Laundry room squeezes into buyers' hearts


Belkys Colter knows what she wants in a house -- a nice laundry room. "I've got to have it," said the mother of three children. "If it didn't have a big laundry room, I wouldn't buy a house, period."

The laundry room in the Colters' new four-bedroom home is 10-by-11 feet, with a big sink, a clothes drying rack and a wall of cabinets. On the first floor, at the foot of the stairs, it gets a workout every day from either Colter or her eldest son, Gonzalo, 14, or her husband, Cary.

"That's what we do -- come down the stairs and hit the laundry room every day," Colter said.

No longer relegated to the garage or a hallway closet, washers and dryers are glorified in their own spacious, functional rooms.

"It's pretty expected now," said Jeff Auchter, marketing director in Broward County near Miami for Lennar Homes, which offers 6-by-7-foot laundry rooms in its townhouses and 9-by-11-foot laundry rooms in its bigger estate homes.

"I grew up in a house in Coral Springs built in 1972 and it had the washer and dryer in the garage, which in those days was perfectly acceptable," Auchter said. "But it gets in the way of everything else. The preference started to evolve to locating laundry rooms in air-conditioned space.

About 75 percent of homes in the country now have a separate laundry room, up from fewer than 50 percent 25 years ago, says Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders in Washington.

Even with her heavy-duty wash days behind her, with her three children grown, new homeowner Mary Ann Meier revels in the vastness of her attached villa's laundry room at Lennar's Fairway Isles in Sunrise, Fla.

A long corridor off the main entryway leads to her 6-by-8-foot laundry room. The space isn't short on storage, with a shelf-lined closet in the corridor and cupboards in the laundry room.

"I don't know what all I'm going to put in there," says Meier, laughing as she unpacks.

Morrison Homes, which is building at Saddlebrook in Davie and Encantada in Pembroke Pines, began featuring laundry rooms in all of its homes two years ago, regardless of the house's size. People simply demanded it.

And, more and more, new two-story houses are featuring laundry rooms on the second floor in response to homebuyers' requests to put them within reach of bedrooms.

"It's where the majority of laundry generates," said Lennar's Auchter. "It's pretty important. If I had a bunch of kids and was doing nonstop wash, it would be nice if the laundry room was located in a convenient place, up by the bedrooms."

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