Local residential design firm reports signs of housing market recoveryIf you’ve been trying to decide if now is the time to build your dream house or remodel your existing home, it just might be.
By: By Nancy Leasman, Contributing writer, Alexandria Echo Press
If you’ve been trying to decide if now is the time to build your dream house or remodel your existing home, it just might be.
Ringdahl Architects and their associated professional company Infinity Development, both of Alexandria, report that the housing market is showing signs of recovery. Paul Ringdahl and Richard Hardine, who have worked on construction projects throughout west central Minnesota, have identified both hopeful signs and current building trends.
Ringdahl said that business is picking up. Architects gauge how the building industry is doing by the number of new clients. The resulting backlog of projects is a good indicator and a growing backlog is one good sign of recovery.
“The current backlog is at four months,” he said, noting that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported a backlog down to three months at the low point of the economic downturn. It may be a slow climb back to “normal” levels, but overall, it’s a good sign.
As to current trends, energy efficiency and accessibility, both reflecting home owners’ desires to keep long-term costs down while remaining in their homes as they age, remain priorities in home design and remodeling projects.
Hardine said the accessibility issue is a big one for their clients. “Ninety percent of our clients build for accessibility and 60 percent remodel for the same reason.”
The former trend for multiple levels and the need for stairs have dropped off. “People are leaning toward one-level living with quality and efficiency equally important.” The size of home has also decreased with potential clients moving toward homes less than 2,500 square feet.
Environmental awareness is expected to remain high, and the use of green materials is a frequent request along with that of low maintenance. Ringdahl sees requests for more synthetic and engineered materials for the exterior of homes and natural wood and traditional systems for interiors.
Many home owners dream of energy management systems though Ringdahl said that follow-through is low. He gets requests for backup power generation systems and, in response to ownership of hybrid cars, electrical docking stations.
Ringdahl and Hardine have seen a decline in requests for media rooms, exercise and fitness areas and greenhouses. They’ve noticed an uptick in home offices with more people embracing working from home.
Mudrooms and drop zones, those convenient areas that control clutter and ease house cleaning duties, are on the upswing. A desire to spend more time outdoors may be responsible for the waning of exercise rooms and simultaneously for the more frequent design of outdoor rooms.
The building trends seen by Ringdahl Architects and associates are consistent with reported market conditions in the Midwest. AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey documented an improvement in market conditions for first-time buyer/affordable, move-up, and custom and luxury home sectors.
While these scores remain low, they do indicate a rebound. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index for newly built single-family homes rose for the fifth consecutive month in September, reaching its highest level since June 2006.
While it still has a long way to go on the road to recovery, builder confidence and optimism are improving. The Minnesota economy welcomes all signs of returning health.
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