Homes sizes, lots decrease; desire for low maintenance grows

Washington, D.C. – June 21, 2010 – The prolonged economic downturn in the housing market, coupled with growing concerns about rising utility costs has resulted in greater interest in smaller homes and lot sizes. There have also been some broader lifestyle changes with U.S. households eschewing upscale amenities, opting instead to invest in more low maintenance projects, particularly for property improvements. Accessibility within the home continues to be a concern, especially for an aging population, and there is an increasing demand for more flexible design and informal space within homes.

Business conditions for residential architects are beginning to indicate improving conditions with the first quarterly increase in billings since mid-2007. These findings are from the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey that focused specifically on overall home layout and use in the first quarter of 2010.

"We continue to move away from the 'McMansion' chapter of residential design, with more demand for practicality throughout the home," said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. "And with that there has been a drop off in the popularity of upscale property enhancements such as formal landscaping, decorative water features, tennis courts and gazebos."

Overall home layout and size trends

Residential elements (% of respondents that reported increases)          

2010                      

2009

In-home accessibility 

60%                

63%

Open space layout

56%                

50%

Access into / out of home

49%                            

49%

Informal space                       

48%                            

45%

Finished basement / attic

36%                

32%

Single-floor plan         

40%                

34%

Lot size                       

2%                  

2%

"There has been a steady decline in both the square footage and volume in home design in recent years," added Baker. "The preference instead seems to be for more flexible, open and informal layouts that allow for both ease movement and fostering a space more conducive to family living."

Outdoor living and landscaping trends        

2010                      

2009

Low maintenance landscaping                

63%                

67%

Outdoor living space  

56%                

60%

Rainwater catchment

55%                

n/a

Blended indoor / outdoor living                          

48%                

51%

Exterior / security lighting

33%                

33%

Outdoor amenities     

23%                

22%


Housing market business conditions

AIA Home Design Survey Index for Q1 2010 (any score above 50 is positive)

  • Billings: 50
  • Inquiries for new projects: 62

Baker continued, "These are the first encouraging signs in over two years that an economic recovery for the beleaguered housing market is near. The home improvement market, including both additions and structural alterations as well as remodeling projects, continues to be the healthiest sector of the market."

Specific residential segments (index score computed as % of respondents reporting improving minus % reporting weakening conditions)

  • Kitchen and bath remodeling: 41
  • Additions / alterations: 37
  • First-time buyer / affordable home market: -11
  • Move-up home market: -23
  • Custom / luxury home market: -27
  • Townhouse / condo market: -39
  • Second / vacation home market: -57

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