Did you ever visit relatives or friends in another state and notice that homes seem to be designed and constructed differently than where you live?
Rebecca Wood, manager of analysis for the Irvine, California-based Meyers Group, one of the largest real estate information sources for homebuilders, says that new homes tend to reflect not only demographic preferences for style, but regional weather and lifestyle differences, whether it be urban, suburban, or rural.
Weather Makes a Difference
"Areas like the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic are not as conducive to stucco construction because of weather extremes, going from cold winters to hot, humid summers, where stucco doesn't hold up as well," says Wood. "Homes there tend to have brick or stone exteriors, or composite or vinyl siding, easily maintainable and resistant to wood rot."
Likewise, homes in areas prone to flooding or hurricanes are often required to be constructed at a certain elevation above flood zones and builders must use "hurricane clips" to secure roofs to a structure.
Weather notwithstanding, it is interesting to note that buyers seem to favor what has been the area's traditional home style as well. Indeed, understanding regional preferences is extremely important to homebuilders. For example, a Texas homebuilder was marketing new homes designed with Mediterranean (stucco with tile roof) exteriors. The builder discovered that although potential homebuyers loved the floor plans, they tended to buy from the builder down the street. After much research, the builder decided to completely overhaul the homes' exterior to a more traditional brick styling. Subsequently, people started buying them.
Indoors Reflects Outdoors
Floor plans can differ greatly with where homes are built as well. Wood notes that entertaining tends to be indoors and more formal in the Midwest and Eastern US. while there is more casual indoor/outdoor variety out West, also affected by regional weather. As for floor plan flow, many new homes in the East, South and Midwest still display distinctly separate living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens, where in the West and parts of Florida, open floor plans still dominate, with kitchens open to family rooms and living room/dining room combinations incorporated into the plans.
Indoor/outdoor living has changed somewhat over the years, according to Wood. "Homes in seasonal weather areas used to routinely include screened-in porches and patios, which became a sort of family room in good weather," said Wood. "This isn't done as much any more, because most homes now include air conditioners all over the country and not just in the Sun Belt. The screened-in or covered patio has now become a luxury and an extra."
Basements are traditionally included in new homes in many parts of the US. On the West coast, however, basement homes are the exceptions, not the rule. Instead of basements, homes with three and even four-car garages are popular. "For many homebuyers who are used to basements, it's just not the same," said Woods, "Basements can be used for out-of-view living, recreation or storage, and people in these areas love them for the versatility they offer. Somehow they feel that garages should only be used for cars," she muses.
No Home is an Island
In many parts of the South, East and Midwest, home lots are roomy and surround homes with ample space between houses. With skyrocketing land costs in urban areas and much of the western US, home lots there are sometimes referred to as "modest" or even as "postage stamp size" in comparison. Consequently, builders and buyers in these areas are constantly challenged to create usable outdoor space with courtyards, patios, or decking.
Once a home is constructed, landscaping is sometimes determined by zoning laws. These local laws determine what must be included in the price of a new home. "In some areas, front yard landscaping, driveways and walkways are left up to the homeowner to put in later," says Wood. "Here in the West, builders are often required to not only provide a minimally landscaped front yard, but also provide driveways, walkways and even provide the city with sidewalks while they're at it," she said.
Our homes are a reflection of our history, our needs and ourselves. No matter in what part of the country you live, Americans can take pride in the diversity of architecture, building materials, and innovation used in the construction of new homes.