Finished basements, screened porches: Spring home tour offers looks at new-home trends
If you ever longed to venture inside a striking new house and savor its amenities, here’s a chance to satisfy your craving. Whatever features excite you about a new house or condominium – be it screened porches, 10-foot ceilings or secluded settings with just wildlife for neighbors – you can spot them on the Metropolitan Builders Association’s Spring Tour.
The MBA is showcasing 53 new model homes and condominiums, mainly in Waukesha County, during three weekend afternoons, April 27-28, May 4-5 and May 11-12. Several of these homes list for more than $1 million, a steep step up for many, but other models are in the $300,000 range. And many of them showcase the amenities that builders have found increasingly popular among the home-building public.
For some people, the tour will be a house hunt in unfamiliar areas and subdivisions. In Waukesha County, the dwellings can be viewed on these weekends from noon to 4 p.m. in Brookfield, Dousman, Genesee, Hartland, Menomonee Falls, Merton, Mukwonago, Muskego, New Berlin, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Sussex and Waukesha.
The tour also includes a residence in Cedarburg and three in Mequon in Ozaukee County, one in Elkhorn in Walworth County and another in Slinger in Washington County.
House hunters can find a tour map and project listings online at MBAspringtour.com, or, in print, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
On the Spring Tour people can easily imagine themselves living in new worlds.
“The tour is valuable because not only can you find the right lot, but you can see the floor plan in real life,” says David Tanner, sales director for Korndoerfer Homes. “You can talk to a builder and see if you like the person, the plans and the building company.”
“On the tour,” says Tim O’Brien of Tim O’Brien Homes, “consumers get a chance to see a completely built model home and understand what it would be like to live there. You can see which features you like, and which ones you don’t.”
“The MBA organizes the tour so that you can see many new styles in a less haphazard way,” says Paul Bielinski, CEO of Bielinski Homes. “At least, you will know what’s out there.”
People will have a chance to talk directly with builders and developers of new homes, says Jim Doering, MBA president, who’s also director of development for builder Homes by Towne. “We’re giving the customer not only a wide variety of homes, but also of locations.”
“Homes are extensions of people’s personalities,” says David Roembke, co-owner of The Victory Cos., parent company of Allan Builders and Victory Homes of Wisconsin. The Spring Tour leads potential buyers through a thorough and informative home search adventure.
The tour is free, and several builder representatives say people should not worry about getting a hard sell.
“Our staff is very seasoned,” says John Harlos, vice president of sales and purchasing for Kings Way Homes. “They understand how to engage people and yet still respect their privacy.”
The builder representatives also say that, for many, the time may be right for their most important purchase. These representatives emphasize the positives in building your own home.
Once, “people were worried that they had to sell their existing home before they could build a new one,” Roembke says. “Now, a lot of those fears are gone. People are first talking about home designs, budget and financing.”
Tanner points out the advantages of buying a new home. “You don’t have to deal with remodeling costs or maintenance, you get a home warranty, and you don’t have to replace a furnace or a fireplace,” he says.
“The home is designed the way you want it,” Tanner adds. “You can select the trending finishes. You can choose the colors that will set your home apart from existing homes.”
The tour also will demonstrate how builders have begun catering to what people want: energy-efficient homes, finished basements with room for entertainment, fewer yet larger rooms and first-floor master bedrooms with a nearby laundry and bigger showers.
The builders are responding to a demand for homes that are stress-free havens and escapes from the outside world, the representatives say. It’s a trend that also includes consumers shopping online more and paying restaurants to deliver meals to their homes, including even McDonald’s offerings.
Tim O’Brien Homes is showing what it calls a “Zero Energy Ready Home” at 5622 S. Foxtail Ct. in New Berlin. The house uses closed-cell foam insulation and Energy Star windows and appliances that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies have superior energy efficiencies.
“As energy consumption increases, these homes demonstrate how you can drive down energy consumption,” O’Brien says.
He adds that, “As we continue to build tighter homes, the air quality becomes more important to manage. Our homes are doing a better job exhausting moisture out of bathroom areas and the odors and cooking fumes from the kitchen to the outside.”
Bielinski Homes will have seven tour homes that feature fewer and larger rooms than in the houses the company previously built. For instance, in one home, the kitchen will have a single main dining area but also include an island with a snack bar. There will not be a dining room, “because you don’t need that anymore,” Paul Bielinski says.
The master bedroom may come with a soaking bathtub that does not have whirlpool jets.
“The jets were an extra expense for something that people found they did not use,” he says.
In some Bielinski homes, larger showers are being installed without a bathtub because it’s more practical, Bielinski says.
“It’s roomier and feels better. If you want, you can put in more than one sprayer.”
The company’s home designs, he adds, accommodate a modern lifestyle in which family members do not do many activities together.
“Even though the parents are doing different things, the homes are designed to make everyone interact with one another,” Bielinski says. “We realize that time together is precious.”
Three of the five homes that Kings Way Homes is showing have finished basements. “Buyers are looking for additional entertainment spaces as well as having rooms for overnight guests or extended families,” Harlos says.
Many of the firm’s two-story new houses come with a master suite on the first floor.
“It’s a convenience for our older buyers, or people who want to age in place,” Harlos says, adding that a downstairs master bedroom “gives your children more privacy and room for growth and independence” on the second floor.
A Kings Way model in Genesee has a four-season room with a screened-in porch. “That room tries to bring in the outdoors without the cold, and in the summer months, without the bugs,” Harlos says.
MBA president Doering points out that when people decide to build a house, they normally first look at the school district serving that house and the house’s location. The potential buyer also considers the property taxes and the cost of car and homeowner’s insurance.
Another consideration is state sales tax. Waukesha County has a 5.1 percent state sales tax, and Washington and Ozaukee counties both have a 5.6 percent state sales tax. This can impact the final cost of a home. About 35 percent of the total value of a new home is taxable on things such as building materials, says Patty Mayers, communications director for the state Department of Revenue.
On a house costing $400,000 to build in Waukesha County, the state sales tax would total $7,140. That same house in Ozaukee County would have a sales tax of $7,840.
“The sales tax cost,” Doering says, “is just a small part of the consideration.”