Housing Trends: What’s Hot, What’s Not

February 25th, 2016 by Trey Barrineau

What is the home buyer of the future looking for?

Two experts on trends in the U.S. housing market, Mollie Carmichael of John Burns Real Estate Consulting and Nick Lehnert of KTGY Architecture and Planning, gave an information-rich presentation on that topic during the recent American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) national conference in Huntington Beach, Calif.

First, Carmichael noted the ongoing recovery in the housing market, both for new construction and remodeling.

“The good news is, 14 of our 16 new home construction trends are trending well,” she said of her firm’s most recent survey of builders, which tallied more than 29,000 responses. “And we’re expecting a 7.8 percent increase in residential repair and remodeling in 2016.”

Carmichael then delved into home-buying demographics. As has been the case for decades, Baby Boomers are the No. 1 shoppers looking for a home – though she added that they’re also No. 1 in not knowing what they’re looking for. Generation X is the No. 2 shopper – and the No. 1 buyer. “They’re in family mode right now,” she said of those born between 1964 and 1979.

The much-discussed Millennials are a distant No. 3 when it comes to home shopping – and they’re not ready to buy yet.

“Only one percent of consumers under age of 25 are actually shopping for a home,” Carmichael said.

One of the top trends in the market is non-family shoppers, a demographic segment that includes people who live alone or non-relatives who live together.

“We have about 58 percent of non-family looking for homes, and they’re most likely to tell us they can’t find what they’re looking for,” she said. “Affordability is really tough today.”

Another major trend is multi-generational housing, in which a wide range of age groups live under one roof. It’ll be big for Generation X as it ages over the next few years, Carmichael said.

“As you turn 55, you’re more likely to accommodate your parents and your 18-year-old children,” she said, adding that the trend is driven by people living longer – about three years more per decade.

And modern designs keep growing in popularity. Carmichael said they rose ten percent from her company’s last survey. Interestingly, traditional styles are still more popular overall “by a hair,” she said, though that varies across local markets. About 45 percent of consumers still want traditional styles and 37 percent want modern, but traditional is down six percent from last year.

As far as trends in doors and windows, Carmichael said solid core doors and wooden windows are popular, particularly with higher-end buyers. They’re willing to shell out big bucks for what they want, too. According to Lehnert, 31 percent of survey respondents said they’d pay an additional $10,000 for wood windows.

Also big: outdoor/indoor living. About 75 percent of survey respondents think outdoor space is important, she said. How important? Lehnert said 73 percent of consumers would pay another $4,000 for a pocketed sliding door, and 44 percent would pay another $4,200 for an accordion window in a kitchen that opens to the outside.

Technology is a huge opportunity for builders, particularly regarding home automation, according to Lehnert.

“With some notable examples, nobody is doing this well today,” he said.

Finally, Lehnert said privatized indoor/outdoor spaces are becoming important to home buyers. These can range from small courtyards with gardens or water features, to studies that are slightly detached from main living areas, to “man caves,” “she sheds”  and “diva dens.”

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