5 Once-Hot Features Just Wasting Space in a New Home

BOSTON (MainStreet) — Fashions come and fashions go not just in clothing but also in housing construction, and here's a look at five features that are definitely "out" in 2014 among newly built homes.

"A lot of these are nice [amenities], but not make-or-break features that determine whether someone will buy a particular place," says Stephen Melman of the National Association of Home Builders, which surveyed some 400 members recently to see what they're planning to include in upcoming projects.

Melman says items the survey found have fallen out of fashion are generally expensive amenities that few consumers are willing to pay for in today's post-bust housing market.

"A lot of it has to do with the bottom line," he says. "Consumers are asking: 'Is this something I can cross out and still enjoy my new home?'"

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Look below for a rundown of items that survey participants told the NAHB they're least likely to build into typical homes (or click here for a look at features that topped the association's poll).

All of the amenities below averaged less than 2.5 on a five-point scale of how likely contractors said they were to include a given feature in homes they planned to build in the near future.

Two-story family rooms
Score: 2.4
The two-story family room — a ground-floor family room with nothing above until you hit the second-floor ceiling — had its fans before the housing bust, but its popularity is in the sub-basement these days.

"These rooms are expensive to heat and cool and they tend to feel cold, large and distance — the opposite of coziness," Melman says. "That's why they've lost their 'oomph.'"

Sunrooms
Score: 2.1 (tie)
Melman says sunrooms are "wonderful places in cold-weather climates because the winters are so dark," but that the sun has set on demand for them in these leaner times.

"Many new homes used to come with a media room, a hobby room and a sunroom, but all of that costs a lot of money that not everyone wants to spend any more," he says.

Outdoor fireplaces
Score: 2.1 (tie)
Just as buyers in cooler climates are declining to pay for sunrooms, those in warm-weather locales are pouring cold water on the idea of outdoor fireplaces because of the price, Melman says.

But he adds that since outdoor fireplaces are "nice features that aren't terribly expensive" — often just a few thousand dollars — their popularity should eventually spark back up in the West and Southwest, where they were previously hot.

Outdoor kitchens
Score: 1.9 (tie)
Upscale homes built during the housing boom often came with elaborate outdoor kitchens that included stoves, sinks and even refrigerators — all frequently installed next to a pool or large patio.

But Melman says many of today's consumers have pulled the plug on outdoor kitchens because they cost big bucks and basically duplicate what a house's "regular" kitchen already does.

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"Buyers might prefer to have a home with an outdoor kitchen, but it's expensive and most people can make their new [place] work without one," he says.

Laminate kitchen countertops
Score: 1.9 (tie)
Popular from the 1950s until the 1980s or so, plastic-laminate kitchen counters are about as in demand these days as coal-fired stoves.

While basic laminate is typically the most-economical countertop material you can buy, Melman says today's consumers generally prefer to spring for costlier granite finishes.

He adds that wood, Jerusalem light stone or other upscale materials are also gaining fans.

— By Jerry Kronenberg

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