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8 Exterior Design Trends
That Will Drive Home Sales in 2016

Friday, November 20, 2015

From Builder magazine

Beauty may come from the inside, but builders looking to grow home sales in 2016 would do well to start outside with the home’s exterior.

Consider these stats:

  • 78 percent of buyers say a home’s exterior look is either “extremely” or “very” important, according to a Harris Interactive study.
  • Buyers make a “street decision” in less than 12 seconds on whether to view a home, according to realtors.
  • A home’s exterior is second only to house size in affecting its value, according to a recent study.

The home’s exterior “has definitely moved up in the rank of things home buyers are looking for,” says Tim Neal, president of FairFax Custom Homes. “It’s happened over the last few years. I don't think it was as important even five years ago.”

But builders who think they can sell homes by standing out from the crowd with unusual exterior designs are in for a slow season, warns Paul Phillips, partner/owner of Armstrong Construction. “It’s always risky to lead too far out ahead in the housing business,” Phillips says. “We don’t create a market, we supply it.”

So just what are homebuyers looking for? The answer often depends on your location, but there do seem to be a number of reliable trends that hold across borders. Here’s a look at eight exterior design trends experts expect to dominate in 2016:

1. Arts and crafts detailing. This trend falls under the Craftsman- style design umbrella and includes tapered wood porch columns with stone bases, open gable porticos with gable bracket accents and shingle siding. “I have seen more arts and crafts pop up all over Georgia than any other style,” says Jennifer Dreher, architectural designer at Excovations.

2. Low maintenance products. Architects and builders say everyone wants homes that are low- and preferably no-maintenance – and exterior products that supply that will be in high demand. “Whether it’s Millennials or Gen Xers or Boomers, they’re looking for more free time, so they’re looking for maintenance-free,” said Michael Menn, principal and architect of Michael Menn Ltd.

For example, he said cement fiber siding is the option of choice for new homes because of its long life and low maintenance. Custom Home Designs LLC owner John G. Guillory says the same is true of fiberglass doors and windows, which are more durable than their vinyl counterparts.

3. Universal design. From zero-threshold walkways to near-stepless entrances, universal design is more popular than ever – and it’s not just for the elderly. “I don’t think we’ve drawn a non-universal home since 1995,” Guillory says. “That’s a big deal I see trending. Even young people understand that grandma won’t come to the house unless it’s comfortable for grandma to come over.” Guillory says universal design and low-maintenance go hand-in-hand. For example, he uses cable rails on decks instead of traditional spindles because they maintain site lines and offer easier upkeep.

4. Transom windows. Builders looking to add a luxury touch to their homes can do so easily with transom windows. These smaller windows above the regular window add style, but more importantly, they add a commodity homeowners are increasingly demanding: more light. “They really add value to the home because they add architectural style,” Dreher says. “They can take on any kind of light pattern, which complements the home’s style.”

5. Sustainable materials. As more and more people tune into environmental concerns, they want their homes to reflect those values. So sustainable materials are a growing exterior design trend that experts expect to continue in the New Year. Think windows, gutters and siding all made from composite sustainable or recycled materials, Menn says.

“People believe in sustainability and that’s a driving force. If you’re looking at two houses and this one uses sustainable materials, there are going to be people who buy the sustainable materials because that means something to them,” he says. “And there are more of those kinds of people every day.”

6. Natural stone and brick. The sustainability trend dovetails with the natural trend, which is embodied with the move toward stone and brick. These are typically more expensive homes, and the key is to use natural materials, says Dreher. Stone and brick can be mixed together, or used in a wainscoting effect. But increasingly, she says, all stone homes are becoming more popular. Along with giving a lux look, stone and brick offer low-maintenance, she adds.

7. Grand entrances. As large foyers become more popular, homeowners want an entrance to match. Rather than double sidelights and a door, many now prefer the drama of double doors, says Dreher. Whether double or single, wood doors such as Mahogany are the style of choice. “They’re going to warm, natural woods instead of painting,” she says.

8. Low-maintenance landscaping. Just as homeowners are looking for low- and no-maintenance features on the home, they want the same thing for their landscape. Here, builders are in a real win because they can build on smaller lots and market them as low-maintenance landscaping, says Dreher. “I know from personal experience, a lot of older folks don’t want to do the lawn maintenance anymore,” she says. “Younger families, too, are buying for the location as well as the fact that it takes 10 minutes to mow the lawn.”

Gary Thill 

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