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'There”s no place like home” takes on a whole new meaning as home owners go beyond – way beyond – the creature comforts to create the perfect living environment

by Melissa Booraem

Imagine having a back-up generator for when the power goes out, an elevator for those occasions when you don”t feel like taking the stairs or just being able to get a facial without having to leave your neighborhood. These are a few of the latest amenities that have homebuyers saying, "Oooh, I want that!"

The Atlanta area, including Gwinnett County, recently ranked fourth out of the top twenty-five markets to watch in the luxury real estate market. Lifestyle amenities, city retreats and property on Lake Lanier were all listed as earning top dollar in the housing market, according to Unique Homes.

 "Ten years ago people were interested in having the large master suite, a master bath with separate shower, whirlpool tubs, polished brass fixtures, walk-in closets, white cabinets with Corian counters and neighborhoods with swim and tennis," says Dawn P. Gober, broker/ owner of Re/Max Five Star.

Today, people are looking beyond swim and tennis neighborhoods, adding to their wish list amenities like playgrounds, clubhouses, sidewalks and gated communities. Dark stained cabinets, granite counters, hardwood floors, big media rooms and secondary bedrooms also make the list, Gober adds. Open floor plans have remained a consistent desire.

Gober says that developers initially realized that swim and tennis communities would draw more buyers to their neighborhoods – a winning strategy seen throughout Gwinnett.

But the demands of the marketplace are changing as buyers look at their homes differently. Busy lifestyles and high-pressure jobs means that many homeowners want to create a home environment that offers all the benefits and luxury of a vacation getaway – without ever leaving the neighborhood.

For many, that translates to golf course living and amenities like outdoor living areas, two dishwashers, two laundry rooms or an elevator. 

"As prices get higher, people also start paying a lot more attention to how long they will be staying in a particular house," says Jim Pinard, a sales agent/ broker at The River Club and a resident at Sugarloaf Country Club.

People are buying these homes to live in for a long time, he says, and to pass on to their children, which tends to influence amenity choices. Case in point – The River Club will offer spa services at its clubhouse when it opens next spring.

Savvier homeowners have also sparked a change in amenities. Pinard says today”s buyers spend lot of time researching the developer, builders and the community before buying.

Green space and environment also rank high with homebuyers. "Not a single tree in The River Club was taken down until all the research and planning stages were completed," Pinard says.

But at the end of the day, it”s still a good night”s sleep that that matters most. The National Home Builders Association predicts that 60 percent of custom homes could have dual master bedrooms by 2015, which couples are using to combat spousal snoring.

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