MOVE OVER, INFINITY TUBS AND WARMING drawers. Elevators are fast becoming the new status symbol in residential design. In a recent NAHB survey, 7 percent of homeowners rated elevators as an “essential” or “must have” feature. ThyssenKrupp Access, which boasts the top-selling home elevator in the United States, says that sales of its LEV model have increased 150 percent in the past two years. Otis Elevator Co., which manufactures for both residential and commercial sectors, is logging annual sales increases of 12 percent to 15 percent for detached homes and condos in the United States, compared with 3 percent to 5 percent for offices and multifamily buildings.
Why the frenzy? The direction home building has taken may have something to do with it. While residential square footages have increased 21 percent over the past 15 years, lot sizes have dropped 10 percent. This big squeeze has sent construction vertical. Multistory dwellings accounted for just 17 percent of single-family homes in 1971, whereas today they account for 52 percent of the pie, according to the NAHB.
Big builders now offering elevator options in new homes include Centex, Pulte, Toll Brothers, and John Wieland Homes. When D.R. Horton kicks off sales later this year at Fountain Park, an age-targeted community in Lake Mary, Fla., elevators will come standard in each of the community's 570 homes.
But boomers aren't the only ones who want a lift; 68 percent of those who rated elevators as “essential” in the NAHB study were under 55. And there's reason to believe these mega-appliances carry a prestige factor along with their cargo. Case in point: Thyssen-Krupp recently accommodated an extra-tall order for an NBA player: a custom job wired for sound and outfitted with a plasma screen. Says Jim Quinly, general manager of the company's residential elevator division: “He wanted to make sure he never missed a play.”