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Top Features and Design Trends for 2023 Highlight Post-Pandemic Shifts and Affordability Struggles

Home buyer preferences have continued to shift home building trends in the wake of COVID-19. Following a brief uptick in new home sizes in 2021, the average size of a new home dropped slightly from 2,525 square feet to 2,480 square feet in 2022, and the percentage of new homes with 3+ full bathrooms and 3+ car garages dipped to 33% and 17%, respectively. Meanwhile, the percentage of homes with 4+ bedrooms rose slightly to 48%, in part because of the flexibility in use that bedrooms can provide, with the expectation that home size and amenities will continue to grow in 2023 before dropping again in 2024.

“The decrease in new home size reflects the escalation of home prices in 2022 and builders scaling back to try to meet demand,” said Rose Quint, NAHB assistant vice president of survey research. “The move toward larger homes and more amenities in 2023 will reflect the preferences of those who can afford higher interest rates, and in 2024, size will fall back as affordability improves with lower mortgage rates and more buyers re-enter the market.”

Amenities no longer necessarily translate directly to number of rooms or types of features within the home either — it can also be simply having a space within the home that provides respite.

“Home buyers are looking more and more to their homes to provide a sense of well-being,” observed Donald Ruthroff, AIA, founding principal at Design Story Spaces LLC. “They want their homes to support their day-to-day health — physically, emotionally and mentally.”

Builders and designers are achieving this through walking paths and other outdoor spaces connected to the home, as well as the incorporation of natural materials and other examples of biophilic design. Builders saw a large jump in the demand for exterior amenities, such as patios, decks and porches, in 2022, along with increased demand for home office — which appeared on the list of buyers’ most-wanted features for the first time this year.

Demand was also on the rise for more flexible and better equipped spaces to meet buyers’ changing needs. This is true for both first-time and repeat buyers, the majority of whom prefer an open-kitchen family room. This space, Ruthroff highlighted, can be reconfigured and better utilized to provide more space for additional rooms or allow builders to incorporate higher-end components to increase the feel and function.

“We’re learning that if we use less space, we can spend more on details and finishes to make rooms such as bathrooms feel more luxurious,” he added. “And people will pay a little more for solutions, such as cabinetry add-ons that eliminate dead space, that add utility.”

Other home features that resonate with both first-time and repeat home buyers include:

  • Laundry rooms
  • Exterior lighting
  • Ceiling fans
  • Patios
  • Walk-in pantries
  • Hardwood flooring on the main level

Housing affordability remains a struggle, which home buyers recognize. The majority of home buyers (91%) are willing to compromise to afford a home. The top three areas are:

  • A smaller house
  • Simpler/more basic interiors
  • Fewer exterior amenities

Additional information on home buyer trends can be found in NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want.

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