New calendar, new year, new ideas.
A new year brings a clean slate and a forecast for the coming year. What new ideas will take shape? What national trends will come to the Iowa market?
The home-building industry in central Iowa is strong, but how will it fare during 2018? What new ideas will make an impact on the local scene?
For answers and views on what’s ahead, we looked to area builders, landscape specialists, and, yes, even a banker to see how they perceive Iowa’s future. Our experts see the national trends before those trends hit locally, and they know the products and the techniques to help them lead the way.
Bring on the new year!
“I predict that the more-contemporary designs in homes will continue. I also feel the trend to larger outdoor projects—fire pits and built-in barbecues—will remain strong and expand. And to emphasize that outdoor feel, homeowners will want large, 12-foot-wide sliding doors with more panels. They open up the interior of the home nicely to the outside.
“As for building areas, Adel is great. There are large lots, and much of the ground has character. Bottom line, every place around the metro is strong, from Adel to Altoona and from Ankeny to Norwalk.”
AIM Kitchen & Bath
“We’re expecting another strong year in kitchen and bath remodeling, similar to 2017. A lot of homeowners either opted to stay in their home during the downturn or bought an older home that was more affordable. In both of those cases, remodeling and updating often come out of necessity.”
He says plumbing manufacturers have also begun offering new options that make it possible to install the popular large-format tiles in the shower without compromising drainage requirements. “One thing that’s been great over the past couple of years is the way manufacturers are adjusting to changes in the market. It used to be you could only get fixtures in very contemporary or very traditional styles. But most homeowners prefer a more transitional style, and manufacturers are offering a lot more in that category now.”
He believes many of the trends that will continue in 2018 are tied to that desire for a transitional style and for a look that isn’t dated. “Large-format tiles and walk-in and walk-behind showers are popular in baths. For kitchens it seems to be painted cabinetry, whether it’s the whole kitchen or an accent on the island. Grays and neutrals are still the most popular, and the variety of options makes this a good bet no matter what the homeowner’s taste and style.”
Archadeck of Central Iowa
“In a word, the trend is ‘more.’ People are wanting more fully featured spaces, with ‘combination spaces’—covered and uncovered areas, spaces above ground (deck), and spaces at ground level (patios).
“People are wanting more functionality and ambiance. Heating elements (fireplaces, fire pits, and heating systems incorporated) are popular, as are TVs in the outdoor space. Lighting is, too; most of our porches get recessed and/or fan lights in the ceilings, along with low-voltage lighting systems integrated.
“For materials, stone is becoming a regular component. Deck and porch support columns are often finished out with stone, as are fireplaces, fire pits, and outdoor kitchens. Patio surfaces can be stone. But more often, clients are wanting a stone look with pavers and stamped concrete. Also, I don’t even consider low-maintenance, wood-alternative decking a trend anymore; it’s nearly the standard.”
Kim Downing Manning
“Interest rates are holding steady, and we hope that continues for home buyers at least through the first quarter of 2018. The good news is there is loosening of some of the mortgage guidelines, which will make the operation more normal or less cumbersome for those in middle to lower income brackets.
“There are more down payment assistance programs to help people in purchasing a home right now, which is great. It’s a trickle-down program, of course. We need people to sell their homes so that first-time home buyers can make a purchase. Then those selling can purchase a more expensive home from the builders.”
Like most, Walker is optimistic about the outlook for 2018. “I think 2018 will be much like 2017—a good, steady year.”
Beisser works with builders and remodelers both, and the company has had a busy 2017 across the board. Walker says he anticipates both sides of the construction market will be strong in the coming year as well. However, he does see a changing trend in the remodeling side. “I see a good number of people, even people of retirement ages, improving and remodeling where they are, not selling and downsizing.”
Whether it’s because of a decision to avoid taking on a new mortgage or just satisfaction with their location, more homeowners seem to be looking for ways to make their current home meet their long-term needs. Along with that trend, Walker says there seems to be a slight change in architectural style ahead as well.
“I predict that vertical concrete will be popular in decorative plaster. We did two fireplaces in the home show using that technique. It mimics cast concrete and has a modern look to it. The product we use is called SureCrete, which is a durable concrete, but it has only a 1⁄8- to ¼-inch thickness, so it’s easy to work with. For creating a new look in a remodeling project to use in new construction, we’re pleased with how it works and looks.”
“With the mild weather we’ve been having, we’ve got some great momentum going into 2018. Things are typically slow over the winter, but we’ve got builders still getting foundations in even in December.”
