Additional Baths Mark Larger, Better New Homes
For one thing, single-family homes continue to be bigger and better equipped, Ahluwalia said. For example, in 1971, some 65% of all the new homes built measured 1,600 sq. ft. or smaller. By contrast, in 2000, just 25% of the new homes built were as small as that. Further-more, in 1971, just 9% of the new homes built measured 2,400 sq. ft. or larger, while that figure rose to 35% last year.
One direct result impacting the kitchen and bath market is the rise in the number of bathrooms, Ahluwalia noted. In 1971, just 15% of new single-family homes built had 2-1/2 or more bathrooms. In 2000, 56% had 2-1/2 or more and 36% will have three or more.
Changes also continue to take place in the way new single-family homes are designed and laid out.
For example, in 1980, nearly a quarter of consumers buying new homes wanted a kitchen and a family room side by side with a wall separating them, and just 9% wanted an open kitchen/family room, said Ahluwalia. Those percentages have now been reversed. Interestingly, an additional 8% of home buying consumers now want an oversized kitchen and no family room. Visually open with a half wall is the favorite arrangement.
Homeowners are also clear in what they want their new or remodeled kitchens to include. A walk-in pantry is the most popular kitchen feature among consumers, with nearly 80% requesting one, according to Ahluwalia. An island work area is almost as popular, with 71% of consumers requesting one. Extra-long counters are requested by 57%, special-use storage by 53%, a built-in microwave by 50%, and a hot water dispenser by 25%. Only 60% of consumers were satisfied with the amount of kitchen cabinet storage they saw in new homes, and less than half thought there was enough pantry space.
Eighty-eight percent of consumers shopping for a new home said they wanted a linen closet, and 87% wanted an exhaust fan. A separate shower enclosure was on 69% of consumers' wish list, and 67% wanted a thermostatic temperature control valves. Fifty-two percent wanted a dressing/make-up area, and 49% wanted a separate toilet compartment.
The make-up of the American household has also changed radically in the past few decades, noted Ahluwalia. In 1970, 40% of the households in the country consisted of couples with children. By comparison, today just 25% are couples with children while the number of couples without children, single parents and single-person households continues to grow.
Among families, the dramatic rise of dual-income couples is one of the factors that has spurred the growth of the bathroom industry, as two adults try to get ready for work simultaneously. In 1974, just 43% of couples had dual incomes; in 2000, more than 66% did.One result of this has been a sharp rise of household income growth, Ahluwalia said. Median family income for single-earner families grew in constant dollars from $19,162 in 1950 to $30,204 in 1997. For dual income families, the median change was even more impressive, from $23,971 (in constant dollars) in 1950 to $55,443 in 1997.With that, however, has come a widening income gap; in 1970, the lowest earning one-fifth of the country had 5.4% of the aggregate income and the second lowest fifth had another 12.2% of that income. Today, the bottom two fifths have 13.5% put together. The middle fifth has seen its income slump from 17.6% of aggregate income to 14.9% now.
And while the next fifth has seen its income stagnate from 23.8% to 23.2%, the top fifth in income has seen its share of the pie grow from 40.9% in 1970 to 49.4% now.
Taken together, these changes in household composition and income have driven changes in the way new homes are built and older homes are remodeled, said Ahluwalia.