NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

COVID-19 reverses key home design trends

Walk-in pantries are a feature buyers say they want in a home. [Bryce Airgood/Times Herald via Imagn Content Services]
Walk-in pantries are a feature buyers say they want in a home. [Bryce Airgood/Times Herald via Imagn Content Services]

WASHINGTON— After declining for four years, a number of key trends — including the average size of the home and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms — reversed course in 2020 as a result of shifting buyer preferences in response to COVID-19.

The average size home remained flat at 2,486 square feet, while the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms and three or more bathrooms rose to 46% and 33%, respectively, rising closer to 2015 peaks, according to information from the National Association of Home Builders presented during the recent International Builders' Show, held virtually.

"The primary reason is that COVID-19 has led a segment of homebuyers to desire larger homes and to move out to the suburbs," said Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research for the NAHB.

An increased number of rooms within the same footprint means homeowners are becoming more creative in how they use the space within their homes, and using features such as windows to help make these spaces feel larger.

"The space works harder rather than larger," said Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. "Open spaces are better defined, and spaces are flexible."

New homes are gaining popularity, as well, with 60% of buyers preferring new homes — the highest level since 2007. Quint attributes this increased interest in new homes to three key factors.

"One is the absolute lack of existing home inventory," she said. "Two is buyers are concerned about touring other people's homes. And last but not least, new homes are more likely to be located where buyers want to live."

She noted that outlying suburbs are the most popular geographic location, driven by increased interest among minority homebuyers.

NAHB also examined preferences among buyers to help builders determine what features are most likely to resonate in the market in 2021. The top features desired include:

• Laundry rooms.

• Exterior lighting.

• Ceiling fans.

• Energy Star windows and appliances.

• Patios and front porches.

• Kitchen double sink.

• Walk-in pantries.

Outdoor spaces such as patios and front porches allow home owners to utilize more space, Ruthroff said, with the connection between indoors and outdoors continuing to become more seamless. Builders at every price level should consider how to integrate such connections into their homes, and incorporate detailing that helps to dress up these spaces, he said.

NAHB also asked recent and prospective home buyers how COVID-19 may have impacted their housing preferences. Although the majority (67%) did not think the pandemic had an impact, a quarter did believe their preferences had changed because of COVID-19, with households that have at least one teleworker and one virtual student being the most likely to feel an impact. Such households are also the most likely to desire a larger home.