Interior Design Trends #ontrend

What’s trending? #interiordesigntrends

Geometric and abstract shapes are popping up everywhere both in graphic design and interior design. “Gem shaped accents make for an easily up-gradable accessible moment in any room” said Nate Berkus (Huffington Post).  A great way to play up this trend and add some dimension to your room is to use geometrical shaped mirrors as wall art. Position them above a couch or in a darker corner to add some texture and light.

A continuing kitchen design trend is open shelving. Try using rustic wood boards as open shelving for kitchen items or choose a more modern look with simple white or black shelves that will showcase your dining sets. Open kitchen shelving looks great with matching white dishes with pops of color such as colored vase or bouquet of flowers

Photo: Food 52

Photo: Food 52

Mid century modern is hot right now! The clean lines of mid century furniture blended with the big and bold artwork that is trending now, make for a sophisticated and timeless living space. A great way to incorporate mid-century looks is by taking a piece of furniture that you are tired of or needs some revamping. Hardware and home improvement stores sell mid century table legs or furniture legs (Buzzfeed). Adding these legs to a dated dresser can instantly transform a piece of furniture into a midcentury conversation piece.

Investing in an entire set of patterned or bold living room seating can be daunting. A better way to add color and bold patterns to a room is by using statement chairs. Keep the beige, gray, black or white couch as a neutral backdrop, but bring in a bold statement chair to add a nice splash of color to the mix. This is less of a commitment and ensures that the room will not look too busy. (Telegraph).

LifeSimplybyAnnie

LifeSimplybyAnnie

A trend that has been around for a while, and is continuing to grow, and will hopefully continue to expand, is the sustainability trend. Society is increasingly realizing the value that sustainable home design and decor has for the community and the Earth. Sustainability is no longer a trend, it is a movement towards improving our lives and the lives of those in the future. Your part in the sustainability movement can be as simple as using re-purposed materials in your home design or decor. Try using re-purposed pallets as a platform for a bed or build raised bed gardens using scrap wood.

 

 

 

Inside Track: Blue-collar housing and strong work ethic are nice fit

John Bitely’s ‘never give up’ farmer’s mindset saw his Sable Homes through the Great Recession.

By Grand Rapids Press, Mike Nichols

John Bitely always wanted to be a farmer.

Although his career started out with tilling the land for a living, eventually his life took him on a different journey.

In some ways he’s still a farmer, but the crop he’s harvesting now isn’t corn — it’s houses.

As the owner of Sable Homes, a Rockford-based residential development firm, he’s seen many a plentiful harvest in the last couple of years.

“My crop is development. The crop I plant now is the last plant of that land.

“We’re blue-collar housing. We’re the workingman’s home. We do some entry-level, we’ve done high-end — and we can do it, but our main focus is blue-collar housing.

Track_JohnBitely_MB

“We also do development, which we haven’t’ done much of for about six years because everything fell on its ear,” he said, referring to the Great Recession and the bursting of the housing bubble.

“We used to be happy with (building) 25 to 30 homes a year. … We’ll do more than 100 homes this year.”

Bitely grew up in Sparta, the son of a part-time farmer. He graduated from Sparta High School in 1983, by which time he was already renting and working part of his family’s farm.

His parent’s work ethic was one of the best gifts he’s ever received, he said.

“The work ethic — either from my parents or my own internal drive — is probably my biggest break,” he said. “Everything has built on everything else for me. It’s not like, ‘Oh, this thing happened and everything else was gold.’”

Although he was accepted to Michigan State University after high school, Bitely decided not to go to college and to focus on farming instead, although he did attend Kent Skills Center to learn more about the mechanics of farming equipment.

“I liked girls and beer better than education, and I knew all I would have done was chase girls and drink beer,” he said. “I was actually mature — or at least practical enough — that I knew I wasn’t going to waste the money attending college for those purposes.”

