July 28, 2020

Covid-19 resetting the new home marketplace

The coronavirus crisis has created the perfect storm for the nation’s homebuilders – a consumer preference for pristine and clean and an accelerating flight to the suburbs. But will the construction industry be able to navigate the changing course correctly?

With the supply of existing homes for sale in the doldrums, sales of newly built homes jumped 55% annually in June, according to a national survey.

And architects and builders are already rethinking and re-inventing as they gear up to fill the needs of new home buyers in the future.

First up, after being cooped up for so long in the height of spring and summer, most American homeowners concluded: “we need a bigger and/or better backyard.”

Folks crave sunlight, fresh air, a change of scenery and the opportunity to share a socially distant martini with neighbors. Home vegetable gardens are gaining ground, as people try to become more self-reliant.

During the long shutdowns, some families found themselves at war over the best available desk space. Those working at home need an office away from household disruptions, and kids need a separate, dedicated place to do schoolwork.

Minimizing germs is another goal. Never in American history have people been so aware of all the icky things they touch in the course of a normal day. And that means an increasing demand for hands-free appliances. New homes will increasingly feature voice-activated doorways, remote controls, toilet flush handles and trash cans.

The pandemic also makes homeowners more aware of indoor air quality. In addition to the germs that may hang in the air inside, we’re spending more time cooking and cleaning. Future systems to monitor and circulate air will be essential.

Mud rooms are small rooms near entryways for folks to take off clothes before entering homes. But today, the focus is on “delivery rooms.” Not for babies, but for packages and food.

With online shopping and home delivery soaring, future homes will come equipped with giant drop boxes or a small room adjacent to the house. They’ll probably include a way to directly discard the packaging into an outside receptacle.

Open floor plans are out, way out. With more of us home more of the time, the value of separate, enclosed rooms is back in vogue. That means individual rooms for individual family members plus separate spaces for work and hobbies.

With more, smaller rooms, economizing space will be at a premium. Kitchen size will be re-evaluated, with more utilitarian appliances. Murphy bed manufacturers may benefit as home shoppers seek bedrooms that can be quickly converted into refuge rooms or offices.