Flex Rooms Change to Suit Buyers’ Needs, Preferences

A typical example of a traditional home study complete with a rusty rug, standing table and reading table amongst other items.

Need a home office? A flex room, like this one with glass doors, offers homeowners a chance to personalize their home to fit their needs. One of 14 new homes in the Seasons at Prince Creek West community. Murrells Inlet, S.C.

Flex rooms. Bonus rooms. Double-duty rooms. Multipurpose rooms.

Whatever they’re called, these new-home spaces, used for different or multiple needs, are very popular with today’s homebuyers.

A flex room might be defined as “several options within the same square footage,” explains Bridjette Shelfo, general sales manager at Pulte Homes, Arizona Division in Scottsdale.

“The consumer typically has three or four options for that flex space, whether they want it to be garage space, a game room or another guest suite with a bathroom,” she says. “Sometimes it shifts a few feet in one direction or another, but it is in the same general area and takes up the same general space.”

Buyer’s Choice

The chief benefit of a flex room is that the space is built in the way that best fits the buyer’s needs. “It provides the ultimate flexibility in how they want to use their home,” Shelfo says.

A flex room isn’t just about rearranging furniture, but involves structural modifications when the home is built to make the space more useful for the buyer’s intentions, explains Angel Boales, a sales associate at Meritage Homes in Frisco, Texas.

“If you were making (a flex space into) a study, we would put doors on it. It you were making it a living area, we would leave it as an arched opening,” she says. “If you were making it a bedroom, we would put in a closet. When you’re building it, you’re able to personalize it based on what your needs are.

Some flex rooms can actually make a home larger, as well as more functional.

“You may be looking at a floor plan that is 3,000 square feet, but converting the tandem garage into a media room or large utility room will make it 3,200-square-feet, because you are making that liable space,” Boales says.

Here are more examples:

  • A first-floor space could be an extra guest suite with a bathroom, a gameroom or homework space for children.
  • An owner’s retreat off the main bedroom could be a sitting area, workout facility, home office or TV room. With a door, one spouse can use the retreat, while the other spouse is sleeping.
  • A formal dining area could be reconfigured as a home office.
  • A bathroom could be next to a study and accessible from the hallway or next to a bedroom and accessible from that room.

Builder Upgrade

Builders typically offer one use of a floor plan’s flex room (or flex rooms) as the standard configuration and at least one or more other configurations as upgrades.

“People have to evaluate if the investment is worth it to them or not, but a lot of times, our flex spaces are priced very competitively for the amount of square footage that is added to the home,” Shelfo says. “People look at it as getting an extra 250 square feet, an extra bedroom and bathroom, without bumping up to a bigger square-footage home.”

Buyers might wonder whether they can change a flex room’s configuration after they move into their new home. The answer is yes, but remodeling later could be more costly than the builder’s upgrade.

“For a lot of folks, that ends up being a lot more expensive than doing it through us initially. It certainly can be done. It’s just their cost after they close on their home,” Shelfo says.

Buyers might be able to recoup at least part of the cost of a flex room upgrade when they later resell their home to someone else.

“If you get to market it as a five-bedroom instead of a four-bedroom or a four-bedroom with a study, instead of a four-bedroom with a formal living room or formal dining room, it will increase the value,” Boales says.

Functionality for Family, Tech and Pets

A variation of a flex room is a multipurpose room that’s designed to accommodate multiple uses in the same square footage, says Erik Koss, president of Koss Design + Build, an architectural firm in Phoenix, Ariz.

The classic example is a home office that doubles as a guest bedroom with a Murphy bed that folds down from one wall.

A more modern example is a space that functions as a children’s playroom or workspace during the day and then is repurposed as a TV-watching room in the evening, overflow sleeping area at night or both.

“It’s what people on the East Coast used to use their basements for, but now we’re designing that into the house and making sure it has Internet or wireless or home automation features and it has the right storage space,” Koss says.

Yet another example is a laundry room that doubles as a mud room, contains extra storage space or is set up for crafts, too.

“It’s that catch-all room where you can do everything,” Koss says. “You can throw the laundry in, have your wet dog in there or whatever.”

How to Decide

The bottom line is that flex rooms offer buyers options that might not be found in a resale home.

“The neat thing about building a new home is that you are able to personalize it to your specific needs. It will increase the value and make it more comfortable for you,” Boales says. “My advice to the new-home consumer would be to communicate with the salesperson, let them know exactly what you are envisioning and they can help you create that.”

Marcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, book editor and blogger whose work has been published by a long list of financial, mortgage and banking websites, trade magazines and newspapers. You can find her on Google+.

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