.
Looked at another way, the company says that if a home is initially built with pocket doors, it could be kept to a smaller footprint right from the start. That means less house to build, heat and cool -- which could mean big savings.
RENTAL REVIEWS AND SCORES
Nothing beats an on-site visit, whether you are buying or renting. But prospective renters are placing more and more importance on online reviews, according to a new study.
A second study finds that credit scores improve when on-time rental payments are included. That's good news for renters who want to become owners, whether for the first time or for a second go-round after previous failed attempts at the brass ring.
The analysis by TransUnion found that nearly 8 out of 10 consumers with blemished credit -- the so-called "subprime" gang -- saw an increase in their scores just one month after rent payments were included. More than 4 out of 10 saw an increase of 10 points or more in their scores.
That means these consumers, who are potential borrowers for home loans, may not be as risky as they appear strictly from the standpoint of a traditional credit score, according to Tim Martin, TransUnion's executive vice president.
More proof: On average, renters who became owners in early 2012 experienced a 5 percent boost to their credit scores in 2013 after their rental histories were included.
Meanwhile, the study that found consumers are placing an increased importance on online reviews warned that not just any review will do. Prospects give a thumbs-down to anonymous opinions. Rather, they want authenticated, certified reviews that include real feedback from actual residents who live or have lived in the community.
More than two-thirds of the survey's participants said they can spot a fake review a mile away. Authenticated reviews are those that are vouched for by the apartment developer or management company.
Both studies were released at an apartment industry conference last month.
The lengths some outfits will go to, to get their names in the papers or on the news, now border on the ridiculous. We're talking about the proliferation of indices and "best of" lists that seem to come out on an almost daily basis.
We're not questioning the accuracy of the reports, though you have to wonder if their samples are deep enough to label the results meaningful. Rather, you have to suspect whether they are simply veiled attempts at one-upmanship as competing companies look to gain publicity -- and ultimately customers -- for their respective brands.
The latest is RealtyTrac's first Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report, which assigns a natural disaster risk score to more than 3,000 housing markets across the country. In something of an understatement, Daren Blomquist, the data firm's vice president, admitted that the possibility of a natural disaster "may not be the first item" on home buyers' checklists.
Really? We suspect that the potential for disaster is not even on most buyers' lists. Nor should it be. Almost every state in the union is susceptible to one calamity or another, so why even bother?
Besides, as Blomquist says in the report, disaster data is available online from Uncle Sam and other sources. If it is that important to a buyer, he will find a way to dig it up.
But wait: If these lists are simply attempts to gain publicity, then it worked in this instance. 'Cause there it is.