Homeowners reject frills like media rooms: study

Tue Oct 6, 2009 8:26am EDT
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Home theaters are passe. Home offices are in.

The long U.S. housing downturn has led homeowners to scale back both the size of houses and the amenities found within them, but consumers are still willing to invest in energy efficiency, according to a quarterly survey by an architects' trade group.

The survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found budget-conscious Americans are less interested in having hobby or game rooms, media rooms, home workshops, or suites for au pairs or in-laws. Exercise rooms and additional laundry space are also less popular than a year ago, as are three-car garages, the AIA said on Tuesday.

The shift in tastes reflects worries about home values, tighter family budgets, and the threat of unemployment.

"Affordability is a big concern," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "Homeowners are not looking to spend more on their home for frills, particularly if they don't think they can recapture that when they sell it."

Home offices are the most popular special-function room, the survey found. Almost 46 percent of architects said home offices are gaining in popularity, up about 5 percentage points from a year earlier.

The increase is due to the appeal of telecommuting and the growing number of Americans who are self-employed or who run small businesses that have had to give up office space.

Meanwhile, more consumers are asking architects to make sure their homes are energy-efficient. Two-thirds of architects said clients increasingly demand better insulation to lower heating and cooling costs. More are also requesting double- and triple-glazed windows, water-saving devices and solar panels.   Continued...

<p>A new home sits for sale in Lemont, Illinois, July 27, 2009. REUTERS/John Gress</p>