Home Month and Year April 2017 Building to Trends

Building to Trends

Calgary builders focus on consumers

Dave Hooge, president and general manager of Stepper Homes.

Not surprisingly, Calgary-area builders and Calgary-area new homebuyers have interesting priorities in common.

According to the 2016 Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Home Buyer Preference Study, consumer preferences are constantly changing and it is more important than ever for businesses to intimately understand today’s consumers.

The study found the largest cohort of today’s Canadian homebuyer continues to be the growing family with kids, followed by a single occupant or couple with no kids. The Internet, population demographics and home design preferences are just a few examples of factors driving change with today’s homebuyers.

Of course, location and price points still drive the new home market. But – from energy efficiency, size, layout, elevations and streetscapes to what is popular when it comes to exterior finishes, kitchens, ensuites, flooring and granite – buyer trends matter.

“Homebuyer wants and needs are the key contributing factors for consumer trends,” explains Howard Tse, president of Cedarglen Homes and a member of BILD Calgary Region. “The trends can be driven by political, economic, social and technological factors and they can certainly be influenced by personal preferences.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a transition to incorporating new, low-maintenance materials and contemporary designs to exterior elevations, including fibre cement siding as a premium product and more brick and engineered tongue-and-groove materials. Also covered decks and triple-pane windows.

“Calgary-area consumers are not necessarily opting for more square footage but rather for smarter designs,” he adds. “More focus is being placed in the mud room, incorporating built-in lockers to help keep a busy household with children as organized as possible.

“There has been an increasing consumer trend toward floor plans for cultural requirements, such as multigenerational dwellings. While this may be more prevalent in some cultures, it has seen a rise overall in part due to affordability.”

Dave Hooge, president and general manager of Stepper Homes and a BILD Calgary Region member, admits contemporary homebuyers are drawn to what they see in home decor magazines, home stores, TV shows and, of course, show homes.

“People in Calgary also want open layouts with lots of light, plenty of storage, nine-foot ceilings and good use of windows. Rooms have become more square and layouts simplified. We’re seeing a move to centre bonus rooms (lofts) with the secondary bedrooms on the front of the home.”

Sometimes option decisions don’t get finalized until about one year prior to a builder determining the selection of models that will be available in a new home community. “When it comes to our new model show homes, we routinely plan six months to a year in advance,” Hooge says.

New home consumer trends are notorious for shifting. The layout of new homes and the standards and upgrade options can vary drastically in a five-year span.

“Some features that we have seen phased out in recent years include laminate countertops, dens and gas fireplaces. In its place, we have seen a rise in the popularity of modern, designer electric fireplaces,” Tse points out.

“We’re also noticing the finished hardwood trend phasing out, mostly due to the lack of humidity in Calgary damaging hardwood. Instead, LVP (luxury vinyl plank) is popular for families with young children and dogs, due to its durability. It has the look of engineered hardwood and homebuyers often opt for LVP throughout the entire main floor, including the mud room, since it is water-resistant.”

Some things never change: kitchens and ensuites “sell” the home.

Both Hooge and Tse agree the Calgary market new homebuyer is still interested in decadent ensuites and luxurious kitchen cabinets and counters – what some sales types call the dazzling bells and whistles.

“Ensuites are becoming spa-like with curbless showers, free-standing tubs and separate vanities,” Tse says. “Main baths are incorporating double sinks in the vanity and a separate door for the toilet and tub areas.

“The raised eating bar that was a staple for early 2000s homes is gone. Hood fans have evolved from a utility nature at times incorporating an over-the-range microwave in favour of more design-friendly chimney hoods. Large oversized islands are sought after and built-in appliances are extremely popular. With the ubiquity of wireless networks, laptops and portable devices, we are seeing the trend to forgo a formal den resulting in an open concept layout.”

According to Hooge, “Buyers are asking for private ensuites, even in smaller homes, where, a few years ago, a shared bathroom would have been acceptable. In kitchens, granite quartz is expected, and for some multigenerational families, sometimes two kitchens. The once-popular phone desks in the kitchen are gone, replaced with more kitchen workspace.”

Strategically reacting to consumer trends is always forward-looking. Savvy Calgary-area builders are continually monitoring and are on top of the latest new home wants and needs.

“Sustainability and energy efficiency will be the next big trend,” Tse predicts. “While the new Energy Code prescribes how homes are to be built to be more energy efficient, homeowners will benefit from researching those homebuilders that certify their homes to an even higher standard.”