Recent real estate lore has held that in the face of economic turbulence, new home consumers have pulled back from the space-hungry demands of the housing boom, and are instead gravitating toward smaller homes that are cheaper to purchase and less costly to heat, cool, and maintain. Recent findings from an annual consumer preferences survey seem to confirm these assumptions, and hint that the trends may likely be influenced by demographic as much as economic realities.
The survey, which was conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), found that industry professionals are indeed anticipating a new lay of the land for new homes, anticipating a consumer base that will be more attracted to smaller homes, seeking out energy efficiency and preferring more casual distributions of living space.
The survey respondents—a blend of builders, architects and industry marketing specialists—envision a new paradigm of compromise, in which homes no longer encompass both formal and informal living spaces thanks to their spacious largesse, but instead focus on family-friendly spaces that are integral parts of the daily life of the household. Larger family rooms, smaller dining rooms, and the death knell of the living room were just some of the key trends pegged as shaping the future look of new homes, along with a general retreat from the “bigger is better” floor plan, to one that maximizes flow while minimizing grandiose features.
Household demographics included in the report suggest that the face of the average American household will be changing drastically in the next few years—growing older and becoming more diverse—as growth through immigration and the aging of the Baby Boomers change the population landscape. With nearly 41 percent of the population in 2015 anticipated to be above the age of 55, the trend toward smaller homes seems likely to amplify as Boomers trade in larger single-family residences for the convenience of smaller primary and vacation homes. At the same time, intergenerational living, mixed households and larger families are also expected to influence new home plans, suggesting “hub” style layouts that maximize space in common areas will continue to grow in popularity.
Builders polled estimated that the average home of 2015 would sit at just over 2,100 square feet, marking a drop of over 400 square feet from the average size of a new home at the peak of the housing boom. Builders also expect demand for resource efficiency to grow, with consumers more focused on the efficiency of their windows and water systems, rather than on the size of their entry way. While more expensive home-efficiencies such as renewable energy systems or high-level certifications were deemed unlikely by respondents, the most common green features (solar packages, tankless water heaters) were seen as at least “somewhat likely” to be part of the 2015 home, suggesting the current march toward technology and environmentalism in home building will continue.