After high school, Bitely got a job working at his uncle’s seed farm in Sparta called Post Farms. He loved the work, but eventually he began to realize his passion for farming wasn’t paying off for him.

“Farming’s in your blood. You till the land, you grow things, you’re around livestock. It’s a very noble way to make a living. It doesn’t pay a lot of money, but it’s not a bad thing.

“The problem was the timeframe. Farming was becoming very business-orientated. The family farms were dying left and right, and that’s what I was really trying to come into. And as a family, we weren’t wealthy. We had small landholdings.

“As time went on, I had to do something to generate enough money to make my initial stake ever happen. And with that came (the realization): ‘I’m going to work my whole life to have a decent job if I am stuck in farming,’” he said.

“My whole upbringing was I wanted to be a farmer. I loved agriculture, loved working the land — loved all that stuff. And my total focus right out of high school was growing a small farming operation into something I could make a living at. A couple of years into that, it just wasn’t making sense. It’s a tough way to make a living. It was a slow, tough, long haul.”

Bitely took a second job as a truck driver for Burlingame Lumber, which eventually became Wolohan Lumber, in Wyoming.

He left that company and started working for Standard Lumber in 1985. He had to create his job because the outside sales position he wanted didn’t yet exist.

“I (presented) the pro forma to my manager, and it was truly farm-boy written. It was a hand-written pro forma of business available. … My manager looked at it and pretty much dropped his teeth. I think he was shocked at what I had given him,” he said.

The manager sat Bitely down and told him he was too young and inexperienced and, since the job would be paid by straight commissions, he wouldn’t be able to afford to do it.

But since Bitely still had extra income from part-time farming, he pressed upon his boss that he was prepared to take it on.

“It was one of those weird conversations where I don’t really think I knew what it meant at the time, and I don’t think he really had any idea what it meant. … That might have been the big break because my manager believed in me from that day on.”

“Later on, when I left that company, there was me and one other salesman who, every single month, had the number one volume in sales, and I always had the best margins. So they were writing me some big checks,” he said.

“That job afforded me 10 years of education in the building industry, and you can’t go to any college to get that information and experience,” Bitely said.

During his time at Standard Lumber, Bitely got out of the farming business for good. In a way, he said, the time he spent farming was unfair to his then-growing family because it took him away from them and it really wasn’t helping pay the bills.

“Eventually, it came down to: I could make $5 to $7 an hour farming, or I could go out and put siding on a house for $15 an hour,” he said.

“I still have the heart for farming, but it was a commitment to my family. Maybe growing up (meant) giving up the childish hope of wanting to be a farmer for the reality that I could do so much better for my family and myself.”

In 1995, Bitely and his friend, Kelly Powell, now the owner of the farming tourist attraction Deer Tracks Junction in Cedar Springs, started Sable Homes together.

Ever since, Bitely said his No. 1 frustration is when townships, municipalities and states make rules that do not allow him to “grow as nice a crop for (our) parcels.”

The business grew well but then suffered during the Great Recession like most in the construction industry. Bitely believes it was his farmer’s mentality that helped the company survive those slow years.

“When the whole economy was upside down and everybody said you can’t make money building houses … part of the mindset was ‘farmers never give up,’” he said. “It’s that belief that every spring is going to be better.”

Sable Homes was one of the few builders left standing when the bleeding from the Great Recession finally stopped. In its wake, the business found itself facing a pent-up demand from an industry that hadn’t built houses for about six years.

And although Bitely now has plenty of work to keep himself busy, he still has one hobby that hasn’t fully left him and probably never will: gardening.

Farming is in the blood, after all.

“I’ve always got a garden. No one else in the family has interest in it, and most of it I just give away. (I grow) potatoes, sweet corn, strawberries and pumpkins,” he said.

“I probably walk out to the garden three or four times a week just to look at it — just because.”

