NAPLES — Nationally, there's evidence that the overly large, pretentious homes with five or six bedrooms are going out of style.
In a recent online survey, Trulia, a national real estate website, found interest is waning in so-called McMansions, defined as homes larger than 3,200 square feet. Only 6 percent of Americans in the survey said they wanted these super-sized homes, down from 9 percent in 2010.
In Trulia's 2011 survey, most – about 60 percent – say they want to live in homes between 1,400 and 2,600 square feet.
The growing demand for smaller homes in America is likely driven by several factors, including the economy, the desire to be closer to jobs, shops and restaurants and the growing popularity of building green to lessen the environmental impact, said Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist.
It's unclear whether there is a "trend toward modesty," he said.
Despite Trulia's survey, mansions still are going up in Naples and elsewhere in Southwest Florida, though not as fast as they were a few years ago.
In the city of Naples alone, 25 single-family permits valued at $1 million or more were issued in 2010. The city issued more this year – 27 through the end of September. But one of the most active years for starting ultra high-end homes came in 2008, when the city approved 46 permits for at least $1 million. One of those permits was valued at $10 million for a grand estate that will be one of the largest in Collier County.
Chrissy Forbes, an interior designer and a principal for Accessories Etc. in Bonita Springs, said she's noticed more practicality in the design of luxury homes.
"The world of no-holds-barred is gone,'' she said. "Where in the prior years we would do things because we could, now there is a little more thought process involved in it: Do I see value in it and is it worth the money?"
More luxury buyers in Southwest Florida are thoughtful about their energy use too, she said.
"You want to make sure it's practical," said Forbes, who has been an interior designer for 30 years. "You don't want to be crazy."
More of her clients are looking at expanding their homes.
"They just love where they are so they are just adding that guest suite over the garage," Forbes said.
Many of the wealthy buyers are coming from the Midwest and Northeast. Their multimillion-dollar estates are often a reward for successful careers as business owners or executives – and many times they're used only for get-aways.
Other trends have emerged among new buyers.
"Our clients seem to be getting younger ... as young as in their 30s ... and still working," said Joe Smallwood, president-CEO of BCB Homes. "Of course, we are still seeing a percentage of retirees, but definitely less than in the past."
During the past six years, BCB has completed more than 95 "dream homes" from Marco Island to Sarasota.
"We have not seen the amount of work slow for us, but we also expanded our renovations and remodeling division, which has helped us tremendously," Smallwood said.
A few of the unique features going into BCB's custom homes are induction cook tops and pizza ovens; roll-down screens and hurricane shutters; whole-house automation systems and elevators, and wine cellars with fingerprint scanners.
Award-winning architect Dan Sater, president/CEO of the Sater Group Inc. in Bonita Springs, said more of his wealthy retired clients are building for their own needs, not based on the resale value or the needs of their grown kids.
Sater encourages his clients to go with more flexible, multi-purpose designs. Instead of just having a theater room, there can be a club room with a pool table, big screen TV and a bar, for example.
He's noticed more demand for homes under 5,000 square feet. But there are always those who want something much bigger.
"It's still going on, people trying to build as much house as they can," Sater said.
__ Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden.