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Feature: What a Girl Wants

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As Gen-Y?all 8 million of them?climb toward their peak home buying years beginning in 2012, a certain female subset known as WINKs?women with income and no kids?is poised to rock housing's world.

Accounting for seven out of 10 women between the ages of 20 and 28, this group not only knows what it wants but is willing and able to pay for it. WINKs are beginning to outpace their male counterparts with respect to earning and purchasing power, with more than half pulling in more than $50,000 a year. Consequently, they are taking the plunge and buying homes by and for themselves without a ring or a stroller in the picture.

This drastic departure from the historical patterns of home purchasing will have enormous ramifications for the housing industry. Instead of making 80 percent of the home buying decisions, they will be making 100 percent of them, from determining where and when to buy to settling on what to buy and for how much. And no joke, home building's never seen a customer like this. WINKs have discrete preferences. Nearly nine out of 10 of these young women prefer urban or urban-lite areas because they want to be able to walk to jobs, dining, and entertainment. They value design over size and crave amenity packages that focus on health and wellness. And they love eco-friendly features and anything else that smacks of a double bottom line.

With this emerging buyer segment in mind, Big Builder offered production architects and designers a chance to design for the next wave of first-time home buyers through its second annual Architects Design Challenge. Participants chose one of two sites?one from the East Coast, the other from the West Coast. Each had its own site characteristics and zoning considerations, and designers had to create a land plan and two product lines that would not only fit the site restrictions, but also meet maximum yield for the developer while fitting the lifestyle and housing preferences of the WINK buyer.

Six firms took on the challenge, submitting a total of eight clever design concepts. There is far too little real estate in this magazine to do each unique design justice; however, there's still plenty to enjoy in the highlight reel presented here.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.