Not because of the turmoil in the mortgage market. But rather the increasing diversity of the population and the effort to meet their spiritual needs.
"These [different religious] practices create a different kind of buying evaluation," added Jackie Williams, who owns Sterling Realtors in Middletown, Conn.
Some buyers will pay more for a front door that faces a certain direction to bring good fortune or for a second kitchen for kosher food preparation, she said.
"Religious consumers will spend more than non-religious consumers to make sure they have what they need," Williams said. "Or they won't buy the house."
Rabbi Yosef Carmel, who heads Jerusalem's Eretz Hemdah Institute, a rabbinical seminary, outlines features that make a home Orthodox: a large kitchen with two sinks and dual appliances for the separate preparation of meat and dairy; dining room for serving extended family and guests, perhaps with a sink for ritual hand-washing before eating bread; and timers for lights, appliances and air conditioning.
With those things in mind, Concord Homes in 2001 built Parkside Estates in West Rogers Park, which has a large Jewish population. The 42 single-family homes, designed with dual kitchen appliances, sold out in about a week, says Jeff Benach, then Concord's sales manager and now Lexington Homes' executive vice president.
"Buyers wanted upscale homes but wanted to stay right there because their temples are central to their worlds," he said.
That's why there is a hotel and 100 condominiums and town homes within walking distance of two synagogues in Aventura, Fla., City Place, a mixed-use community.
Orthodox Jews do not operate machinery, including cars, buttons and switches, on days of religious observance. On holy days, one elevator in the condo tower will move up and down automatically, stopping on each floor. Sales begin in October.
"It is very important to the Orthodox people to live close to their synagogue," said Yizhak Toledano of Sky Development. "Aventura is a very hot market right now, and there is not a lot of inventory for resale. The houses in the neighborhood tend to be older,"and have to be retrofitted to make them Orthodox-friendly.
The same is true for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In the Dallas suburb of McKinney, young marrieds Caroline and David Calkins recently chose their first home for several religious reasons: Congregations are divided geographically, and they want to be in the same one as her family. Church leaders advocate living within financial means, so theirs is modest and affordable.
"We're commanded to keep a year's supply of food and necessities in case of emergencies, like a job transition or a storm catastrophe or helping someone else," said Caroline Calkins. "That requires a lot of extra storage space."
Islamic teachings require prayer five times daily with the petitioner facing Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca, said Amjad Salhani of RE/Max At Home in Rolling Meadows.
"You have to wash up first," he said. "You wash your hands and face and feet. It's nice to have a special washing area with a sink that is lower, especially for older folks who can't lift their feet very high."
Muslim women who cover their hair may prefer kitchens with doors so they won't be seen by male visitors while cooking without wearing a hijab.
Many Hindus follow zodiac-based vastu shastra, similar to the Chinese practice of feng shui, which encourages the flow of energy forces.
"We believe in astrology, so people buy homes depending on their astrological chart and the time of the birth," said T.R. Viswanathan of RE/Max Destiny in Elk Grove Village.