This year is poised to be a big one for building and real estate! All signs point to the largest annual increase in new home construction since 2006, with a particularly unique population of buyers changing the face (literally) of the national housing market.
Three generations will have the largest impact on sales this year, each with a distinctive set of design priorities and preferences: Millennials (ages 25-34), Gen X’ers (ages 35-44) and Boomers (ages 65-74).
Millennials will comprise the largest percentage of the active segments in the homebuying market at 32%. As a generation hindered by student loan debt and bleak professional prospects, your decision to buy is likely fueled by an emotional consideration — a measure of personal independence and stability — it’s yours! You are well-versed in social media, employing resources like Houzz and Pinterest to form a definitive expectation for your home. Leading the design trends among this demographic are:
- Smaller, efficient homes: “Performance over scale” can be applied generally to many aspects of new Millennial home designs. You spend most of your time outside your home, so your priority is having a space to comfortably retreat back to, after a long day in the office and around town.
- Multi-functional interiors: With less space, the emphasis needs to be on flexibility. You want casual living spaces that can do dual-duty for entertainment and relaxation. Open floor plans with connections between rooms will cater to this lifestyle.
- Home-automation technology: Your phone is fundamental to your lifestyle and as such, your living space should operate on a seamless digital connection. Technology can facilitate a more responsive and energy-efficient home.
- Low-maintenance living: Between your commute and recreational activities, you likely make use of shared amenities and have external interests that keep you out/away from your home. When you are there, you seek out personal space that doesn’t require dedicating your energy to constant upkeep. A small outdoor patio/balcony can be an ideal sanctuary.
Generation X poses a special opportunity for designers. 45% of you have previously owned another home, so you are both informed and motivated. Your family’s needs are at the top of your list and as you are facing what will be the most important investment of your future, the last thing you want is to settle. You have an established lifestyle with idiosyncrasies that shape the way you use your home.
- Custom options: As an experienced home-owner, you know what you want. Between your family and career, you are likely busy as well and want a streamlined buying experience. A builder that can offer you a menu of choices that can accommodate your specific needs and desires is the way to go!
- Potential for expansion: You are in your prime earning years and have recovered from the economic downturn. Now might be the perfect time for your family to grow. A larger home with extra bedroom(s) will allow you to welcome the new addition to your family now and a space for yourself (an office, sitting room or craft room) when the kids leave the nest.
- Outdoor living space: As your next home is probably your second or third, you are seeking an investment and upgrade. Cultivate a special outdoor space where your family can come together and indulge in each other’s company…perhaps with outdoor dining and entertaining space, a screened porch or a fire pit?
- Multi-generational home: Whether it’s your parents or young-adult children, you may be facing the potential of sharing your home with another segment of your family. A first-floor guest suite and bonus loft space are easy to integrate into almost any design and will ensure you all maintain the privacy and comfort you deserve.
The current generation of retirees is more active and connected than any that preceded you. Today’s Boomers are working longer and doing more as they make the transition into retirement. In determining your design needs, your fluctuation in lifestyle will dictate the size and types of spaces in your home.
- Age-in-place: Your home should allow you to remain comfortable as you get older. Stairs (height and depth of treads, straight runs versus turns), width of hallways and doors, and access to appliances, are all functional considerations that make moving furniture easier now and wheelchair accessibility possible in the future.
- Single-level living: A consolidated but open floor plan makes for flexibility and easy movement. Your needs and desires will likely change as you age, so giving yourself space to reconfigure is key. For instance, two master-bedroom suites are a growing trend in two-story homes, so single-level living is an option in the future.
- Dynamic lighting: Larger windows, more light fixtures (in places like cabinets, stairs and hallways) and convenient switch locations all accommodate your increased need for lighting.
- Home offices: Your career is life-defining — for your generation, it extends beyond your income source. Even after you technically retire, you may choose to retain some professional activity as a hobby or an opportunity to socialize with your community. A home office, located close to the front door will give you flexibility and privacy as you welcome others into your home.
While each generation distinguishes itself with a set of unique design principles, they also share a set of common trends. For the upcoming year, walkable communities with a connection to public transportation and close proximity to amenities will remain a priority for each group. Increasingly, more buyers are choosing contemporary exteriors with low maintenance materials and an emphasis on details. Above all, the character of their communities is the biggest draw for homeowners, including Millennials, Gen X’ers and Boomers, seeking the right balance between accessible resources and personal space.
Guest blog courtesy of W.C. Ralston Architects, an architecture and planning firm that has built an enduring reputation for design excellence in homes, neighborhoods and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region. Learn more at www.wcralston.com.