by Marc Huminilowycz
photography by Kristie & Brenden Woods
While the new and resale home markets showed strong results in 2013, perhaps the most significant indicator of the health of Southern Georgian Bay's real estate market is the ongoing number of buyers choosing to build high-end custom homes in our region.
Some are opting to build their dream home on serviced
residential lots, while others are building on the waterfront or in the
countryside. Whatever the location and lifestyle, local architects and custom
homebuilders are keeping busy making dreams come true.
On The Bay recently interviewed four local designers and builders to learn about the latest trends in custom homes - size, design, techniques and clientele. Unanimously, all agreed that their primary clients are urban baby boomers and younger families building modern homes to accommodate their active lifestyles now and for generations to come.
"There is no question that our clients are primarily retirement age. This may be their second or third residence, but here is where they plan to settle," says James Schneider of Jasper Design. "They have worked their whole lives, and now theyâ€™re doing it right with their new homes here, using the most up-to-date materials, techniques and technology available." Jasper Design is currently working on four properties in Wasaga Beach, including an ultra-modern riverfront home and two beachfront properties: a Craftsman-style new build and a major renovation of a 1990s home.
William Brown of Black Tusk Development Group has noticed a similar trend in his clientele. "Our current projects are driven by winter weekenders," he says. "Their homes, used as a gathering point for family and friends, will become more permanent residences over time." Brown does, however, see the beginning of a trend to smaller, well-designed homes.
"Some active baby boomers nearing retirement are downsizing to suit a new lifestyle that includes more travel and adventure," explains Brown. "They still want a home with all the comforts they're used to, but they're also looking for a space that's easier to maintain and can be closed up quickly when the travel bug bites. Then there is the cost factor. A smaller home frees up capital from the sale of an existing home, which can be directed towards other interests."
Jasper Design agrees that some baby boomer clients prefer to scale down their custom home plans. Although there is an initial intent to downsize, the company sometimes encourages clients to slightly increase the size of their home to accommodate their needs, recommending energy-saving techniques such as efficient heating/cooling, extra insulation and LED lighting to keep their energy costs down.
Describing her company's custom home projects as "multi-generational," Holly Stone of Stone Custom Homes sees a demand towards larger homes from many of her clients, who wish to accommodate three generations of family. Recent Stone Custom Homes projects include a retirement property in Evergreen Estate, a 7,000-square-foot family chalet at Peaks Bay, a large contemporary home at Craigleith Ski Club and a retirement property in the Ridge Estates.
"In some cases, it's baby boomers building for their children and grandchildren. In other instances, it is the children building to accommodate their parents and grandparents," says Stone. "Their 'away' properties provide the greatest opportunity for family time across the generations."