Today’s luxury homes are not necessarily bigger. They’re just better. While the size of American homes is declining, the amenities buyers expect are increasing.

It’s all about life style. Buyers want more than just four walls. They want fun, fitness, security, technology and maybe, as in the case of a development like Newport Cove on the Chain O’ Lakes near Antioch, a place to park their boat.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of new single-family homes completed in 2010 shrunk, measuring an average of 2,377 square feet, down about three percent from 2009. By 2015, the association expects the average home size to be 2,152 square feet. After expanding for nearly three decade, the average size peaked at 2,521 square feet in 2007.

So, if the McMasion is “over,” what’s in?

Let’s start with technology. Home technology systems for internet, entertainment, security, monitoring heating and cooling system, and appliances are part of any new luxury home. Ovens that “think” and refrigerators that keep track of grocery needs can be part of the equation.

Energy efficiency is in. Foam insulation, high-efficiency furnaces and appliances, LED bulbs and low-E glass insure a comfortable home with low energy bills.

Security is important. State-of-the-art home security systems are popular. Many luxury buyers want to know their home will operate “off” the grid, so they are installing whole-house generators.

Universal design is another hot button. Features such as elevators, extra wide passageways and large showers ensure that the buyer can live in his or her home for a longer period of time.

Fitness is part of a luxury lifestyle, so expect today’s upscale home to have a spa bath, exercise facilities, a sauna or steam room.

And don’t forget fun – a media area or game room is de rigueur in the new luxury home.

There also are more places for food. Besides the kitchen, there may be a mini refrigerator and built-in espresso machine in the master bedroom, an outdoor kitchen or a fully equipped bar (with refrigeration and microwave) in the recreational area.

Finally, the new luxury home is more likely to be in a community planned around a golf course, a marina or even a race car track.

Newport Cove, a luxury planned community near Antioch, is centered around a lakefront life style. The 42-acre community will eventually be home to 67 upscale residences. Forty percent of the site is open space, including a private eight-acre waterfront park extending along the community’s 1,800 feet of lakefront.

Newport Cove has a private marina with more than 100 slips on Bluff Lake, part of the Chain O’ Lakes. With some 7,100 acres of water, 15 lakes and 45 miles of river, this “Key West of the Midwest” accommodates activities for every water-lover: boating, swimming, tubing, waterskiing, fishing, even hunting. Chicagoland’s playground for more than a century (it is about an hour’s drive from the big city), the Chain boasts two State Parks as well as many great boat-in (or drive-to) restaurants and “hot spots”. Newport Cove’s marina is a stone’s “skip” from several.

Award-winning builder New American Homes is building luxury semi-custom and custom homes in the community. Newport Cove offers three distinct “neighborhoods”: the Waterfront (21 waterfront sites reserved for custom homes with 2,500 to 4,200 feet above grade and all with walk-out basements), the Estates (15 custom homes sized from 2,200 to 3,500 square feet) and the Cottages (31 smaller homes, 1,600 to 2,300 square feet in a carefree enclave where the grass is mowed, landscape pruned, sidewalks shoveled and driveways plowed).

All Newport Cove homes have the same coastal-style look: siding, shingles and stone exteriors with white trim and cottage style landscaping. Prices start at $290,000 and go to about $1 million.

Models are open noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays or by appointment.

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