Major Shifts in Interior Space Preferences

April 6, 2018

The typical American household isn’t typical anymore. Nuclear families account for only 20 percent of buyers today, far outnumbered by singles living alone and childless couples. But many developers are still gearing single-family homes to the traditional family arrangement, says Chrysanthe Broikos, an architectural historian and curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. It’s time to start thinking about homes and living spaces differently, she told attendees at the 2018 REALTOR® Broker Summit in Nashville, Tenn., this week.

This shift in demographics is the impetus for the National Building Museum’s current exhibit, “Making Room: Housing for a Changing America,” where they have a 1,000-square-foot dwelling on display featuring a hyper-efficient layout, complete with movable walls and multifunctional furniture.

“If you’re a baby born today, you have a 50 percent chance of living to 100 years old,” says Jessica Lautz, director of survey research and communications for the National Association of REALTORS®. Appearing on the same panel discussing shifts in lifestyles and dwellings, Lautz echoed Broikos’s demographic findings. People want homes that will work with their changing needs. What’s more, people are living in their homes longer—10 years now on average, up from five to seven years. While repeat buyers were typically 37 years old two decades ago, today they are around 54. These shifts equate to changing housing preferences, which includes a massive growth in multigenerational housing demand, as well as flexible interior spaces and spaces for working from home.

Creative workspaces are in demand, says Hunter Beyke, interior design expert and strategic account manager at Steelcase, a commercial furniture company. She’s seeing a shift to creative thinking and approach to the workplace, including more work-from-home situations, amped-up technology integration, and collaborative spaces. “People can’t be productive on their sofas,” she says, so buyers need areas in their homes that will fulfill this need. Technology is also important—with voice-assist devices like Amazon’s Alexa and other artificial intelligence services are growing in popularity. This isnt just for work spaces either, but also in kitchens where modern AI refrigerators can now track and order groceries.

These flexible tech-geared spaces are also mirrored in demand in commercial real estate, Beyke says, where businesses and organizations need multipurpose rooms, meeting places, and high-tech integration with AI for video conferences, presentations, and more. “People don’t want to sit in a cubical today, they want diverse places to work,” she says, which is changing what theyre looking for as they hunt for real estate.

—Erica Christoffer, REALTOR® Magazine