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Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 1:09 p.m. CDT

Many people shopping for real estate today are younger than previous generations of home buyers, and they’re extremely tech savvy. They grew up with smartphones, apps, and Google searches. And they want to use technology not only in their search for a home but throughout the home itself.

A recent survey by Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate shows that 77 percent of Gen X & Gen Y home buyers want their homes “equipped with the technological capabilities they have grown accustomed to.” And it doesn’t stop there. This new generation of home buyers is “rewriting the rules to home ownership and reinterpreting traditional norms to fit their values,” says Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate.

These aren’t your standard-issue young home buyers from 30 or 40 years ago, who were often married couples looking for a starter home in the suburbs to raise a family. Today, single women make up a large percentage of first-time buyers, as do gay couples and the always-connected mobile professional.

As the home buyer evolves, so does the home. Here are five major shifts in homes you can expect to see today and in the coming years.

home theater

1. Man Caves and Smart Homes

The media room or “man cave” emerged in real estate marketing a few years back. Many buyers now prefer high-tech rooms with surround sound, large-screen TV’s, and the most up-to-date A/V equipment to the coveted formal dining room of a generation’s past.

But some aren’t limiting technology to just one room. They’re transforming an entire property into a “smart home” with home automation systems.

At a recent Maple Ridge, N.J. open house, the real estate agent demonstrated the features of the home automation system to excited buyers. With one tap on a touch screen, the owner of that home could remotely lock/unlock doors to let in their kids from school, automatically turn on the A/C or heat before they leave work, or monitor the family dog via webcam.

Given how technology is only going to be more important in our lives, transforming a home into a “smart home” is likely to be a good investment.

Carrie Bradshaw closet

2. Carrie Bradshaw Closets

In the first Sex and the City movie, Carrie Bradshaw excitedly tours her future Manhattan apartment with Mr. Big — and is woefully disappointed at the tiny closet space. He surprises her by dramatically remodeling the cramped space into a dream closet, with glowing, glass-enclosed sub-closets.

That 2008 movie raised the bar and set the tone for closets. Today, the walk-in closet is a must-have on many buyers’ wish list. Some homeowners are paring down a four-bedroom home to three by transforming one bedroom into an oversized walk-in closet. It’s a far cry from the Victorian era, when bedroom closets were often the size of a coat closet today.

A large closet will probably never go out of style. If you intend to expand a closet or bedroom into a grand walk-in closet, just be careful not to overly customize it. The more specific you get with your taste, the fewer people your closet will appeal to when you go to sell later.

Home office

3. Home Offices

Even though a few companies (most notably Yahoo!) are instituting a ban on working from home, most encourage it. And so, in our always-on culture, many people entering the real estate market are tethered to email well into the evening hours and on weekends.

A home office tops this buyer’s wish list. Depending on the number of bedrooms, some will create a home office with built-in desks, shelving and cabinets. The customized home office with built-ins could deter some buyers, however, who feel they’ve lost a bedroom or other space. But many prefer to have one place dedicated to their laptops, printers and work-related stuff. (A dedicated home office is better for tax purposes, too). Either way, try to make your home office as appealing to the next buyer as it is to you. And keep in mind that, provided you don’t create a built-in a desk or bookshelf, the space can easily be reverted back to a bedroom.

hardwood floor

4. Hardwood Floors

If you walk into a home that hasn’t been on the market for decades, you’ll probably see a lot of wall-to-wall carpeting. This was common in the mid 20th century. Not only did carpeting help reduce heating bills, it was seen as physically comforting and less sterile.

Fast forward 50 years, a time when most buyers prefer gleaming hardwood floors. Hardwood floors make a space feel less confined and give it a new, clean feeling. No matter how many times the carpet has been cleaned, there’s something about stepping on someone else’s carpet with your bare feet that turns off today’s buyers.

If you see a home you love, with wall-to-wall carpeting you don’t love, ask the agent what’s underneath it. You might be surprised to find a hardwood floor that, with some sanding and polishing, will give the home that updated, lighter look you want.

community pool

5. Urban Homes With Amenities

Home buyers used to covet a three-quarter acre lot. Today’s buyers — both the Gen X and Gen Y generations as well as empty-nest retirees—see that same lot and think “maintenance.”

Instead, they’re opting for city living, in big cities like New York as well as smaller urban centers such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and San Jose. These buyers seek active lifestyles and opportunities to socialize. They want to be near transit hubs. And they’re looking for buildings with amenities. They want a full-time concierge, a full-service gym, even an in-house spa or business center. If this type of property appeals to you, make sure you’re fully aware of the homeowners’ dues and other associated costs. You might be willing and able to absorb those expenses, but future buyers might not be.

Think Long-Term

Trends in kitchen countertops, paint colors and bath fixtures come and go. They’re based on larger design or style trends and even fashion trends. However, as our society and our culture changes, the larger fixtures and features of our homes change more gradually. They don’t mirror the latest trends so much as they reflect shifts in how we live. As a result, investing in long-term home shifts will usually be a better idea than paying extra money for the latest home fad.

Though the world has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, some things will always remain the same. People will always need a place to rest their head at night. And real estate, despite its recent ups and downs, is still a good investment — if you’re in it for the long haul.

Related:

Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor and one of the nation’s leading real estate experts. He has collaborated on multiple real estate books and his expert advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, Good Morning America and Forbes. An avid investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the US and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. You can find Brendon on Facebook or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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