New Home Buyers Seen Opting for Amenities Over Size

WASHINGTON, DC - Given the choice between greater space or higher-quality features, new home buyers are opting for the latter, reinforcing a consumer trend toward amenities that often involve the kitchen or bath.

That's the conclusion of a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, which revealed that new home buyers are willing to sacrifice space for a wealth of upscale amenities.

For example, when asked to choose between a bigger house with fewer amenities or a smaller house with high quality products and amenities, 63% of the homeowners surveyed opted for the latter, according to the Washington, DC-based NAHB. To pay for those features, 57% said they preferred for them to be included in the base price of the home, while 43% wanted them to be offered as options at extra cost, the trade association observed.

"One particular consumer trend stands out: While homes do not appear to be getting bigger, they are definitely getting better," said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of the NAHB.

The households who were surveyed indicated enthusiasm for just about every upscale feature available, Howard said, but became more realistic in their views when they were asked to choose among alternatives.

Other conclusions of the NAHB survey included the following:

  • The top features for the kitchen are a walk-in pantry (84%), island work area (77%), special-use storage (62%) and built-in microwave (62%).
  • Thirty-seven percent said they want their kitchens visually open to the family room, with a half wall; 34% want the two completely open.
  • The most desired bathroom features include a linen closet (91%), exhaust fan (88%) and separate shower enclosure (78%). However, asked to choose between more space in the master bedroom and less in the master bath, or the opposite, 69% chose more bedroom space.

After growing steadily since 1970, the average home size leveled off during the past three years and stood at 2,340 sq. ft. in 2004, according to the NAHB.

Looking at trends for the next five years, NAHB predicted growing popularity for low-maintenance, natural materials; open space; quality features; technology, and special-purpose rooms.

An emerging trend in the higher end market is the inclusion of a "flex" room or "bonus" room situated above three-car garages, Howard added.

"These rooms can be more than 1,000 sq. ft. and include a full bath," he said. "We are finding that homeowners are using them for a variety of purposes – as an in-law suite, a guest room, home office or media room."