Renting vs. Buying

By Ron Austin, Sable Homes General Manager

Renting versus buying is a hot debate right now! This is especially true for young professionals who are caught between rising rental rates and the upfront costs of buying a home compounded with changes in  mortgage rates. How does one make the decision between renting or buying? When renting you avoid hidden home ownership costs such as maintenance, taxes and added utilities. You also do not require the commitment of purchasing a home as a more permanent housing option. However, when you buy a home your mortgage payments and extra costs could be lower than the rising costs of renting. You also gain the freedom to do as you wish with your space, and many times home ownership allows for more space than rentals will. Decisions, decisions.

Ron Throupe, an associate professor of real estate at the University of Denver, says the biggest mistake future home buyers make is comparing a month’s rent to a month’s mortgage payment. A home payment is not simply a mortgage payment. Rather it includes a mortgage payment, utilities, and other extra factors to consider.

Throupe says, “Many people don’t have all the numbers. There are many additional fees you need to include to make a fair comparison: the principal interest, property taxes, property insurance, homeowner’s association fees and maintenance” (USNews). There are many factors that come into play with the decision to rent or buy, and while renting is low maintenance and noncommittal, many times buying is a better option, especially with the hikes in rental rates. In the past five years, a typical rent rose 15% while the income of renters grew by only 11%. (RealtorAssociation).

The trends as of late show an increase in demand for homes, with limited supply. As noted by the Realtor Association, “A way to relieve housing costs is to increase the supply of new home construction – particularly to entry-level buyers. Builders have been hesitant since the recession to add supply because of rising construction costs, limited access to credit from local lenders and concerns about the re-emergence of younger buyers.”

Many young professionals are seeing the benefit in home ownership over renting despite the competitive supply of homes. The transition from renters to buyers is articulated in a study by Trulia which shows a significant increase in renters who have the intention of buying. This study cited the “top three reasons why they want to purchase a home”

  • 49 percent say they like being able to call themselves home owners.
  • 44 percent say they view home ownership as a good financial investment.
  • 36 percent say they need more space for their family and children. (RealtorMag)

The decision between renting and buying includes many facets and factors that come into play. Regardless of one’s housing choices, it is certain that the housing market is on an upswing, and it is likely that we will continue to see growth both in the rental market as well as in new home investments.

Demand is High, Supply is Lagging

By: Ron Austin, Sable Homes General Manager

The demand for homes is expanding in Michigan, however the construction of new homes has been lagging behind. Why is this? City officials note, “construction is about to come to an abrupt halt not for lack of demand –but lack of vacant lots” (Mlive). So then, the demand for homes is still there, but the infrastructure development is costly, and the availability of vacant lots is dwindling.

In Michigan, the cost of developing the sites is an obstacle for many home builders as the municipal requirements are expensive and require extensive permitting.  Home builders and developers are hesitant to jump into infrastructure for lots due to the lack of inventory as well as the risk involved with development.

The costs to build the housing infrastructure can vary. “At the local level, jurisdictions may charge permit, hook-up, and impact fees and establish development and construction standards that either directly increase costs to builders and developers, or cause delays that translate to higher costs” (NAHB).These higher costs translate into hesitation for new constructions and new developments that have the potential to provide more risk than reward.

There is a level of uncertainty involved with the home development market. This risk stems from “competition from sales of distressed existing properties, uncertainty about the health of the overall economy and labor markets, and difficulty in qualifying prospective buyers for mortgages” (NAHB).  However, developers are still interested, but they are paying close attention to commercial and job growth as well as trends in the housing market. The development investments must strike a balance between the cost of the investment, the current housing demand, and the existing government regulations.

Sable Homes took a gamble on the Central Park Property in Sparta, and the market was in our favor as 20 new homes were built on the property to serve the needs of the developing economy and bustling community. There is most certainly a risk that was tied in with the purchase and development of the Central Park Property, but with community ties and help from the village in purchasing the property the risk was well worth it.

