Staying Put Longer
In the 1980s, the average first-time home buyer remained in his or her home for five years, says Jessica Lautz, director of demographics and behavioral insight for the National Association of Realtors. Today, first-time home buyers plan to stay put for an average of 10 years and repeat buyers for an average of 15 years. The typical tenure to own is 10 years.
Many envision being in their home even longer—and these extended timeframes are driving architectural details.
For example, Portland, Ore.-based architect Erich Karp, AIA, principal of Cella Architecture, says even clients in their 40s are planning for the distant future. He’s helped them create storage areas or butler’s pantries that are framed out and can easily be converted into elevators if the desire or need arises for alternative access to upper-level floors as the occupants age.
Thinking long term means homeowners feel freer to create customized spaces that suit them.
“Across the board, people are looking for casual spaces that are more tailored to their lifestyles,” says Bob Zuber, AIA, a principal with Morgante Wilson Architects, a firm serving the greater Chicago area.
Homeowners of all ages are shunning a one-size-fits-all room approach in favor of personalization: specialized media rooms for video gamers, libraries for avid readers, and even “Starbucks rooms”—cozy areas with plush furniture perfect for enjoying a cappuccino.
In Kansas City, Rick McDermott, AIA, principal of RDM Architecture, has designed several homes for dog lovers with dedicated pet bathing and feeding areas, as well as specialized dog entrances.
Low-Maintenance and Casual
Research shows that Millennials, who value experiences above all else, don’t want to spend their free time on home maintenance and repair. But neither do Gen Xers, who are busy raising families, or Baby Boomers, who are looking to enjoy a carefree phase of life.
Accordingly, McDermott is seeing clients opt for yards with low-maintenance and native plants. They are also seeking building materials that stand up over time and don’t require spending weekends repainting or staining—again.
Alan Miller, innovation manager for James Hardie, a leading manufacturer of fiber cement siding, trim and backerboard, says the company is responding by introducing even more choices in its line of durable, low-maintenance materials. The Aspyre Collection, provides additional design choices in styles from traditional to modern, appealing to people of all generations.
Connecting the Outdoors
Another bit of common ground: Embracing the outdoors with dedicated grilling areas and expansive patios, as well as oversized windows and doors for the views.
In Chicago, interior, private courtyards are appealing to clients of all generations, says Liz Hayes, principal of Hayes Architecture + Design. And in Portland, where the weather is milder, several of Karp’s recent projects have included 12- or 14-foot bi-fold doors that allow entire rooms to be opened to the exterior.
“It comes from a universal desire to expand the functional living area of a house,” Karp explains.
Younger homeowners love smart home technology, but they aren’t the only ones. Many of his Baby Boomer clients are also very open to home innovation, Zuber says.
“If there’s a button they can press and the shades go down, they are all for it,” he says.
The reason, he adds, might be that today’s smart home technology is simpler and easier to use than ever before.
“It’s not like the flashing time on the VCR that you could never figure out.”