(ARA) - When shopping for real estate, bigger used to mean better. But preferences are changing, particularly in a tight economy where every dollar needs to go further. A new aesthetic is taking hold, and it's been dubbed "affordable luxury."
"Affordable luxury means living within your means, and yet surrounded by beauty, style and convenience," says builder Russ Walthall who, with his wife Vickee, has 25 years of experience designing and building custom homes. "Many people have discovered that they love the details of high-end, expensive homes, but they just don't need as much space, and they don't want to deal with all the maintenance that is involved with a large, single-family home."
What's driving the trend towards affordable luxury? The homebuying population is graying and the number of single-person households is rising. The population of Americans 65 and older will climb 147 percent between 2000 and 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts. Meanwhile, the number of traditional households with children dropped 15 percent from 1960 to 2000, resulting in a 13 percent rise in the number of single-person households, according to a study by the Urban Affairs & Planning Department of Virginia Tech's Alexandria campus. Another 6 percent drop is expected by 2040.
These two factors indicated an increase in the target market for affordable, yet well-appointed homes without excess space or upkeep.
What's Hot in Town Homes
The key to reaching this growing target market, say the Walthalls, is making people feel pampered within a budget. They put their theory to the test by developing a 64-building community of four-unit town homes near Kansas City.
The two- and three-bedroom units have been selling briskly, particularly among people with active lifestyles -- young professionals, empty-nesters, couples without children and others looking for the flexibility and maintenance-free living afforded by a town home.
Buyers looking for affordable luxury are responding to the upscale touches, such as:
* Exterior finishes that marry stone accents and maintenance-free vinyl siding that mimics the look of hand-stained wood, like warm, rich Timber Oak Ascent vinyl siding.
* Storm doors and dusk-to-dawn lighting outside homes.
* Interior details such as crown molding, bronze lighting fixtures, Hunter Douglas blinds, fireplaces and, in some cases, custom cabinets and flat-screen TVs.
* Fiber-optic networks that allow users to connect quickly to the outside world, making it easier than ever for retirees, career-changers, entrepreneurs and others to work from home.
Empty Nesters Find New Nest Well Feathered
That magic combination of style and structure is what appealed to empty nesters Doug and Marilyn Blauser, who recently moved from Colorado and purchased a two-bedroom, single-story town home in the Walthalls' Tuscany Hills development. They feel they got a great value.
"Twice before, we've purchased newly constructed homes," says Marilyn. "In those homes, we had to paint, put up trim and install shelves ourselves. In this case, we liked that all the details were taken care of. We have 1,071 gorgeous square feet. It feels like they took the amenities of a $400,000 home and put them in an affordable house. It's perfect for us."
The Walthalls predict that the trend of affordable luxury will continue, even beyond the current economic downturn. As Vickee says, "Downsizing doesn't have to mean downgrading anymore." Courtesy of Aracontent