Home buyers hanker for latest amenities

Just like everything else, real estate is subject to the whims of fashion. Changing tastes make for an ever-changing world of needs and desires of home buyers.

Geri Palmer, an award-winning real estate agent with Century 21 in Albuquerque, N.M., said this year's home buyers are looking for a variety of amenities.

A "central vacuum" is at the top of the list. "It's a central vacuuming system built into the house. You don't need an upright vacuum, you plug the hose into the wall."

Kitchens are always a place where innovations are made.

"Granite countertops are very important," Palmer said. "It's a new high-tech modern look.

"Granite and flagstone flooring are very popular right now, especially with radiant heat." That's where the heating coils are directly in the floor so you don't see a heating grill. The granite is warmed and radiates heat throughout the house.

"There's no dust or furnace noise and the floor distributes the heat evenly, instead of having one very warm spot and everywhere else cold."

One of the newer amenities that has become a necessity is a space dedicated as an office.

"It used to be that everyone wanted four-bedroom homes. Now they want four bedrooms and a study," Palmer said.

With the home office comes the requirements of having enough telephone lines to accommodate telephones, computer modems and fax machines. You also need to make sure you have enough electrical outlets to accommodate the mass of home office devices. And while you're at it, make sure your electric lines are conditioned.

Another fashion change has been the shift in interior needs.

"At one point, everyone wanted the great room concept — one big room for everything. But now they're back to the formal living room and formal dining room concept."

High-tech appliances are always important. Whatever the state of the art is at any given time, having built-in appliances makes a difference.

"Double ovens, built-in microwaves, built-in toasters, built-in warmers are all very popular," Palmer said, "as are built-in TVs in the kitchen."

Any trick that maximizes the amount of space in the house or gives the appearance of maximizing space is essential.

"Raised ceilings create a sense of more space," Palmer said. "Built-in entertainment centers are very popular too because you're not taking up space by bringing in furniture to house entertainment components."

That means big-screen TVs sunken into walls.

Rooms dedicated as home theaters are becoming a bit more commonplace as well. That brings you into the area of big-screen TVs, Dolby Digital surround-sound systems, DVD players and more.

"Gym rooms are a hot item," Palmer said. But, keep in mind that equipment is very expensive and often the single most underutilized item people own.