This single-family home on the corner of Holly Hill and Sale roads in Lake Charles has three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms and is priced at $295,000. This is comparable to the average single-family home sold in today’s market. (Anne Robicheaux / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, July 02, 2012 1:24 PM
Americans love things bigger and better. Along with taller skyscrapers and expanding waistlines comes a more local form of self-indulgence: larger homes. According to local experts, more spacious housing units are the current trend in Southwest Louisiana.
The most recent national trend for American home buyers is to pay less for more. That comes as no surprise; American shoppers love a good bargain. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average size of a newly built single-family home in 2011 was 2,480 square feet, up from 2,392 square feet in 2010. Of the newly built single-family homes in 2011, 39 percent had four or more bedrooms, and 48 percent had three bedrooms. In 2011, 19 percent of single-family homes sold included a garage that could house three or more cars, and 54 percent of newly built homes had two or more stories. In 2011, the average sales price of a new single-family home was $267,900, compared to $272,900 in 2010 and $270,900 in 2009.
According to the Louisiana Realtors quarterly report in February 2012, home sales in Louisiana rose 4.8 percent in 2011 (and increased 11.7 percent during the fourth quarter). As compared to 2010, the price of the median existing single-family home fell in 118 of the 149 metropolitan statistical areas in Louisiana. The average sales price of homes in Louisiana in 2011 was $180,846, down 1.8 percent from 2010. For Southwest Louisiana, the number of homes sold rose from 1,288 in 2010 to 1,410 in 2011, while the average sales price for the region fell from $150,036 in 2010 to $143,714 in 2011.
Tony Houseman Homes of Louisiana is an Orange, Texas-based custom home building company that serves Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The company has been building homes in Louisiana since the late 1990s.
Gisela Houseman, owner and CEO of Tony Houseman Homes of Louisiana, said, “All of our homes are custom, and we build within a 100-mile radius of our office, so we build out in rural areas ... (including) Johnson Bayou and DeQuincy.”
The average home built by Tony Houseman Homes of Louisiana ranges from $250,000 to $350,000 and includes three to four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. Due to the nature of custom built homes, however, the actual square footage of the home is decided by the customer. According to the company’s web site, the average time it takes to build a home is three to six months, excluding delays due to weather, special order items or utility issues.
“We have an inventory of about 100 home plans that we have designed, and when a customer comes in, he or she can choose one of our plans, and then we can customize it to meet his or her specific needs, or if they have a plan, they can bring it in, and we will work with them and build it to their plan,” Houseman said.
“We build strictly custom ... and we will build to the needs of the customer.”
This includes handicapped-accessible structures.
All housing units built by Tony Houseman Homes are built on site. Some of the home styles offered include Acadian, traditional and contemporary. The categories of available floor plans include family homes, estate homes, cottage homes and wilderness homes.
“Over the last few years, the concepts (of home designs) go more and more to the open concept where you have a combination living-dining-kitchen (area). Everything is very, very open, and that’s very popular these days,” Houseman said.
Bigger bathrooms have also been more popular recently. Common features include large showers, separate dressing areas and private (closeted) toilets.
“Everybody looks for as much storage space as possible... everything ... is designed to where your square footage is either your living area or it is storage space, because that is the key. You want to make sure the square footage you have in your house does not have any wasted space,” Houseman said.
“It can be a linen closet, (or) it can be a larger storage closet. We try to build as much of that in as we can.”
RE/MAX Realty Pros is a local company that provides real estate services for residential and commercial properties in Calcasieu Parish as well as in parts of Cameron, Allen, Jefferson Davis and Beauregard Parishes. The RE/MAX franchise has served this region since 1998.
Pat Diamond, owner of RE/MAX Realty Pros., said the most popular home model right now is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, which typically sells for about $150,000.
“Basically, we are a blue-collar type of market... About 45 percent of our market runs between one hundred (thousand) and two hundred thousand (dollars). You got another 35 or so (percent) that runs between zero and a hundred (thousand dollars)... From two hundred to three hundred (thousand dollars) is probably another 8 to 10 or 12 percent... Above three hundred thousand (dollars), you drop into our top 5 or 6 percent of our market,” Diamond said.