He says that although multifamily housing has remained strong, that may begin to slow during 2018. “More builders and developers are beginning to focus on entry-level, single-family homes, which has been a need for a while.”
In addition to consistent growth in Ankeny and Waukee, Thompson anticipates Bondurant and Altoona to be strong markets over the next year. “Adel has been impressive, too, and even with tax abatements winding down, that market should remain strong. It’s a great community with a lot to offer.”
Thompson adds that, as a supplier, Gilcrest/Jewett makes an effort to pay attention to the construction trends nationally, and the Des Moines area continues to be a bright spot.
“If there is an issue we’re watching, it’s the availability of materials. The national construction market is good, which—with the nature of supply and demand—means everyone around the country is going to be looking for the same materials we are. But a high demand is a good problem to have.”
“So many homeowners are influenced by what they see on Home and Garden Television (HGTV), so we are seeing lots of interest in transitional and more-modern design in this market. They are replacing some of the more traditional style and details. In addition, the clean-lined farmhouse look is becoming stronger, too.
“In terms of development, our work on custom and spec homes now is west and south of the metro.”
“We’re looking forward to another positive year in 2018. The metro is growing; interest rates are rising slightly, but they’re still historically low. So we expect the market to remain strong.”
Inventory challenges remain, especially at those entry-level price points, but he expects builders and developers to focus more on that segment of the market in the year ahead. “In established communities and the fastest growing suburbs, entry-level homes have been very difficult to come by in the past several years. Because of that, first-time buyers have been chasing those price points farther out from the metro. Communities like Bondurant, Van Meter, Norwalk, Carlisle, Indianola—they’re all still well within commuting distance, but homes and lots are more reasonably priced for the first-time buyer.”
As commuters spread out beyond the closest suburbs, he says officials will need to continue to invest in infrastructure, as was done with the Highway 5 bypass and other heavily traveled routes around Des Moines. “As the metro marches toward a million residents, the pressure on existing infrastructure grows. To keep those attractive commute times that draw families to relocate here, we’re going to have to address the areas that are becoming more congested.”
“There’s a definite leaning to a more modern, transitional look in home building. People like the clean lines, both inside and outside the home. For that look, we’re doing more cable and stainless-steel rods for railings for interior and exterior stairways. It’s a nice, fresh look, as are more-horizontal gas fireplaces. They fit the style nicely.
“As for development, Ankeny still is expanding, and so is the direction to Adel. Lots may seem higher that direction, but so are the amenities.”
“Consumers seem confident and excited about improving their homes and enhancing their home lives,” says Kaufman, “so we’re very positive about the year ahead.”
Kaufman says that though he anticipates growth in both remodeling and new construction, the two markets are independent in a lot of ways, so growth in one doesn’t always result in growth in the other.
“I don’t think there is much of a link between remodeling and new construction,” he explains. “Consumer confidence has a similar effect on both industries, so they are linked in that way, but people remodel or buy because of different needs.”
Kaufman sees two areas in which business owners should be planning ahead in 2018.
“The industry is still experiencing a severe shortage in the workforce,” he says. “The message that we have great careers to offer is getting louder, but it will still take time for the skills gap to narrow.”
Kaufman also says the strong market is an opportunity to lay the foundation for the future and not be over eager for quick growth.
“We need to use this opportunity to build reserves and invest in our people and systems. This provides the best opportunity to sustain any bumps in the road ahead.”
Jenna Kimberley and April Ford
From Jenna: “We have continued to see modern homes gain in popularity. More and more buyers are finishing the interiors of their homes with fewer trim details, more tiled fireplaces, and less carpet. On the exteriors, we’re seeing sleeker lines, windows without grilles, garage door panels with a frosted vertical window stack, and an increase in cedar accents. About 80 percent of our buyers have opted for the covered deck, making that our most-added option this year. We are incorporating black fixtures, giving homes a more industrial look, along with keeping brass in the mix. From the development standpoint, West Des Moines and Ankeny continue to be our strongest markets; however, we expect our smaller-market developments to take off in the spring in Polk City and Elkhart because a smaller school system appeals to many buyers.”
From April: “Natural wood and the cement look are also really popular now. Natural- wood surfaces will continue strong in 2018. No matter what the tone, these natural finishes are being featured in furniture, cabinets, mantels, and decorative accents around the home. Also, cement-look products are everywhere, including quartz counters, entire fireplaces, tile flooring, and even lighting fixtures.”
“At Moehl Millwork, 2017 was a gangbuster year, and we’re moving into 2018 with that same momentum. We’re very busy with new construction as well as high-end remodels.”
