The majority of Americans say they are living in less-than-ideal housing and neighborhoods. The Demand Institute recently polled more than 10,000 households — both renters and home owners — across income levels to find their top unfulfilled housing needs and desires.
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"The biggest overarching thing is that when it comes to their homes, there are still a lot of things that Americans want to improve," says Jeremy Burbank, vice president of the The Demand Institute, about its report, The Housing Satisfaction Gap: What People Want But Don't Have. "There's a desire for things like more space, privacy, and safe neighborhoods that are often attributed to single-family homes and ownership."
According to the households polled, here's what they don't have that they wish they did:
- Energy efficiency: Seventy-one percent of respondents ranked it as important, but only 35 percent are satisfied with their current home's energy efficiency. Utility costs are rising, and Americans' spending on electricity has surged 56 percent since 2000. More home owners are seeking ways to lower their utility costs. Energy-use monitors, smart home thermostats, high-efficiency appliances, and greater smart-home technology may pave the way for change in this area.
- Renovation-ready: More than three-quarters of households say their homes require repairs. The recession caused many home owners to delay major projects. The top five major home-improvement jobs identified among households are painting; replacing carpet/flooring; remodeling a bathroom; remodeling a kitchen; and replacing windows and doors.
- Updated kitchens and finishes: Many households say their kitchens could use an upgrade. Sixty-two percent of households say an updated kitchen with modern appliances and fixtures is important; only 38 percent are satisfied with their current home's kitchen.
- Accessibility: Americans have more needs for accessibility features in their homes that will allow them to age in place. Seventy-six percent of Americans surveyed believe a home they can stay in as they get older is important, but only 53 percent think their home meets that criteria. Baby boomers are increasingly interested in single-story homes, but they aren't necessarily interested in slimming down the home's square footage, Burbank notes.
- Affordability: One in five Americans surveyed say they are unsatisfied with the cost of their current living situation. Twenty-six percent of owners and 40 percent of renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing expenses. Eighty-one percent say it's important that their housing costs fit their budget without requiring sacrifices. However, 60 percent say they've achieved this, while the rest say they do have to make sacrifices to afford their home. "There's certainly a well-documented shortage of affordable housing, particularly when it comes to renters, and the situation is only getting worse," says Burbank.
- Safety: Twenty-two percent of those surveyed say they're unsatisfied with the safety in their current home. About one-fifth of that group — most of whom live in non-urban areas — say they feel their neighborhood has become less safe in recent years. Home security systems and other technology may be the key to providing home owners with more peace of mind, Burbank says.
- Privacy: More households desire privacy from their neighbors. Sixty-three percent consider privacy important, but only 42 percent say they're satisfied with their current home's privacy.
- Greater storage: Nearly half of people planning to move say they want more space than they have in their current home. A home with ample storage space is an important feature households identified, and it's one of the key reasons they want to renovate, too. Fifty-five percent of households say a home with storage space is important, but only 35 percent are currently satisfied with their home's storage space.
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