Millennial Pink? Anything but that! Word art? We're so over it. Please, whatever you do—no more shiplap! So what are the top home trends and features of 2020? What are going to be the most popular types of homes? And what does new construction look like these days?

If you're looking for answers, the best folks to ask are those who are actually building homes. They have their fingers on the pulse of what people want—not just today, but tomorrow, and even next year. (After all, it takes a while to build!)

For starters, despite a lot of hullaballoo about luxury condos and urban living, the most popular type of home remains the single-family residence, according to survey research on about 3,000 homebuilders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. Those were followed by townhomes, condos and co-ops, and manufactured homes.

That's because the majority of buyers are heading to the suburbs, where there's more space for a stand-alone house and a yard. The next most popular type of destination was rural areas and then cities.

"It's part of the American dream: the single-family detached home," says Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research at NAHB. "That's despite having less expensive options."

New homes today are getting smaller

So what do we know about new homes today?

Well, they're getting smaller. New single-family homes totaled an average 2,520 square feet in 2019. That's the smallest they've been since 2011—and about 170 square feet less than their peak in 2015.

"Builders respond to demand out there in the market, and the demand right now is mostly from entry-level buyers and first-time buyers," says Quint. "They're responding to the affordability crisis by shifting their product to smaller, more affordable homes."

Last year, about 44% of new homes have at least four bedrooms, down from 47% in 2015. A third had at least three full bathrooms, down from a high of 37% in 2015. And just 18% had a three-car garage, down from 23% in 2015. Small is the thing.

However, home buyers were more likely to choose smaller, higher-quality homes with the top home features than larger homes with fewer must-have features if given the choice between both options around the same price, according to NAHB.

"They value high-quality [homes] and amenities over size," says Quint.

First-time buyers were more likely to choose an existing home (i.e., one that's previously been lived in). Meanwhile, repeat buyers were more likely to opt for new construction. That's because new homes cost about a third more than existing ones.

All of those new finishes and features aren't cheap! Some things never change.

The must-have features in new homes

The most sought-after feature that builders are most likely to include in new homes this year is the walk-in closet.

It was followed by a host of environmentally friendly and cost-saving features that are decidedly less sexy than those giant closets. Energy-efficient windows came in second, with laundry rooms, energy-efficient lighting, and great rooms (a combo of a kitchen, family area, and living room) on its heels.

"Energy efficiency has everything to do with saving money," says Quint.

Builders are also installing central islands in kitchens, programmable thermostats, high ceilings, Energy Star appliances, and two-car garages.

The least popular features were cork flooring on the main floor, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heating and electrical systems, dual toilets in the master bath, and laminated countertops in the kitchen.

The top colors, materials, and rooms

Buyers were choosy when it came to colors and materials—as they should be! They wanted stainless-steel appliances (e.g., refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers) over black ones. For kitchen countertops, they preferred granite and natural stone over quartz, engineered stone, and laminate.

But they were undecided when it came to kitchen cabinet colors. First-time buyers preferred medium-brown cabinets, while repeat buyers wanted white.

“No color was a big, large majority for people," says Quint. "Where there is consensus is in the color of the kitchen appliances. Stainless steel is where it is for most buyers."

First-time buyers were also partial to having dining rooms and having both a bath tub and shower stall in the master bathroom. Repeat buyers, many of whom are retirees and soon-to-be retirees hoping to downsize into homes where they can age in place, were more concerned with garage storage and exterior lighting.

Both groups wanted laundry rooms, energy-efficient windows, hardwood floors on the main level, and patios.

But there doesn't seem to be one main architectural style that buyers are clamoring for.

"What's the trend in architecture? Everything," says Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. "We're seeing contemporary that is based on traditional. You're seeing mixes in neighborhoods of that traditional with that contemporary [style] along the same street."

They're also looking for seamless indoor-outdoor living.

"This is hugely important to buyers," says Ruthroff. "This is the marrying of landscape architecture with architecture."

Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of and an adjunct journalism professor at St. John's University. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She is also a licensed real estate agent with R New York. Contact her at Follow @claretrap


Posted by Gabriel Leyba on March 6th, 2020 11:52 PM