She anticipates one trend that has been strong for some time will continue. “Whether it’s a $200,000 home or a multimillion-dollar home, stone countertops are still the number one choice. There are so many stone styles to choose from and some new colors that we haven’t seen before in countertops.”
“We’re constantly looking at new colors and cabinet door styles. The trick is trying to figure out what trend is here to stay and which is a temporary fad. Trends come and go, but a homeowner has to love their choice if they’re going to be happy with the finished product.
“We have to be flexible and willing to go with the customer’s wants and needs. If we aren’t, the consumer will go elsewhere, and we’ll be left behind. Flexibility and listening are key.”
Plum Building Systems
“I’m optimistic. There seem to be a lot of positive signs in the business world in general, and that gives us confidence for the construction industry, too. Even this time of year, when things are typically slow, business is steady for builders.”
Like many local professionals, he sees the new-construction market improving for first-time and entry-level buyers. Inventory in this segment has been a concern for several years. And he believes 2018 may see a turnaround. “A number of factors that have played into the situation. But between the demand for smaller, entry-level homes and a bit of adjustment to some development issues, I think we may finally see this demand start to be met.”
He says the movement toward more consistent codes is a positive as well. That consistency makes it easier for builders and developers to work in multiple communities. He also foresees a continued trend toward more energy-efficient homes. “Smart home design is growing in popularity, and that’s a fantastic feature. We’re also able to partner with HVAC contractors and builders to design the structure around the system they’re installing so that it’s as efficient as possible. Changes in technology make this sort of design easier and offer significant improvements for homeowners.”
“Polished concrete is a strong prediction for the future. We have been using it in basements because of its nice look and low maintenance. There are some choices in the look, from a light sand exposure to a spattering of aggregate in the concrete floor for an aged surface, plus a larger amount of aggregate in the concrete floor for a highly texture look.
Depending on the look you want, you can have a pleasing low-gloss surface, a moderate level of reflectivity, or a very high level with an almost mirror surface. There are numerous color choices, too, such as soft gray, leather, Aztec red, rustic bark, aquamarine, green-gray, steel, and black.
“Concrete sinks will continue to be popular, especially in powder rooms or a double vanity that hangs on the wall. Another area that is returning is exposed aggregate for sidewalks, driveways, and patios. Aggregate is pleasing because of the rich, textured look.”
Rooted in functional design with a European influence, she says transitional styles will still lead the way. “Homeowners are leaning toward clean lines with soothing colors, and the push toward green products with a high recycle content will remain strong.”
She agrees with other professionals that the trend toward painted cabinets will also continue. “Gray isn’t going away any time soon, but I anticipate more blue-grays emerging over the next year.”
One of those European influences Nichols foresees over the coming months is large-scale elements in design—large-format tiles in both flooring and subway wall tiles, large kitchen sinks, even oversized pavers in outdoor installations. “The European influence complements the metallic and concrete looks popular with industrial style.”
She believes neutral colors will remain popular in everything from paint to tile. “Whether it’s glass, porcelain, wood-look, or another material, large formats are really growing in popularity. We’re also seeing unique shapes in all sizes”
These same preferences apply to countertop trends as well, she says. “Products that offer virtually maintenance-free, antimicrobial benefits but with the drama and realistic look of stone or marble are hugely popular with homeowners.”
In every area, clean lines and muted, neutral colors will dominate designs.
Ted, Melissa, and Keegan Lare
Ted Lare Design + Build
From Ted: “We are integrating more and more metal in our designs. In construction, we’re using more steel framing, not just wood. That means fewer posts, which we often wrap in stone. All this makes it easier to create an engineered look.
“On the plant side, there’s been a switch. Many homeowners are opting for planting more annuals. Perennials are great, of course, but if space is at a premium, it’s easier to get good color and get it faster with annuals. Shrubs now have become the secondary choice for many spots.”
From Melissa and Keegan: “People are wanting to extend the outdoor season, which may mean an outdoor kitchen and a fireplace or fire pit and covered outdoor space. Outdoor heaters and TVs are requested more often.
“More modern-style homes are being built, which means more modern landscaping, too. Low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and native plants are desirable for this climate and are good for the environment.
“Use of mixed materials, which include natural stone, manmade pavers, steel, and aluminum, will continue to grow. People enjoy adding personality to outdoor spaces through artwork, fountains, and outdoor accents.”
VIA Group, REALTORS®
“Residential sales are similar and in line to last year at this point. In the first part of the year, activity is often a matter of weather. The pace of sales is active, and that can depend on the inventory.
“Development continues west and north. I admit to being a little concerned that we’re overbuilding in downtown Des Moines. Time will tell on that.”