Apparently feeding on a stream of new buyers, architects are reporting that business is better than it’s been in eight years, with demand for their services in designing move-up homes, custom or luxury homes, and starter homes sharply increasing in the first quarter of 2013, the American Institute of Architects’ first-quarter 2013 Home Design Trends Survey suggests.

The trade group’s Home Design Survey Index for last quarter registered a score of 67 out of 100 for billings and 75 out of 100 for inquiries for new projects. Any score above 50 reflects positive business conditions, AIA said.

“With business conditions at residential architecture firms at the strongest growth level since 2005, this is a very encouraging sign for the housing sector and broader economy in general, especially when you look at the year-over-year improvement in the marketplace,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

An index that captures demand for specific types of homes found that demand for architects in designing move-up homes improved from a score of -3 in 2012 to 32 in the first quarter of 2013. During the same period, demand for starter homes jumped from -7 to 21, and demand for custom and luxury homes increased from -2 to 16.

In addition, a majority of architecture firms reported that demand for kitchen and bath remodeling, additions, in-home accessibility, informal spaces and open-space layouts increased in the first quarter.

“We’ve seen over the past few years, an increased interest in seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces and building in more informal spaces into homes,” Baker said. “Because lot sizes don’t show any signs of increasing, it’s clear that homeowners want to maximize their current square footage to its highest potential, as opposed to increasing it.”

The survey also noted that home sizes have bottomed out and are bouncing back. While only 3 percent of respondents reported increasing house sizes in 2010, 12 percent did so this year.

Housing starts are expected to jump 25 percent from 2012 this year, according to Fannie Mae’s latest forecast.

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