From Home Furnishing Business
Larger Floor Plans Top Trends in New Home Building
New home purchases spur new home furnishings purchases like no other life event. As home building continues its slow but steady comeback from the recession, new trends in home building are emerging creating opportunity in many home furnishings product areas. Chief among the trends: Single-family homes are getting bigger – much bigger – (Figure 1) and lot sizes smaller.
According to a new HUD report, 477,000 new single-family one-unit houses were completed for resale in 2015, a number that is still only 37 percent of pre-recession levels in 2006. Single-family home building is up 23 percent since 2009 and for the first half of this year, new home completions are up 14 percent from the first half of 2015.
Some trends point to Millennials as they age as well as older, more established GenX families. These trends include an increase in multi-story homes with more bedrooms, baths, and multiple patios, porches and decks. Other trends point to the ballooning senior population downsizing to age-restricted communities with less interest in some design features such as fireplaces, but more interest in comfort features.
Houses are getting bigger and lot sizes are getting smaller
The median size of new homes grew 23.3 percent from 2000 to 2015– increasing from 2,060 square feet to 2,540 square feet according to the new report “Characteristics of New Single-Family Houses in 2015” from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). During the same time period, median lot size decreased 4.6 percent from 8,930 square feet to 8,521 square feet or about one-fifth of an acre. Table A compares the percent growth in new house sizes to lot sizes, 2000 to 2015. The drop in 2009 reflects the bottom of the recession.
As of 2015, over half (58 percent) of new single-family home lot sizes are less than 9,000 square feet or just over one-fifth of an acre. Moreover, lot sizes (cluster homes) under 7,000 square feet increased to 36 percent of new homes built.
Even with the housing market collapse in 2009, new homes have continued to get bigger since 2002. As shown in Table C, only 37 percent of new homes built in 2002 were over 2,400 square feet. Fast forward 13 years and 56 percent of new houses are now 2,400 square feet or larger. Also important is that in 2002, 34 percent of new homes were smaller than 1,800 square feet compared to only 15 percent in 2015.
More Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Stories, and Outdoor Living
As houses have increased in size, more bedrooms have become the norm. Over 53 percent of new single-family homes built in 2015 have four or more bedrooms – up from 38.2 percent in 2009 (Table D). Three-bedroom homes, once the majority in new constructions, have decreased from 52.6 percent to 40.7 percent since the recession – a drop of 23 percent. Homes with more bedrooms create product opportunities, not only for bedroom furniture, but also home office or other alternative uses.
Along with more bedrooms, a big jump has occurred post recession in the number of bathrooms. The percentage of new homes with three baths or more grew by 105 percent – from 23.6 percent of new houses to 41.1 percent in six years (Table E). Multi-story new single family homes are on the rise with 63 percent built in 2015 versus 58 percent in 2009 (Table F). Partly due to declining lot sizes paired with desire for bigger homes, single-story houses were down to 37 percent of completions in 2015.
As outdoor living has become a major feature in many new homes, multiple porches, patios, and decks are trending for the larger homes– up to 46 percent in 2015 from 43 percent in 2010 (Table G).
Laundry Rooms, Fireplaces, and Air Conditioning
As more new houses are being built with multiple stories, laundry rooms are moving out of the basement and off the main floor and up to top floor (second floor).
In 2015, 29 percent of new homes have top floor laundry rooms compared to 16 percent in 2009 – an increase of 81 percent.
A surprising trend especially given the increasing size of new homes is that fireplaces are becoming less important except in the Northeast (Table I). And while over half (51 percent) of the new homes being built still have fireplaces, this is down from 61 percent in 2002. In the Northeast fireplaces are still important – climbing from 62 percent of new homes in 2002 to 66 percent of in 2015.
Air conditioning is becoming the norm across the country with 94 percent of new homes built with AC in 2015 – up from 89 percent in 2002 (Table J). The fastest increase in new houses built with air-conditioning has been in the Northwest and West – both jumping 10 percentage points from 2002 to 2015.
Age-Restricted Developments and Homeowners’ Associations
Another important new trend in new home communities, especially in the South, is the increase in the number of age restricted developments (generally 55+). Although still less than 5 percent of new homes built in 2015, these neighborhoods have increased 54 percent from 2009 to 2015 (Table K). The Midwest and South doubled construction in age restricted developments since 2009 while the Northeast declined 33.3 percent indicating seniors making this lifestyle move want to escape the colder climates. The West showed no growth. The growth in these age restricted communities may partially explain the decline in fireplaces in warmer climates as they become less important to seniors.
New single-family houses are increasingly being built in communities with structured homeowners’ associations (HOAs), except in the Northeast. In total, new homes with HOAs jumped 11 percentage points from 2009 to 2015 – 62 percent to 73 percent. In the South these structured communities are especially important with 81 percent of new homes built in neighborhoods with an HOA. Meanwhile, in the Northeast in 2015, homes built in HOA communities represented only 40 percent of the region’s new construction.
As the population ages, Millennials and Baby Boomers will be defining the trends in new homes. Millennials may enter the home buying process a little later than earlier generations, but the demand will be there. Meanwhile the growth in new senior lifestyle communities is projected to accelerate. If the current new home trends continue, home furnishing product areas in bedroom and outdoor will be a main focus as well as lifestyle furniture designed for senior living.