The architect must be a prophet... a prophet in the true sense of the term... if he can't see at least ten years ahead don't call him an architect.
That quote from Frank Lloyd Wright starts off an article on Fixr.com, an estimating site, that looks at single family home construction trends for 2017. They put together a panel of architects and builders to make their predictions for the nearer term than ten years, by which time Elon Musk will be selling autonomous solar powered mobile homes that roll through tubes.
The conclusions are interesting and unsurprising. Houses are projected be smaller because more millennials finally are buying starter homes. One builder on the panel suggests that it's because of "the Tiny House movement along with Sarah Susanka's "Not so big House" but I think it is more likely that they simply have less money. According to the Wall Street Journal, “They’re crawling out of their parents’ basements, they’re forming households and they’re looking to buy.”
Up until now the luxury market has soared, while the more affordable end of the market has struggled. Tough lending standards, slow wage growth, growing student-debt obligations and a newfound fear of homeownership have combined to crimp demand among millennials in particular.
As is usual, sustainability does not rate very highly, and this is a poll of "influencers", mostly architects and builders, who are going to be more sophisticated about this than the usual buyer.
Energy efficient designs lead to the pack in the type of homes that are being built right now, including passive design features. Following closely was smart home designs, which can be anything from a thermostat controlled by your smartphone to a wi-fi video doorbell. Sustainable design placed third, while universal design and modular or off-site built homes trailed far behind the leaders.
The single key concept that the influencers think is most desirable is the an open plan, (which of course I disagree with, it makes you fat)
The next most important "sustainable living design trend" is lots of natural light, which, given the quality and energy efficiency of most American made windows, is kind of contradictory with any concept of sustainable design. Although one influencer did note that "window placement is key."
In yet another survey for builder Taylor Morrison and published in Builder Magazine, we learn that these millennials are not buying for keeps, and they want new homes rather than old ones.
The survey found that more than half (58%) of prospective millennial home buyers expect to change where—and the way—they live over time as their lifestyle evolves; the concept of a forever home is outdated. This sentiment is shared by 56% of all home buyers. Additionally, the data shows that a third of these millennial buyers intend to live in the next home they buy for less than 10 years, with 80% equally or more interested in a newly constructed home over a resale home. Of all of those surveyed, 26% stated that the principal advantage they see in buying a newly constructed home over a pre-owned one is floor plans that fit their current lifestyle top the list.
Builders are also at it again in the exurbs; one builder is doing starter homes as far as 80 miles from San Francisco.
Builders largely avoided the exurbs after the bubble burst in 2006. But because land there is cheaper, they can build lower-end homes more profitably.
So here we are again, in a housing market where people are driving until they qualify for a new house in the exurbs that will be a single storey, likely with a triple garage, open plan, and lots of cheap windows. I thought we had all learned from the last time.