Extraordinary Real Estate Services by The Lisa Miguel Team!
When it comes to floor plans, home builders, architects, and designers are caught between a rock and a hard place. While facing unprecedented constraints on labor and land, they’re equally tasked with working with customers who are more demanding than ever. These trends and market factors are reshaping American floor plan designs as savvy builders look for solutions to these restrictions without sacrificing buyer satisfaction.
Open Living Spaces
Buyers now arrive at the sales office with a list of “non-negotiable” features that they want in a home. For instance, airy and welcoming living, sleeping, and eating spaces across a flexible layout are key. In an NAHB report published last year, builders responded that the kitchen–family room arrangement is completely or partially open in 84% of the homes they build, with over half (54%) being completely open to the main living spaces of the home. In another survey conducted in conjunction with the Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, the NAHB found that 70% of recent and prospective home buyers preferred a home with either a completely or partially open kitchen–family room arrangement. Designs that don’t offer open family rooms or kitchens that can accommodate large islands are in decline. More than ever, buyers are seeking bright, inviting spaces for entertaining, and the trend is pulling the majority of shoppers toward the plans that offer the least wall-to-square-foot ratio.
“For millennial buyers, a great room can make or break a decision, but single-family detached communities are incredibly expensive, and millennials are finding they can’t afford them,” says Garrett Hoskins, project director at Robert Hidey Architects in Irvine, Calif., who works with several production builders to design award-winning residential projects. “To meet their needs, we’ve begun designing detached-feeling duplexes that can be sold at a more attainable price point, and that offer at least three sides of light and a full great room. The great room is essential to a plan’s popularity and can be a buy or no-buy factor.
It’s not just the interior walls that are vanishing. Digital data company Statista reports that the demand for homes with outdoor features has nearly doubled since 2010 as an increasing number of buyers are seeking out homes with a connection to the outdoors, regardless of what type of home they want or where they live.
To satiate buyer needs for an indoor–outdoor living experience in denser single-family markets, rooftop decks are soaring in popularity. Across the board, exterior spaces are taking shape as sizable outdoor rooms that are functional year-round, and are as much a part of the home as its interior spaces. Shading and heating products as well as audio and video technology make it possible to extend entertaining spaces to the outdoors, adding usable square footage to the home. Collapsible doors are being offered at nearly every price point today. Plans that don’t include them—especially in markets with temperate climates—are at a competitive disadvantage.
Land and Labor Hurdles
For firms like Robert Hidey Architects, Saussy Burbank, and TRI Pointe, floor plan designs directly correlate with the limited availability of land in the heavily populated markets in which they’re building most of their homes. “Even in higher density products, our buyers don’t want to give up components of a home, such as a first-story suite, flex rooms, or outdoor spaces, so we adapt our plans to accommodate those realities,” Grable says. “Even if it costs an additional $100,000, many of our buyers are willing to pay that premium for an optional roof deck with a large bonus room attached to it, because it’s so attractive from a lifestyle standpoint.”
“We’re building more one-car garages to accommodate narrow urban infill lots, especially as outdoor living spaces become more of a priority,” says Bob Zweier, president at Saussy Burbank. “Our buyers want screened porches and outdoor fireplaces.”
Because older buyers are a crucial customer base for builders across the country, one of the greatest challenges developers face is meeting the need for accessible, single-story housing in a tight land market. As an alternative to one-level living, many builders report that central—as well as private—elevators are being plotted on multi-story plans as a standard option, especially in upscale communities that can afford to absorb the cost.
“Multigenerational floor plans are very attractive for move-ups and long-term buyers,” Grable says. “Even if density calls for a second-story great room, we’re still putting in a lock-off suite on the first floor in plans. It’s important for many homeowners in our markets, especially in traditional single-family neighborhoods.”
While HGTV programs and Pinterest offer customers a glimpse into the world of real estate, design, and residential construction, they also tend to result in unrealistic client expectations that builders have to manage. “Today’s home buyer is smarter and isn’t looking for broad-brush solutions, but rather for a product that feels customized to their lifestyle preferences.” says Dan Swift, president at BSB Design.
As such, several builders say they’re not designing a generic group of plans to tweak for each regional market, but instead they are looking at individual communities with a closer lens and allowing the land to dictate the plan for the site as well as its units.
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