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Home Buyers’ No. 1 Priority Is Neighborhood Safe From Crime : Housing: Kitchen layout is a distant second in California survey conducted by Irvine firm. The study tracks 3,000 serious shoppers in real estate market.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

When looking for a new home, prospective buyers in California consider neighborhood security their No. 1 concern, even before home design, lot size, schools and a builder’s reputation, according to a survey released Friday during a home building conference here.

An estimated 92% of buyers said neighborhood crime and security had the largest impact on their decision on whether to purchase a home; design and layout of the kitchen had the second-largest impact at 74%, according to the survey by National Survey Systems, an Irvine survey company that compiled the data.

“Neighborhood security isn’t the first thing that you think of, but it’s not surprising. It’s a big issue, “ said Jeff Meyers, principal with the Meyers Group, a Newport Beach real estate consulting firm that participated in the survey. “These days neighborhood and community is first. Once you sell them on a community, then you start looking at homes.”

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Released during the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the survey tracked opinions of nearly 3,000 serious home shoppers interviewed at 54 Southern California housing developments and 39 in Northern California during April and May. The respondents said that they planned to purchase a home within the next six months.

Titled “Vision 94, The California New Home Buyer Preference Survey,” the survey found that 30% of shoppers planned to be in their homes longer than 15 years.

“The biggest surprise to us was the length of time people expected to be in their homes,” said Robert Mirman, president of National Survey Systems. “This means they are looking for a different kind of commitment from their builder. They are looking for quality and a flexible design that can change as they raise their families.

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“Home is a different entity today than it was in the 1980s. Today it is a retreat, a comfort zone. It is not just an investment.”

Much of the discussion about the survey results focused on the increased role technology plays in the lives of home shoppers, and how that affects home design.

The survey found that 73% of shoppers own or plan to soon buy a home computer, an increase from the 66% of shoppers with a similar response last year.

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“The merging of the television and the home computer, and how that system is set up in the home, will be a real consideration for builders in the future,” Meyers said. “Builders will have to look and see how that fits into the design.”

An estimated 32% of shoppers wanted a home with an office, and about 37% said someone in their family worked at home at least occasionally. The percentage of shoppers who said they would use an extra bedroom as an office was 32%, a five percentage point increase from last year, when only 27% said they would.

In addition, more of the potential buyers said they were optimistic about the economy, with nearly one-third predicting the state’s economy would get better in the near future as compared to only 13% in last year’s survey.

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