People 'Dreaming' Again About Buying a Home, Survey Finds

ORLANDO, FL — Consumers are starting to give themselves "permission to dream" about buying a new home again, and for the first time in several years - since the onset of the recession - are "actually considering houses that are slightly larger than their existing homes."

That's the key finding of a newly released research initiative aimed at determining the features, size, designs and strategies driving consumers as they consider their next home. The research, conducted by Better Homes and Gardens magazine, also detailed how the economic downturn has changed consumer behavior toward renovating their existing home or buying a new home.

In a presentation at the International Builders Show (IBS) here in January, Jill Waage, editorial director for home content at Better Homes and Gardens, said that, according to BH&G research, four out of 10 surveyed consumers reported that they are looking to increase their total home size with their next home, up from about one out of three a year ago.

"While they are looking at a larger-size home, they aren't looking for something significantly larger," Waage noted. "Rather, it is more of a desire for something slightly larger to accommodate their prioritized wish list. They are dreaming again, but their dreams are definitely reality based."

According to BH&G, consumers in the magazine's 2009 survey wished for a median square footage of 1,864 sq. ft. According to the latest recent survey, the desired median square footage has risen to 1,914 sq. ft.

"They want more space, but it's driven by both function and finances," Waage said.

Waage also noted that one in four consumers (25%) said it was the right time to spend on home improvement, up from 16% who said that a year ago. She added that the study found that consumers "want to get the most value for every dollar they spend," with more than half (56%) stating this describes them completely.  Similarly, half of consumers (52%) say they'll spend more time looking for bargains and deals in order to save money on home improvement.

Consumers are realizing there are no guarantees on the return in their investment, other than their own enjoyment of their new space - so they are careful not to overextend.

"Their priority is having a home they enjoy. The new mantra is, ‘I am spending my money, so make it count,'" said Waage.

The survey finds that, in particular, consumers don't want any "wasted space" in their next home and are seeking real value for their dollar. According to the findings, nearly eight out of 10 (79%) say the desire for "additional storage space" and an organized home is high on their wish list for a next home.

Among the survey's other key findings:

  • Affordability of their next home remains a high priority, with three out of four consumers (74%) stating this.
  • Energy efficiency continues to rank highest as "most important" to consumers, with 68% stating that energy efficient heating and cooling systems are a top priority compared to 76% in the previous year.
  • The top ranked living spaces desired in a new home include: separate laundry rooms (81%); additional storage space including walk-in closets or built-ins (79%); a home office space or workspace (67%); outdoor grilling/living area (67%); at least one bedroom with its own private bath (65%) and everyday eating space in or close to the kitchen (64%).
  • Nearly six out of 10 (58%) of consumers say a reluctance to spend money they don't have on home improvements or new homes "describes them completely."
  • Home personalization continues to grow as a consumer trend. For example, 52% of consumers dream of a family space that combines a kitchen, family room and everyday eating into one open area. "Today's family wants a hive area where they can move seamlessly from mealtime to tech time to game/entertainment/hobby time to homework time," Waage said.
  • A home office/computer center continues to grow in popularity, with 68% saying they want one in their next home, compared to 59% in 2009.

"Consumers are once again dreaming about their next home, as well as planning ways to make their current home reflect their personal style and needs," Waage observed. "They are also setting priorities and watching their wallets in the process."