(MoneyWatch) Just as fashion changes the way we dress, new trends in design captivate builders and buyers and alter the way we live.
But unlike bell bottoms or thick-rimmed glasses, these trends take much longer to develop. Some design elements in a home, such as a captive kitchen, become less popular over decades, while others, such as air conditioning, become necessities.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its "2012 Characteristics of New Housing" report, which provides annual statistics on the kind of homes buyers are snapping up as well as the kind of homes builders are building.
Figuring out what buyers want is the key to making the most of your home improvements. About 54 percent of those making improvements are doing so to increase home value, an upward trend that will likely continue, according to Houzz.com, a home remodeling and design site that offers a Real Cost Finder tool that compares project costs for those undertaking home improvement projects.
"As the economy improves, return on investment is going to become much more important for home improvement, "said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz.com.
So if you're looking to make some major home improvements this summer, think about qualities of the homes that sell in today's market.