real estate review
By Ethan C. Nobles, director of media relations for Arkansas Realtors Association
While we’ve not seen the extreme drops in the housing markets that other parts of the nation have experienced, there’s no denying that sales have slowed down in Arkansas.
One thing that should cheer homeowners in the Jonesboro area is that inventories – the number of homes for sale – have remained very stable all year long. When you see inventories rise sharply, that’s a sign that the housing market has either hit hard times or is about to do so.
Still, Jonesboro homeowners typically find themselves in a position that was unusual just a couple of years ago. In Jonesboro and throughout Arkansas, homeowners are competing to attract the attention of buyers.
One of the realtors I tend to visit with about the housing market in Jonesboro is Ken Helman. Why? Helman knows what’s going on in the market– he’s been president of the Jonesboro Board of Realtors for two years and has been that board’s realtor of the year for the past two years.
Helman sent over a little something that’s worth repeating – his analysis of some features that buyers find very desirable in today’s market.
He said homeowners today are not as interested in bigger homes as much as they are in more useful features when it comes to building or renovation. The right elements can make your home more energy efficient, safer and more enjoyable. Some of the most desirable features today include the following:
• Natural stone countertops, such as those made of granite or concrete. Solid, attractive and durable, these countertops continue to gain in popularity. Natural soapstone is also gaining in popularity as an alternative to granite. It has a warmer feel, with soft, subtle blue-gray colors and scratches can be sanded off.
• Stainless steel appliances. Clean, shiny and restaurant-looking appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and microwave ovens are what the public wants and expects in upscale homes.
• Wine refrigerators. As more Americans are drinking wine, wine fridges are becoming specialty items that are growing in popularity.
• “His” and “hers” of everything in the master bath. Couples are now installing two vanities, two sinks, and even two shower stalls in the master bath. As both husbands and wives have careers, these amenities are a must to get out thedoor and in to work in the least amount of time.
• Upscale backyard landscaping. As homeowners spend more time at home than traveling to vacation areas, more homeowners are likely to pour dollars into their backyard to create beautiful, private outdoor places for their families. Large decks and patios are becoming essential additions to the home.
• Outdoor cooking stations. These upscale, luxurious outdoor kitchens – including some with sinks and refrigerators – are replacing the traditional backyard barbecue grill.
• Private screens or fences. Americans might be spending more time in their backyards, but the average yard has shrunk. This makes fences, concrete walls and even hedges that provide additional backyard privacy more valuable.
• Environmentally friendly homes. Higher energy costs for heating and cooling mean that energy-efficient homes make more financial sense than ever before. Triple glazed windows can cut energy consumption by an additional 10 percent compared with typical double-paned windows. Also, homeowners who select bamboo for flooring can have the look and durability of hardwood floors without contributing to the depletion of forests which take decades to grow.
Helman said homeowners would also do well to keep an eye on the changing demographics of buyers. For example, baby boomers are reaching retirement age and are looking for homes that are easy to navigate.
To that end, single-level layouts are becoming more popular without the problems of stairs and different levels. Homeowners increasingly believe that one large “great room’’ is preferable to separate living, dining and family rooms. Formal dining rooms seem to be losing popularity, too.
While homeowners in the current market may feel more compelled to make their homes attractive, the truth of the matter is that sellers are always under at least some pressure to cater to contemporary tastes when they put their houses on the market.
The American homeowner is constantly changing direction to make homes more comfortable, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly. This evolution is a never-ending journey that makes life not only more livable and enjoyable but perhaps has no limits, at least within our life times.