Florida homes are built around a lifestyle

Looking for a new home? Don’t expect to buy what you’ve been used to, especially if you have suffered through last year’s hard-hitting winter and are outdoors only a few months of the year. Florida home builders build homes around a lifestyle that emphasizes enjoying the climate.

New Florida homes are light, bright and airy with cathedral ceilings, patios, sunrooms, solar panels and ceiling fans in every room — and usually only one story tall.

Newcomers often tend to shop for two-story homes; however, when they see the open floor plans and vast vaulted ceilings, presenting unexpected volume, they find the look irresistible. Most newcomers to the state eventually decide that “when in Florida, live like a Floridian” and they forego their two-story expectations.

Trends in new homes include in-law suites, environmentally conscious features, gourmet kitchens and home offices. In-law suites are popular because families are coming back together, either with parents or children and people want to be prepared for that eventuality while still maintaining their privacy. Plus, the Internet age has moved many former commuters into a home office environment so at least one room needs to be ready for office needs.

While the industry has taken a hit in recent years, according to Scott Merritt, Executive Officer of the Greater Orlando Builders Association, the Central Florida area has regained momentum.

“New home starts for the first quarter of this year reached a number that hasn’t been seen since before 2008,” said Merritt. “Buyers have been more cautious (especially first-time buyers) where they may not be purchasing as large a house as they once desired, but more of what they need versus want. First-time homebuyers are buying homes in the $160,000 to $170,000 range.

In Central Florida homes are being built for all size families and budgets. Keeping in mind that a stand-alone home may not always be the best fit; duplexes are still being built and offer home ownership as well.”

Buyers are interested in energy efficiency and want to know the cost to maintain a new home. Fortunately, the industry has adopted many standards that help with these requests.

Homeowners also want increasingly environmentally-conscious exterior and interior designs. For that reason, builders are installing minimal streets and more natural-looking sidewalks and they bring recycling right into the home with recycling centers either in the kitchen, utility room or garage.

Many developers incorporate expansive green spaces for walkways and parks into the community design. Buyers want natural tranquility and privacy that doesn’t come from a fence. Large shrubbery that has been there a while, or at least looks like it’s been there a while, adds to that feel.

Florida homes capture that feeling of bringing the outdoors inside so more builders extend the living space into the outdoors through an expansive lanai, screened-in porch and sparkling pool or a sun room.
Today’s kitchens also have many imaginative features, such as stainless steel appliances, six-burner gas stoves, built-in steam and convection ovens. There are large walk-in pantries, wine or beverage coolers and under the counter and sub-zero refrigerators as well as compact or drawer refrigeration units besides the outdoor barbeque pit or as part of the built-in summer kitchen.

According to Merritt, while all demographics are buying homes, “We have been seeing a decline in college graduates returning home which plays a factor in the rental market and entry level homes sales.”

“It takes three to six months for a new home to be built,” said Merritt. “There are many factors that are playing into it, however. Many of the trades are facing a labor shortage which causes a lag in the project timeline. A second factor is material. Costs are constantly changing and depending upon the material it may take longer for it to arrive onsite.” Some builders, however, have built homes on speculation and can accommodate those who want to move in within 30 days.

Hot spots for new homes are in west and south Orange County (think tourist area) and the southeast part of Orlando where a private investment company has brought together people, partnerships, innovative technology, state-of-the-art medical facilities and research colleges creating a distinctive smart community intermixed with commercial space and first-class residential neighborhoods called Lake Nona.
In one Lake Nona neighborhood, Laureate Park, there are fiber optic lines to each home, giving residents some of the fastest internet speeds in the country. This high bandwidth capacity infrastructure delivers residential internet at the speed of one gigabit per second – 200 times faster than the average U.S. internet connection speed. This unprecedented rate has made Lake Nona the first gigabit community in the state of Florida.

While there are some who want more – more closets, more bedrooms, more entertainment areas, there are also some who want less, such as, less maintenance which is available when developers build larger homes on smaller lots. Adding a pool and minimal landscaping to the back yard of a small lot means there is practically no yard work. New homes also offer the appeal of less repair work — or at least minimal repair work for a long time.

Since building a home is one of the largest investments families will make during their lifetimes, it’s important to rely on your builder’s experience. When looking for a home site, it’s best not to sign a contract until your builder has reviewed the site. He/she is aware of local inventory, pros and cons of communities, HOA restrictions, home sites and governmental requirements, and, especially in Florida, they understand the unique soil conditions and engineering necessary to build on different soil types.

For those looking for older homes, people still focus in on workable kitchens, comfortable baths and gracious and elegant entertainment areas. Home buyers want to make sure that the floor plan flows nicely for entertaining but still has some privacy. A separate family room is very popular and a lot of older homes have those. The great room, which was popular a few years ago, has almost gone out of style.

Whether looking for a new or cozy older home, people are not expecting as much space as previously. Prior to the recession of 2008, an average new home was built with about 2,000 to 3,000 square feet while older homes without additions averaged 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. Today, average new homes are 2,000 to 2,400 square feet. So while home buyers will say they want more windows, more closets and more conveniences, they are buying homes with a smaller square footage and expecting only some of their desires to be there.

Besides the option of having a new home built by a local homebuilder or buying a speculation home, others choose to buy existing homes in well-established neighborhoods and have them renovated before moving in. With affordable updating, an older charming home would add to the craftsmanship and solid construction that may not be available in that price range.

Each year in the spring the Greater Orlando Builders Association hosts a Spring and Fall Parade of Homes event. The 15-day event kicks off the new season of homes offered by local production and custom home builders. Thousands attend each year, some to buy a home, some to hire a builder or remodeler and some just to see the new products or get decorating or remodeling ideas.

The Greater Orlando Builders Association, whose members are made up of both production and custom home builders as well as remodelers, is a great place to look for a well-credentialed, well-referenced and highly-recommended home builder or remodeler.

To contact the association, call them at (407) 629-9242 or check their web site at: GreaterOrlandoBA.com

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