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Modern kitchens gaining popularity among buyers, builders report

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Festival of Homes

Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh will hold its annual Festival of Homes tour on Saturday, Sept. 28, and Sunday, Sept. 29; and Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday. Oct. 6, from noon to 5 p.m. each day.

• About 60 houses at 54 development sites throughout the region will be open for tours. Thirty sites are in the North Hills, 10 in the South Hills, six in the eastern suburbs and eight in the western communities. There are 26 more communities than last year's festival.

• Local builders and their representatives will be on hand to answer questions about their homes.

• Styles range from carriage homes, quads, patio to single-family houses. Most models have been furnished.

• Prices range from $200,000 to more than $1 million. Many will be in the range of from $400,000 to $500,000.

• A free show book is available with information on participating communities and professional builders. Go to to get a listing of locations where the books can be obtained.

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By Sam Spatter
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Some new homes in Pittsburgh are turning their owners into gourmet cooks.

Builders are installing steam ovens that provide great cooking opportunities for the household and a great way to reheat leftovers, said Jeff L. Martin, owner of Primrose Homes Inc. in Cranberry and president of the Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh.

Kitchens and modern appliances such as steam ovens are one place homebuyers are focusing their attention these days, according to builders in Western Pennsylvania and nationwide. Another homebuyer trend is quality, with slightly smaller homes compensating for the extra cost.

Homebuyers also are seeking more interior customization, with less concern for resale later. Smartphone-controlled electronic home systems are popular. And outdoor living opportunities also are desirable, builders say.

Consumers can see how these trends are being implemented when the Builders Association holds its annual Festival of Homes during the last weekend in September and the first weekend of October. About 60 houses at 54 development sites in the region will be open for tours. Information is available at

The National Association of Home Builders queried homebuyers about what they most want in a new home. In the kitchen, the survey found they want a walk-in pantry and table space for eating. A double sink was considered essential or desirable by 84 percent or more of buyers. About 40 percent rejected a wine cooler and laminate countertops.

Martin says he has installed steam ovens in several of his new homes. Units range from $600 to $5,000 from manufacturers such as Miele, Sharp, Thermador, Viking and Wolf. They make it possible to create gourmet meals, offering features and settings to set the ideal mode, temperature and cooking times, according to manufacturers. Another reason consumers like them is because “leftovers come out more moist than they would if they were reheated in a microwave,” Martin said.

In the survey, buyers also wanted quality and appearance when looking at flooring, doors, kitchen countertops and cabinets, and carpeting. About 65 percent said they want living space and a number of rooms that meet their needs. The three most wanted outdoor features are exterior lighting, a patio and a front porch. However, 31 percent said no to an outdoor kitchen.

John Moritz, owner of Eddy Homes in Bridge­ville, said the formal living room in his patio homes are gone and kitchens are smaller. But in his $1 million to $2 million estate homes in the North Hills, the living room remains and kitchens are larger.

“Visitors may be surprised to find we have eliminated the study or office for two or three “pocket” rooms which can be used by the children or adults, especially one located near the kitchen,” said Bill Fink, owner of Paragon Homes Inc. of McKees Rocks. Some homebuyers want to customize rooms to their own uses and are not worried about how that will affect resale, he said.

Other trends are a reduction by 10 percent to 15 percent of a home's square footage to compensate for extra costs that come with higher quality, and more outdoor fireplaces and a roof over the deck.

Today's home contains more quality products, which make it more maintenance free, said Donald Paulone of Donald A. Paulone Custom Built Homes in Greensburg. This is reflected in quality windows, a 30-year roof and household fixtures.

Still popular are higher-end appliances and granite countertops, while sacrificing space in other parts of the house, said Jeff A. Martin, partner of Richland Holdings LLC in the North Hills and co-chairman of the Festival of Homes.

“People who may be downsizing are willing to combine the living and dining room into one great room, which provides open space adjacent to the kitchen to be used for family gatherings or entertaining friends and relatives,” Martin said.

Another feature being installed in many new homes is an electronic system that allows the homeowner to use a smartphone to control lighting, heating and cooling, and security systems.

Primose's Martin said builders are accelerating the trend for making new homes more energy-efficient.

He uses spray-foam insulation that seals the house on the interior and a zip-wall sheeting system that seals the exterior. This is a one-of-a-kind structural roof and wall system with a built-in energy-efficient barrier that keeps moisture out and reduces air leakage, while allowing panels to properly dry by combining an insulated foam board with an oriented-strand-board thermal break outside the stud.

Builders are seeing an increase in sales this year, thanks to an improved national and local economy, according to RealStats, a South Side-based real estate information company that tracks the number of new houses sold this year.

As of July, Pittsburgh home builders and home remodelers are seeing a 6.3 percent increase in sales of new homes over the same seven months of 2012, according to RealStats. Prices have gone up 12.6 percent to an average $314,321.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or



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