 

Home Maintenance Tips

By Ron Austin, Sable Homes General Manager

Great, you have purchased your first home! Congratulations! Now is the time to keep up on your home maintenance on a routine schedule. This way your home stays up to date, up to code, and well maintained for future use.  Homes that lack proper up keeping end up being a bigger and bigger problem down the road. It is best to stay on top of your home care to nip any potential issues at the bud.

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Fire prevention tips help to save your home from a potential disaster. Remember to vacuum out the clothes dryer duct and replace HVAC filters to improve circulation. It is also very important to change the dryer lint screen after each use to prevent buildup which can cause fires. (Popular Mechanics). In terms of electrical, be sure to check your outlets to ensure that they use ground fault circuit interrupters. These devices shut off an electrical circuit at the point when they come a potential shock hazard (NFPA).

Outdoor maintenance is important in protecting the structure and the curb appeal of your home. Routinely check your roof for repair spots or water damage and remember to clean out clogged gutters. Gutters capture water and debris from your roof and drain it away from your home. When they get clogged water and gunk accumulates and can lead to water damage (Popular Mechanics)

Summer is a great time to check the exterior of your home for potential issues. Make sure to take a look at deck or patio to check for any deterioration or safety hazards. A great way to maintain your deck is to clean and seal each year to preserve the wood and appearance. (HFHAC). Also, remember to have your roof inspected by a licensed professional every few years to ensure that there are no leaks or water damages. (Travelers).

Making sure that you stay on top of seasonal home check ups and maintenance will prevent  future headaches that may arise out of poor home upkeep. Many of these tips are quick easy checks or fixes that take less than a weekend to do, and they most definitely will pay off in the long run.

 

Gamble on swapping park for homes paying dividends for Sparta

By Jeffrey Cunningham | jcunning@mlive.com 
Email the author
on July 21, 2015 at 5:09 PM

SPARTA — When the Sparta Village Council voted in July of 2013 to sell the former 4.46-acre Central Park property to developers for new homes, the thought was that it could take up to five years to fully build out the 20 lots.

Central Town Square .jpg

(This home at the corner of Union and Grove streets was built where home plate was in the baseball field of the former Central Park)

It was a gamble village leaders were willing to take at the time to get the stalled housing market moving in Sparta. It was also an opportunity to shed some of the excess property the village owned.

The gamble for the village has paid off. In less than two years, all of the 20 home sites have been sold and houses have been built on the sites.

Many of the new residents to Central Town Square, like Virginia Huffman, said the new homes on the former park were exactly what they were looking for.

The former Rockford resident said her family had been looking for homes in the Rockford area, but couldn’t find what they wanted. “We moved here because we found a home that we liked,” she said. “We knew the village and this is s good location for us.”

Built by Sable Homes of Rockford, the houses have sold for $135,000 to $180,000.

The village hasn’t quite recovered all of the $277,000 it invested in the property since it took ownership in 2009 from Sparta Public Schools, but village leaders say the investment has clearly paid off.

“This is a case where government could do things to help get a development like this built that private industry most likely couldn’t have gotten done,” said Sparta Village Manager Julius Suchy.

Sable Homes president John Bitely said that without the help from the village in the form of being able to purchase the property at below market value, he would not have been able to build the new homes.

The village bought the property in 2009 from Sparta Public Schools after the school district closed the former Central School.

It cost the village $145,000 to demolish the former school and grade the property. The village paid the school district an additional $100,000 in water credits for the property and with other costs associated with the purchase, Suchy said the village had an estimated $277,000 invested in the property.

The agreement with the school district was that if the land eventually sold for a profit, the village and the school district would share the proceeds.

The village sold the property in 2013 to Sable homes for $120,000, leaving the village with a net loss of $157,000.

As the 20 homes were built and hooked to the village’s water and sewer systems, the hookup fees netted the village $93,000, leaving the village $64,000 in the hole.

Fifteen of the 20 new homes were on the 2015 village property tax rolls, which netted the village another $18,000, leaving the village roughly $44,000 left before it had paid off its costs associated with the development.