Diamond said that most homes built over the last 15 to 20 years in Southwest Louisiana are traditional, brick homes built on a concrete slab. The trend in larger homes is the French country style, which Donald A. Gardner Architects, Inc.’s web site describes as follows:
“The French Country or French Provincial home plan typically includes curved arches, soft lines, and stonework. (They) may feature brick, stone or stucco exteriors and steep rooflines, sometimes with balconies. The French Country house plan is reminiscent of the rural French countryside... and varies from the simple to the extravagant.”
During the housing boom in the 1970s, Acadian style homes were popular in Louisiana. They were generally made with cypress or cedar wood exteriors and featured front porches. According to a May 24 blog post entitled Acadian Style Homes on the United-Bilt Homes web site, Acadian style homes are “distinguished by a steeply pitched roof and dormer windows, gables, a broad porch and overhanging eaves.” Other common features include elevated doors (to avoid floodwaters) and several windows (for air circulation).
“What we’ve seen over probably the past 20 years is a move towards what we call an open floor plan,” Diamond said. This features more fluid and connected living spaces, such as a combination kitchen-living-dining area. In the past, there would be separate rooms for all of these functions, but now spaces tend to be less defined.
“The big thing we’ve seen over the last 10 or 12 to 15 years is a change from 8-foot and 9-foot ceilings to ... about a 9-foot ceiling ... (up to) 14 feet in some places,” Diamond said.
These higher ceilings are accompanied by steeper, more vertical rooflines, which contribute to more attic space in new constructions.
“Right now and for the last several years, because of the economy, most of the building that has been going on has been custom building... Consequently, the people that can afford to build a custom built house are generally putting things into it that they want. They have more storage than the typical house would have,” Diamond said.
This may change as the economy picks up and speculative building rather than custom building becomes the norm once again.
Over time, the size of newly built homes has increased, Diamond conceded. “In 1971, I figure every size home was about 14- to 1,500 square feet. Now, your average is probably a little closer to 2,000,” he said.
Why the move to larger homes? “Our lifestyles have changed over the years,” Diamond said. “When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of air-conditioning and so forth. You didn’t have a lot of entertainment choices, so you didn’t spend a lot of time in your house. Today, people spend more time in their homes, so they obviously want alternative spaces that can be available to do things.”
The need for more indoor space has been driven by the rising popularity of various forms of home entertainment, such as televisions, movies or gaming consoles. A trend in home businesses and the subsequent need for home office space has also contributed to the demand for larger homes.
Ingle Safari Realty, LLC is a local real estate agency that serves Southwest Louisiana, including areas such as DeRidder, Welsh, Cameron, Johnson Bayou, Lake Charles, Westlake, Sulphur and Iowa. Safari Realty opened in Southwest Louisiana in May of 2008 and merged with Ingle Properties, LLC in May 2011.
The average home sold by Ingle Safari Realty consists of three to four bedrooms and two to three or two and a half bathrooms. This type of home generally sells for $200,000, depending on the location.
Steve D. Floyd, broker and co-owner of Ingle Safari Realty, said coastal stylings are becoming popular. This type of home features exposed wood, scrolled or rounded rafters and longer eaves as well as a second story deck or porch for a more “outdoorsy” feel.
“We’re starting to see more outdoor living that is just -- it’s almost seamless, like you’re inside and then suddenly you’re outside, and you hardly even realize it,” Floyd said. “The outside furniture looks a lot like the inside furniture... It’s just a flow of living (space) from what we would think of as traditional living to the outdoor(s).”
The country French model home has also been popular in the past and continues to be a hit.
Floyd described both of these architectural styles as having been developed long ago and “having stood the tests of time.”
Floyd said he finds that there has been a shift toward more detailed architecture or homes that feature “gingerbreading.” He said that in the past, people may have felt that they could not afford these extras, but now people use them to help raise the resale value of homes.
Another popular trend is the open floor plan, which is characterized by combined living areas.
Open floor plans, Floyd said, “are important enough for clients to not only ask for them, but whenever you take them into the home and show it to them on a normal tour, if it’s not open, (then) they walk in, (and) they walk out.”