Demand for accessible design grows as square footage shrinks

Dive Brief:

Homeowners are trading square footage for features, particularly those that increase accessibility, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Q1 2017 Home Design Trends Survey.

In-home accessibility (59%), single-floor plans (53%) and open-space layouts (51%) were the biggest home-design trends of 2017. Demand for accessibility and open-space layouts has dropped since Q1 2016, while interest in single-floor plans climbed 6 percentage points during the period.

Demand for outdoor living space (66%) and blended indoor/outdoor living areas (62%) topped outdoor space trends. Difficult lot preparation (56%) also registered as a trend among more architects in 2017 than in 2016 (50%).

Dive Insight:

Single-family homes are trending smaller nationwide as the economic recovery picks up and builders turn their attention to demand for entry-level properties. New, single-family homes averaged 2,628 square feet during Q1 2017, down slightly from 2,658 in Q1 2016, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the National Association of Home Builders.

While the market already faces a shortage of existing entry-level homes, renewed activity among first-time buyers is being met with new construction, including home-product lines that offer the smaller plans, limited features and lower price-points this group is seeking. Among them are Meritage Homes’ LiVE.NOW. category and D.R. Horton’s Express Homes division.

The trends laid out in the AIA’s survey show that owners continue to retrofit their homes to meet their changing mobility needs, particularly as they age. However, a recent report from HomeAdvisor suggests that as many as eight in 10 homeowners haven’t yet carried out any such work. Meanwhile, the addition of outdoor living space indicates that owners are willing and able to invest in their properties — particularly as home prices continue to soar.

When it comes to accessible design, aging-in-place remodeling is on the rise. With baby boomers expected to account for 56% of residential remodeling spending by 2025, compared to 31% in 2005, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, home-improvement professionals will have plenty of opportunity to address such features. Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report found that a bathroom remodel to incorporate universal design — a trend that prioritizes a general increase in accessibility — had a resale payback of 68 cents on the dollar.

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