With the five additional homes on the 2016 tax rolls, the village will take in at least $21,000 annually on the homes in the development.

“It will take another couple of years before we are in the black with this project from a development standpoint, but I think the village is already ahead as the stores and restaurants are already seeing an increase in traffic from having additional residents in the downtown area,” Suchy said.

5 Interior Design Trends in 2015

By Karin Kay

Gone are the days of beige and cream walls, fake plants, gaudy wallpapers, heavy fabrics in burgundy floral designs, and tiled counter tops. The trends of 2015 are timely, easily customized, and they create a space that is both bright and bold, industrial yet cozy, and trendy yet timeless.

1. Gray is the new beige. Gray tones and varying shades of gray are all over the place right now. Gray is the new neutral, and it complements almost anything. Light gray walls replace the beige walls of the past, and they provide a cool and comforting canvas. Bright colors and bold patterns really stand out against the gray backdrop. The versatile gray color palette is allows for customization and it is sure to stand the test of time (HGTV).

2. Industrial-rustic styles are hot right now. This style mixes industrial pieces with the rustic wood. Copper metal accents are especially popular as lighting pieces, accent decor, and storage furniture such as a bar table. Re-purposed wood paired with metal and industrial pieces create a harmony of structure and natural elements (HGTV).

3. Accent Walls (Bold or dark colors) – It is a big commitment to decide which color to paint a particular wall, and if you are anything like me and you cannot choose between colors, accent walls are a great way to go. When they are paired with a neutral complementary wall, accent walls add a splash of color and a hint of depth. My favorite accent wall color is the dark blue-gray paired with gold accent pieces and picture frames. The blue-gray is a deep, elegant way to add a touch of sophistication to an otherwise bright and neutral room (WSJ).

4. Succulents are a growing trend for 2015, even if you do not have a green thumb. These plants add a nice splash of life to a sunny corner of your home. They are relatively easy plants, and require very little watering. Try placing three succulents on a windowsill that receives significant sunlight. The combination of odd numbers and use of greenery are easy on the eyes and give life to a room.

Free Stock Photo of Succulents

5. Minimalism. Less is more with this interior design trend. Say goodbye to fussy design, clutter, and complex home layouts. Minimalism embraces the clean lines, open concept layouts, and simple yet “stand out” accent pieces. A great way to embrace minimalism design is to create a black and white photo wall using simple black frames. Arrange the frames to create a collage of photos on the wall. Each photo creates a piece of art using the wall as the entire art piece.

 

New Home Sales Trends in 2015

By Ron Austin, Sable Homes General Manager

GRAND RAPIDS, MI, 2015 is a great year for buyers ! There is more inventory on the market and the economy is working its way up. According to the market trends, now is the time for sellers to sell and buyers to buy!

Both the new listings and number of houses sold have jumped over the past 6 months in Grand Rapids, MI. In November 2014 the number of new listings was 260. This jumped up to 449 in May of 2015. The number of homes sold also skyrocketed from 11 homes to 282 homes in May 2015 (Movoto, 2015).

With a high of $159,900 as the  median list price in October 2014, the median list price in Grand Rapids has dropped to 129,900 as of June 2015. Homes have become increasingly more affordable due to the drops in list price and various financing options (Movoto, 2015).

Within the broader scope of Real Estate Trends in the United States, the National Association of Realtors data shows that new home sales were up 1.8% last October 2014 compared to the previous year in 2013. The market shows that builder confidence in newly constructed, single-family homes has been high for six months in a row (Forbes, 2014).

More and more families and young professionals are seeing the value in home ownership. Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow said, “next year we’ll start to see things really turn around. More inventory will continue to come online, putting the competitive pressure on sellers for a change. This more balanced market will be smoother sailing for everyone, both for buyers in search of a competitive advantage, and for sellers who turn around and become buyers themselves.” (Forbes, 2014).

