Home buying activity is finally beginning to pick up, and so builders are naturally interested in finding out the latest trends among buyers in order to better understand their wants and needs. With that in mind, the National Association of Home Builders recently carried out a large survey of buyers in order to ascertain how the recession has affected their thinking when it comes to consumer’s home buying wish lists.
The study, which was released earlier this week, found that buyers are overwhelmingly much more cautious and sensitive to prices than before, but what’s really interesting is what tops buyer’s lists of must-haves in their new home.
Given that money worries are still paramount with many consumers, it’s probably not a surprise to learn that energy efficient homes are priority number one for the vast majority of buyers. The NAHB found that Energy-star appliances are essential number one in the eyes of many buyers, followed by energy efficient laundry rooms.
But while people want to save money, many of them still want to be able to ‘walk the walk’ as it were. High-end amenities were cited by 62% of buyers as being more important to them than available living space – in other words, most people are more than willing to sacrifice that extra bedroom or go with a smaller living room in order to get their hands on the latest hi-tech gizmos like wireless home security and Wi-Fi controls for their utilities. Buyers also want style over substance, preferring French doors over regular doors, and they want luxuries like a double sink in the kitchen, and a hot tub and shower in the bathroom.
However, today’s cost-conscious consumers are only willing to shell out so much, and so luxuries like a golf course community and an elevator have gone out the window in many buyer’s eyes. Consumers don’t see the need for laminate countertops, nor do they have a use for wine cooler refrigerators anymore. Mind you, they’d like some outdoor space – but an outdoor kitchen is probably a little too excessive for more.
The NAHB survey also looked at locations, finding that most people want to get the hell out of the city and live in the suburbs, away from the hustle and bustle. 36% of respondents said they’d like to live in the outer suburbs, while 30% indicated a preference for the inner suburbs of their city. Just 8% want to live in the city center, while 27% dream of living out in the sticks in rural areas.
These preferences are surprising considering that many experts have previously asserted that Americans are increasingly choosing an urban living style. In truth, what most people are looking for is access to the right kinds of amenities – which they believe are more accessible out of town – such as nearby parks, walking and/or jogging trails, outdoor swimming pools and such. Indeed, many respondents said they would in fact consider living in the city center if these amenities were available.
The results of this study are similar to that conducted by NAHB to determine the wants and needs of "55 and over" buyers around 2004-2005. Less glitz, more substance, high end features and appliances that have a purpose and add convenience, a location that provides great access to conveniences but definitely not in a crowded setting. That all spells "value" and quality of life as does this recent study. Not surprisingly, today's value conscious buyers are willing to sacrifiuce "fluff" and space to obtain lasting quality. As the 55 and over buyers knew then and know now, it doesn't make sense to buy "cheap" because they can't afford to buy items such as kitchen appliances multiple times. High quality and modest, manageable size seems to be the continuiing direction of new home building. Being "socially responsible" provides an avenue to not taking the path of "size equals status". Decades ago buyers might have been criticized for building modest homes in "McMansion" neighborhoods. Today, large, inefficient, partially empty houses are becoming monuments of inefficiency, wastefulness, and irresponsible use of resources. More efficient, well-designed, "smart" homes of high quality are being well received in the market as buyers look for more permanent solutions to their housing needs.
They also want updated kitchens & baths. In the kitchen they don't just want new appliance they want cabinets and counter tops that are newer as well. I just showed 5 homes to a family and they liked the first one because it was empty, neutral, and newer. Then, the last house was my next door neighbor's home. I pointed to my house and asked if they would like to stop over to use the bathroom before they drove 2 hours. They immediately went through my house before I could even take my shoes off! The wife liked my house and wanted to know how much. My house is furnished, newer, and I do not have a lot of "things." I don't put up pictures because I have to love it. So, long-and-short, either empty or minimally decorated. (No. My house is not for sale ... yet.) The hard part is getting a seller to understand that there is a difference between staged and decorated. But, that is a topic for another time.