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What are the best-selling house plans?

Architecture is very subjective and pretty personal, but there are some styles that are more popular than others. See more real estate pictures.

If you're thinking about building a house, there's a lot to consider. Although the ranch style home popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright is still a major player, as is the two-story traditional home, recent changes in the way people view a home investment are driving innovations in home design. People are living differently from the way they did even five years ago. The economic downturn has had an impact, but greener consciences are holding sway, too.

One of the biggest trends is the downsizing of the American home from a sprawling suburban mansion to something less conspicuous and more energy efficient. Losing space doesn't mean losing number of rooms, though. Where square footage in new home designs may be shrinking by as much as 15 percent, the number of rooms has stayed about the same.

If you think small is beautiful, this may be the best time for you to build a home. The shift from larger to smaller room sizes is good news if you're building on a tight budget, too. It translates to a reduction in material costs, less labor and a smaller lot size.

Small doesn't necessarily mean plain or minimalist. With more people entertaining multi-generational family members in the same space, the catch phrase "Universal Design" is gaining traction. It describes a style that embraces function as a partner to form in constructing spaces that work for all ages. Wider hallways, generous entries and lower built-ins are just a few examples of this trend that integrates better accessibility and convenience into home design. Adopting a few universal design changes into your home plan may cost a little more, but builders are betting you'll recoup the cost when you go to sell. A well-designed home that can appeal to a Gen-Xer as well as a baby boomer will have broader appeal in the marketplace in the years to come.

Popular home designs also favor open concept and multi-functional spaces. If you need a home office or prefer a home theater to a library, making modifications is easy when your home includes moveable partitions. Changing your mind later is easier, too. Small, boxy rooms are out and open interior spaces are definitely in. Think of three-wall kitchens that open to family rooms, and glass enclosed porches that integrate beautifully with family rooms or master bedrooms. The idea of blending spaces is big right now. It can make the new, smaller home concept look downright lush and roomy.

Modular housing has come into its own, too. Those tinny prefab homes you may remember from your childhood have morphed into designer gems that sport cutting edge technology -- with very little tin in sight. You can find them in almost any style you're interested in, and often at bargain prices. Don't think trailer park, think boutique chic instead.

Green is still very in. Some of the biggest trends include adopting green energy solutions with items like solar screens and geo thermal heating and cooling units. If you want to keep your energy systems conventional, consider going green with your choice of structure. Instead of building a completely new home, repurpose an old one like a church, firehouse, barn or warehouse. These are typically expensive options, but you can't beat salvaged materials for quality and uniqueness. Repurposing an existing structure is referred to as "adaptive reuse" and it's a growing niche that deserves a closer look if you're a creative renegade who wants a one-of-a-kind home with plenty of built in character.