The impact of COVID-19 has been felt everywhere, but nowhere more so than in the home. While many people thought of their home as their sanctuary prior to the pandemic, many are growing weary of esisting spaces after being confined in them month after month.

And this dissatisfaction is leading homeowners to re-think their homes and what features they need to enjoy a safe and enriching lifestyle. While open-concept living has been highly desirable in recent years, homeowners are finding themselves yearning for private spaces where they can (temporarily) retreat from other family members.

The Re-Imagined Home

According to a new Zillow report, the desire for more privacy could help make open-concept living a thing of the past. That’s a pretty big about-face — when you consider that, in November 2019 — the number of real estate listings highlighting an open floor plan had doubled since 2015. 

In addition, many people are moving away from the desire for smaller, more minimalistic spaces toward larger, adaptable spaces. While “lock and leave” homes with less square footage have been trending due to their lower maintenance requirements and responsibility, these homes are being evaluated in a different light now.

Builders are reacting to this paradigm shift by re-thinking home design and focusing on ways to optimize space to ensure privacy while also providing dedicated areas for home offices, schoolwork, dining, exercise/relaxation and even separate spaces for multigenerational living.

Although homeowners are seeking more rooms with doors, the open floorplan won’t necessarily become a relic of the past. It’s more about flexibility and segmented rooms that can be used in multiple ways. People are still looking for a sense of connection and want to be able to gather and share a meal and discuss their day… even if “their day” transpired just a few feet away from each other.

By the Numbers

Zillow reports that views for new construction home listings have jumped 73 percent from last year. A growing number of consumers are seeking brand new spaces that have never been used and floorplans that they can customize according to their particular needs. The report also states that many home builders believe the desire for larger homes with more privacy will dictate how homes are designed and built in the future.

Similarly, according to a new Redfin report, new homes represent a bigger share of homes for sale – 1 in 5 in April 2020 compared with 1 in 6 in April 2019.

The data supports this trend. In May, new home sales increased 16.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 676,000 units. Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau shows sales in May of newly built, single-family homes tracking 12.7% higher than during May 2019, echoing rising builder sentiment.

Permits to build new houses jumped 14.4 % to a 1.22 million annually and applications to buy a new home rose for the ninth week in row, hitting an 11-year high.

While industry analysts have been concerned that a lack of supply of housing inventory could dampen a significant rebound in housing sales, the tide appears to be turning as builders ramp up home building efforts. In fact, builders have already started to shift sales to homes not yet under construction – resulting in a 20% year-over-year gain for these sales.

The Post-Pandemic Dwelling

So, what exactly are consumers looking for in their future homes, and how can building products brands rise to the challenge? Here are just a few trends that offer a wealth of new opportunities for the building products industry.

Something’s Cooking in the Kitchen. survey by the National Kitchen & Bath Association reports that 87% of families want a multi-functional kitchen that can serve as a space for meal prep and cooking, family dining and entertaining. Open layouts with larger kitchen islands, smart technology and upgraded appliances are growing in demand. As are targeted, more efficient storage and elements that help homeowners become more health-conscious such as kitchen gardens and refrigerators with UV lighting for better storing fresh produce.

The Home Office is Reworked. As more employees transition their workspaces to their homes, interiors will evolve to include quiet spaces that offer privacy for working away from busy everyday household activity. These spaces will require good task lighting, strong WiFi capability and a wall or nook in a quiet spot that provides a pleasing backdrop for Zooming or Skyping.

Houses are Becoming Smarter. Smarter features such as motion-sensor devices and smartphone-controlled technology will become increasingly common. Voice-activated appliances and the use of touchless devices such as faucets, toilets and window shades will also become more popular. In addition — as people spend more time at home — they will be focused on thermal comfort and the energy efficiency of their homes… with many opting to add high-performance windows, whole house dehumidifiers and solar panels.

Indoor Spaces Get a Wellness Check. As health concerns become top of mind, homeowners are proactively taking steps to enhance their indoor environments. In a recent Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adults, greater than two-thirds have taken or plan to take action to create a healthier home. Among the strategies employed are using eco-friendly paints, adding air purifiers and improved ventilation, incorporating healthier insulation such as natural wool, and using chemical- and VOC-free household products.

Nature Reigns Supreme. Outdoor living areas are not only personal spaces for relaxation and retreat, but also provide ample opportunities for entertaining – something that will become more important as people are once again able to gather in groups. Landscape designs are also changing, as garden spaces and hardscape areas such as decks and patios become a priority. Outdoor kitchens will feature more prominently in outdoor spaces… as will vertical gardens, trellises and specialty lighting.

Aging in Place Gains Traction. According to an AARP survey, three out of four adults age 50 and older hope to stay in their homes as they get older. Design features that make it easier to age in place, such as wider doorways for wheelchair accessibility, curbless showers with built-in seats, lever-style door handles, long-lasting LED lighting, front load washers and dryers, easy access storage and slip-resistant flooring, will all be in demand.

The experience of sheltering at home will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on everyone. As a result, many people will be re-evaluating their priorities and where they want to live post-pandemic… along with how their homes can support their evolving lifestyles. Good timing for building product brands!