Who are the demographics of new home buyers for the year of 2015? According to Forbes, millennials will take over the Generation X as the next generation of home buyers. Humphries notes, “As this generation (millennials) matures, they will be a home-buying force to be reckoned with.” Rising costs in rent, compounded with the desire to invest in a home to call one’s own drives millennials to purchase a home as an investment and a customizable space.

The demographic changes in home buyers are likely due to the shifts in rent affordability. Humphries said,  “ As renter’s cost keep going up, I expect the allure of fixed mortgage payments and a more stable housing market will entice many more otherwise content renters into the housing market.” (Forbes, 2014). Home ownership and fixed mortgage payments allow for a sense of security and financial control, which is increasingly appealing to the growing generation of young professionals.

 

 

Bigger is better for new home buyers in West Michigan

Bigger is better for new home buyers in West Michigan

By Jim Harger | jharger@mlive.com 
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on May 24, 2015 at 8:25 AM

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI – When Jason and Jackie LaFontaine looked at floor plans for their new home, they concluded bigger was better.

Their new four-bedroom home, on which they will break ground in Eastbrook Homes’ Stoneshire development later this month, will have a larger kitchen and pantry, a home office for Jason, a formal dining room, a hearth room and “kids retreat” on the second floor.

Compared to the house they bought from Eastbrook Homes four years ago, the LaFontaine’s new house will be about 500 square feet larger at 3,400 square feet.

“Being second time builders, we wanted to be sure this was going to be our ‘forever’ home,” Jackie LaFontaine said.

“Being second time builders, we wanted to be sure this was going to be our ‘forever’ home.” New home buyer Jackie LaFontaine

Their new home has all the features they wished they had put in their first house, she said.

With 1-year-old and 4-year-old daughters, the LaFontaines also want to make room for the possibility of a third child in the future, she said. Their new home also is closer to the Forest Hills school buildings where she works as a speech pathologist.

Larger Homes
Bigger Houses The average size of a home in Kent County has grown by about 500 square feet over the past decade. That’s about the size of a king-sized master suite in a new luxury home – or about 2 1/2 “tiny houses.”miltk

The LaFontaines are typical of many new homebuyers in West Michigan. With the economy back on track and interest rates low, the average new house is getting bigger and more expensive.

According to Builder Track Reports, which follows the West Michigan home building industry, the average size of a new home in Kent County last year was 2,538 square feet, about 500 square feet larger than the average size of a new home in Kent County 10 years ago.

That’s about the size of a king-sized master suite with a full bathroom and walk-in closet in a luxury home.

Homes in Ottawa County showed similar growth, with the average size being 2,412 square feet in 2014 compared to 1,944 square feet in 2009, according to Builder Track statistics. In Muskegon County, the average new home was 2,114 square feet in 2014 compared to 1,758 square feet in 2010.

While the average size of a home is getting bigger, so is its cost. According to Builder Track, 61 percent of the houses under construction in the first quarter of 2015 had a construction value of more than $200,000.

In 2014, 53 percent of Kent County’s new homes were valued at more than $200,000 while in 2011, only 36.5 percent topped the $200,000 price tag, according to Builder Tracks.

Despite the rising costs, homebuilding is booming again in West Michigan after stumbling through the Great Recession.

In Kent County, contractors reported 206 housing starts in the first quarter despite a lingering winter. Last year, Kent County home builders reported 1,088 housing starts, a 7.7 percent increase over 2013.

Bob Sorensen, vice president of sales and marketing for Eastbrook Homes, said homes are getting larger because consumer confidence is improving and interest rates have remained low.

New homes also are getting more luxurious, with high end finishes like granite countertops and larger bathrooms, Sorensen said. Finished lower levels with “man caves” also are growing in popularity, he said.

Mike McGivney, vice president of sales and marketing for Allen Edwin Homes, said low interest rates are giving their customers an additional $25,000 to $50,000 in buying power.

