8 home design trends to watch for in 2016

by Farren Washington

What are today’s new homebuyers looking for? A multitude of factors influence the designs, features and materials consumers want. Here are eight trends agents should watch out for and be ready to sell in 2016.


According to the American Institute of Architects’ AIA Home Design Trends survey, outdoor spaces – including outdoor kitchens, fully furnished outdoor rooms, and fireplaces or pits with small seating areas – have become almost as important as interiors. In its coverage of that report, Architect Magazine also points to lifestyles becoming “more informal,” and weakened demand for “formal” rooms with designated uses, like living rooms and dining rooms, in favor of open-space layouts, dens and great rooms.


Last year saw the re-emergence of copper as an alternative to stainless steel, wood and other materials. It will become more prevalent in new homes amid growing consumer concern around bacteria, mold and toxins in the home. According to a 2014 study from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, indoor air quality was homeowners’ most-often cited concern about “healthy housing,” at nearly 70 percent of respondents.


Water conservation for the home will become just as important as energy conservation to consumers, according to Architect Magazine, which notes that four in 10 arthitecture firms responding to the AIA survey expect a significant increase in importance for water conservation in home design. Real estate agents may start to see an increased demand for composting toilets, gray-water recycling systems, water-smart irrigation sensors and rainwater harvesting, as well as other sustainable materials.


In Q1 2016, the average square footage of new single-family homes declined slightly, from 2,674 for 2,657, according to an Eye on Housing report citing the NAHB and Census Quarterly Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design. The trend is expected to continue as builders develop options for entry-level buyers. Eye on Housing’s Robert Dietz explains that new home size falls before and during recessions, then often rises as high-end buyers re-enter the housing market.


In a June 2016 survey that analyzed 50,000 American homes, Zillow Digs found that homes with kitchens painted in warm, neutral yellow and green colors yield the highest premium ($1,360 over expected value). Purples such as lavender, eggplant, and mauve in the dining room were found to account for a premium of $1,122 over asking price, though slate or dark gray in the same room sent prices south by as much as $1,112 below expected value.


As Baby Boomers age, builders take their needs into consideration in home designs. According to a 2014 survey by the Demand Institute, 75 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed want a home they can stay in as they get older. An example of a Boomer-friendly feature is walk-in, universal pantries, which allow those with limited mobility to reach high-shelved items and open folding doors with ease. These pantries will also have brighter lighting for better visibility.


According to Pew Research Center, 60.6 million people now live multigenerationally, a trend driven by multiple factors: student debt, Millennials marrying later in life, and an influx of immigrants from cultures where multigenerational living is the norm. Separate entrances and outdoor spaces, main-floor bedroom suites with living spaces and kitchenettes, and multiple bathrooms are all on the wish list for new homes for multiple generations, according to CNBC “Realty Check” writer Diana Olick.


A rise in telecommuting and changing work patterns have led to increased demand for home offices – a trend the AIA charted through the housing downturn, despite shrinking home sizes during that time. According to the Consumer Technology Association’s 14th Annual State of the Builder Technology Study, half of new construction homes have dedicated home offices, and builders in the Midwest were among the most likely to install home offices (62 percent of those surveyed.)

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