Move-up Desires : Surveys Differ on Size of Homes Sought, Built

Times Staff Writer

Move-up home buyers want larger, more energy-efficient houses, according to a Builder magazine survey. But new single-family houses sold this year are likely to be smaller than those sold last year, according to a survey conducted by Cahners Publishing Co., which publishes Professional Builder magazine, a competitor.

In still another survey of more than 300 prospective move-up buyers in the Southland--conducted by Walker & Lee Real Estate and Builder magazine, the preference was for a two-story, single-family home with a master suite on the second floor.

Who's right and who's wrong? Surveys, surveys and still more surveys--marketing research people think they're indispensable, while many others think they're contradictory as respondents seemingly give poll-takers the kind of answers they expect the pollsters want.

Frank Anton, editor of Builder magazine, predicted during January's convention of the National Assn. of Home Builders in Houston that the move-up market is about to become a factor again, after several dormant years.

In the latest survey, conducted with George A. Fulton Research & Consulting, Fairfax, Va., Anton said that the move-up market "is about ready to explode" in seven major markets: the Virginia and Maryland suburbs of Washington, St. Louis, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Dallas and both Northern and Southern California.

Not surprisingly, move-up buyers want larger houses, typically about 20% bigger than their present homes, Anton added. They also want energy efficiency. And they are between the ages of 26 and 45 with well-above average incomes. More than 50% of the move-up couples have children, although an increasingly large percentage of move-up buyers are childless.

The median size of new homes sold has been rising for two years, reaching an all-time high of 1,605 square feet last year, up from 1,565 in 1983, and 1,520 in 1982, according to the Cahners survey. The previous record was 1,600 square feet in both 1978 and 1979. But the trend toward larger homes is expected to end this year as buyers respond to rising costs of home financing, the survey concluded.

While homes have been getting larger, the median number of bedrooms has declined, reflecting the smaller size of the typical family and the fact that there are more home buyers in the non-family or single-parent households, Cahners reported.

Features most important to Southern Californians, according to the Walker & Lee/Builder survey, were: ceramic tile kitchen counters, microwave ovens, double ovens, upgraded carpeting, fireplaces, security systems, tile roofs, decorated wood doors and garage door openers.

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