“A lot of that translates into the square footage they can add to their homes,” McGivney said. That additional buying power also is an incentive to build a new house rather than remodel an existing home, he said.

Aaron Schoonover, a regional sales director for Allen Edwin Homes, said the larger homes they are building in the 150-site Stonegate development in Byron Township are designed to be flexible to meet the changing needs of their owners.

The two-story homes in Stonegate, which start at $240,000 and can cost up to $416,640, feature an assortment of upgrades that include “smart space” rooms that be converted into informal sitting areas or home offices.

Kitchens have grown to include larger islands and mudroom areas now have lockers, Schoonover said. While the square footage has grown, so has the overall volume with nine-foot ceilings on the main floors and lower levels.

John Bitely, president and CEO of Sable Homes, said the growing footprint of new houses in West Michigan also is a reflection of township zoning ordinances, which require larger lot sizes to keep the quality of new housing high.

Homeowners who can afford larger lots also are able to afford larger houses, said Bitely, whose company has focused on building mid-level homes. “It’s a legal type of exclusionary zoning.”

“I don’t know of any builder that’s building entry-level homes. You can’t make it work if you’ve got a lot that prices out to $30,000 to $40,000,” Bitely said.

West Michigan’s appetite for bigger houses is not being shared on a national level.

RealtyTrac, a national real estate survey firm, reported the average size of a home was 1,799 square feet in 2014, down from its high point of 1,863 square feet in 2012. The average size picked slightly, to 1,803 square feet, in 2015, RealtyTrac said.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

Homebuilder promotes new way to build barrier-free houses on concrete slabs

Homebuilder promotes new way to build barrier-free houses on concrete slabs

By Jim Harger | jharger@mlive.com 
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on May 12, 2015 at 5:58 AM

 

SPARTA, MI – Homebuilder John Bitely says his company has come up with a new way to build a barrier-free house on a concrete slab that’s less expensive than a typical Michigan home with a basement or crawl space underneath.

The new technology uses a thick foam-type border dug into the ground to protect the slab from frost damage, said Bitely, president of Sable Homes LLC. His company’s “Freedom Foundation” saves about $15,000 over the cost of building a house that’s elevated over a basement or crawl space, he said.

“In West Michigan, barrier-free living has not been readily available at an affordable price,” said Bitely, who is currently building a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house in Sparta that will sell for less than $160,000.

Although slab foundations are used in 80 percent of the homes built in the U.S., Bitely said they are not used in northern states because of frost damage that can occur in colder northern climates.

Most builders dig concrete footings down at least 36 inches to get below the frost line with their foundations, Bitely said.

Buyers looking for an affordable one-story home can opt for a modular home that is built off the ground and usually requires steps or a steep ramp for accessibility.

Bitely, who is building the barrier-free home in a neighborhood he has developed on the former site of Sparta High School, said his foundation system offers a more accessible home that’s of higher quality than a typical modular home.

“Using ‘Freedom Foundation’ will save time and money for builders, and makes a shallow foundation install much easier,” said Bitely. “Using these resources, we’re able to provide this style of home at much more affordable costs than ever before.”

Bitely said the foam barriers around his footings provide adequate protection against frost damage without the costs associated with deep concrete footings.

“We feel it is important to offer a safe environment for those who are elderly or disabled. Our new ‘Freedom Foundation’ technology will allow individuals to live safely at lower costs than with traditional building materials.”

David Bulkowski, executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County, endorsed the barrier-free design in a news release produced by Sable Homes.

“One of the most significant needs for persons with disabilities is affordable housing that is accessible and integrated into exciting neighborhoods,” Bulkowski said. “It’s great that Sable Homes has developed the Freedom Foundation technology to greatly expand the opportunity to purchase the house of their dreams for persons with disabilities.

“With some budgets, home buyers requiring accessible homes are limited to modular homes, or worse, homes that do not fully meet their needs, due strictly to foundation costs,” Bulkowski said in a statement.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him atjharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.