Could some of the most in-demand housing markets be cooling off?
The Diverse Family Dwelling
Like each of Cricket Club’s models, the two-story, four-bedroom, 2480 square foot Club Three, is anchored by a kitchen and family room that is well integrated with adjacent outdoor living space.
|Club Three at John Laing HomeÆs Cricket Club at Oak Creek won broad appeal from a culturally diverse sector of high-income family buyers in Irvine, California by presenting memorable lifestyle images.
In recent years, the demographics of Orange County have shifted dramatically. Until the early 90s it was comprised mostly of middle to high income white families. Over the last 10 years, however, due in large part to the rise of the New Economy, cities like Irvine have become much more ethnically diverse while retaining their allure for higher income professionals. It remains very much the same desirable location for dual-income professionals who drive Volvos and SUVs and play tennis on the weekends. But in one of the fastest growing areas of the country with dozens of builder competitors, the challenge of building a new home model tat projects the right image with an appeal that cuts across an array of cultural preferences.
In building three models for its Cricket Club at Oak Creek in Irvine, the team at John Laing Homes was very cognizant that 30% of their prospective buyers would be Asian and 15% to 20% would be Middle Eastern, says Marianne Browne, vice president of sales and marketing. Their success in appealing to this market is born out in the fact that of 101 available homes at Cricket Club, 69 have sold since the project opened on April 15.
Like each of Cricket ClubÆs models, the two-story, four-bedroom, 2480 square foot Club Three, is anchored by a kitchen and family room that is well integrated with adjacent outdoor living space. Little else about the plan, designed by Eric Zuziak and Tu Do of JBZ Architects in Newport Beach, remains exactly the same from buyer to buyer. There is a formal dining room near the front door and a front parlor or den, but optional room choices can remake most of the rest of the floor plan. For a large extended family, it holds the potential of six full bedrooms. For a smaller family, there is the potential for a tandem three-car garage, a vaulted ceiling in the dining room and a home office or tech space upstairs.
|Cooking as a hobby emerged from market-research workshops as popular with both men and women, and led to a strong cooking theme including this pastry and food prep room.
This left a lot to the imagination of Browne and interior merchandiser, Creative Design Consultants, Inc. of Costa Mesa. In the model, a pastry and food prep room was added across from the kitchen using space from the tandem spot in a three-car garage. A large industrial sized stainless steel table with a number of stools placed around it as well as cooking smocks and hats on hooks nearby is whimsical but helps to create an indelible memory point with buyers, says Browne.
"One of the trends that we have noticed is that people are cooking more as a hobby -- spending more time in the kitchen, male and female," says Browne. "Having this room where you can bake and you can really do some interesting things with food was a suggestion based on what we were hearing back from people who had recently bought homes or from people in the market."
As a corollary to the same theme, a small, tabletop herb garden was placed on the kitchenÆs center island and another was planted near the patio outdoors.
The "memory points" continue upstairs. There is an optional homework and tech space for children created above the dining room at the top of the stairs. And near the entry to the master suite, a small closet-like niche is set aside as a place to hang wrapping paper, and hide Christmas gifts. Like the cooking theme, both were ideas generated from buyer research, which Browne says, also dictated the variety of exterior colors and elevations available to Cricket Club buyers.
|The flexibility of Club Three allows for a range of first floor plans. In the model, the focus is on entertaining and hobbies. But the options shown on the floor plan allow for an optional den or even an extra bedroom with bathroom.
They can select from 16 different colors offered for each of the three homes (48 in all) as well as three distinct elevations per plan. This desire for a home that is truly unique to each buyer and a streetscape with interest and variety not only appeals to the diverse cultural backgrounds in the market, but also represents a fundamental shift in overall tastes, says JBZÆs Don Jacobs. In the 80Æs and early 90s, tastes in the area were much more conservative, he says, and uniformly identical streetscapes with white stucco were in their own way, appealing. Five years ago, Jacobs estimates, a wider color palette began appearing in the area and has grown to the level of options now available at Cricket Club.
"Out of 100 there are maybe three houses that are going to be the same, which is exactly what todayÆs buyers are looking for," notes Jacobs. "They donÆt like the fact that their current house is exactly like the six others down the street. This lends some individuality."
Then as now, families really appreciate the areaÆs numerous parks and recreation areas, so small lots of 4000 square feet are part of the overall package of living in Irvine, says Browne. Homes in Cricket Club range from 2041 square feet to the 2480 offered in Club Three and range in price from $423,990 to $492,990. Excluding the cost of land, which in Orange County goes for as much as $1 million or more per acre, hard costs were kept to $60 per square foot.