Living in luxury

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There’s a reason an adage is coined — usually its wisdom rings pretty true. The old saw that the three top criteria in real estate are location, location and location proves the point.

"Location is key," Robin Anderson, owner of Elite Realty, Wind Lake, affirms. "When it comes to homes in the $500,000 range and up, our customers seek a quiet setting, water frontage or acreage (5 or more) with woods and privacy. Exclusive developments with an acre or larger lots, woods and nice views are also popular in western Racine County."

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Beth Weber, her associate, adds, "Green space, walking trails, riding stables, golf courses, lake access or frontage all make an executive home desirable."

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The two say sales of these homes are hot right now. "The average time a house in this category is on the market is 60 days, and sellers are getting about 97% of their list price," Anderson explains. "With low interest rates, it’s a great time to buy or sell."

While real estate brokers define executive homes as anywhere from $300,000 to more than $1 million in price, they agree the home’s setting does make all the difference.

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"Those who are looking for lake property, either as a full-time residence or as a second home, want large lots, great lake views, excellent swimming frontage and long private driveways," says Beachy Gallagher, Realty Executives Integrity, Hartland. "Some prefer a large lot so they can have privacy and quiet, while others want a really big house in a good neighborhood, but seek a small yard to they can spend time with their family or on the golf course."

In the Washington County area where the Emmer Real Estate focuses its business, "winding driveways, extensive landscaping, oversized city lots of an acre or more, or country lots with three to 10 acres sell well," Jim Emmer notes.

Barbara Young of Shorewest Realtors in Mequon says, "For our customers, acreage is not as important, but landscaping that invites entertaining is."

Brokers say natural exteriors with cedar, stone or brick details on the house and for walkways are desirable. Pools and gazebos seem to be passé, but the evidence of professional landscaping is a must.

Spacious interiors

As long as executive homes are built well, preferences vary from new homes to very old ones with "Old World charm," according to Young.

The homes are as large as their price tags. Most have four or more bedrooms and at least two-and-a-half baths, though they can have up to six bathrooms. Three- to five-car garages are common. Some have a "bonus" room above the garage. Others might feature an entrance from the garage into the basement.

Basements are far from dingy. Exposed basements with home theaters and a game room are preferred. If the homes don’t have them already, "people tend to add lower level theaters and game rooms," Emmer notes.

Impressive entryways are popular. "Homes sell well if they have lots of windows and light, vaulted ceilings and a two-story entryway," Gallagher says.

Emmer adds, "People like grand entrances and oversized staircases in these homes, along with exposed lower levels and nine- and 10-foot ceilings in other rooms."

Young points out that recreation rooms now have snack kitchens and bathrooms nearby.

In the main kitchen, luxury counts. "Two sinks, wine captains, warming ovens and commercial-look (Sub-Zero) appliances are appealing," she says.

Anderson and Weber agree. "They’re often professionally decorated, spacious gourmet kitchens with Kohler fixtures and sinks, built-in appliances, a center island and a walk-in pantry," they say. "Granite or stone countertops, custom cabinets, hardwood or marble floors, crown moldings, tile accents, open soffits above the cabinetry and a hearth room with fireplace off the kitchen completes the décor."

Nearby, the must-have dining room probably has a decorative ceiling, built-in china cabinet and a serving buffet.

Throughout the house, natural lighting and neutral colors are hot right now, along with beveled mirrors, wide oak trim, six-panel oak doors, a natural fireplace and touches of stone, slate and/or granite.

Bedrooms are important, too. "Master suites with walk-in closets and a spa bathroom that includes a whirlpool, heated tiles floor and separate shower stalls are desirable," Young notes.

Emmer adds, "We see in-floor heat throughout the home and private wings for the master suite."

Anderson agrees. "Our customers want a main-level master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and a luxurious bath-whirlpool, oversized tile shower and double sinks," she says. "A new trend is having two master suites, and at least three large bedrooms with private baths.

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