Home Trends in 2017

  • Interest rates are rising. In 2017, payments and rates will, almost certainly, go up. The good news…credit is loosening and the current administration is pushing to remove regulation like Dodd Frank. I would hope the market we’ve been seeing for the last few years will continue.
  • Inventory of existing homes low and sales are healthy. In fact, some price ranges are remarkably low in inventory, especially in desirable neighborhoods. Are people holding homes after locking in an interest rate or are desirable locations more important than moving up or moving down? I’m not sure….but the result is a lower inventory as the price range drops. Smart builders are targeting the gaps in supply.
  • Building costs are going up. The change to the cost of labor, delay in labor and increase in cost of material all contributes to an increased cost to build. I think this may improve in 2017, as supply adjusts.
  • Prime sites are scarce. I’m noticing this on Amelia Island as my wife and I look for another homesite. Few lots are available and the few available lots are sometimes beyond reach. In lots without unusual frontage, like water or ocean, I try to keep the total land cost below 30% of the build. This can be difficult and other trends in lot size or construction seem to make it even more challenging in coastal areas.
  • Shrinking lot sizes are one trend I’ve noticed. As construction costs go up, the new construction is frequently in a very small footprint. I’m seeing lot sizes in the 1/8th acre or less range, with some lot sizes of 45’x80′ in new PUD development. This makes the design a challenge, but trends toward smaller, energy efficient homes, makes the size and unexpectedly easy sale. PUD development will reserve common preservation area or recreation areas for all residents, but usually sacrifice lot size or setback, as a consolation to the developer.
  • Formal space missing in design and I see this as a “chicken or egg” change. Smaller homes and increasing costs may drive design, but I prefer less formal space, ceiling height and light. Removing interior walls and changing the focus to truly practical space, means a smaller home feels or “LIVES” bigger.
  • Kitchens are bigger. I’ve got to find another word. Bigger, sizeable, huge….massive… Kitchen trends are definitely moving toward larger spaces, integrated with living area and with most including islands and seating. Live in the kitchen is the trend, not a separate room. Speaking of separate rooms, there is a definite increase in wine cellars, butler’s pantry or elaborate annexes to a kitchen space as homes move up in size. Think about catering or a second preparation area near the kitchen. Spaces under stairs for wine, cigar or wet-bars, instead of a traditional pantry make the most sense.
  • Tubs are out! One tub in a home is fine, but the expectation of a tub in the master bath is now an expectation of a premium shower, dual sinks and dual walk-in closets. No one uses Hollywood strips and mirrors should be custom, not wall-sized and behind a sink.
  • Energy efficiency is in. Efficient windows and doors are only one change. Insulation, HVAC systems, roofing, wrap and appliances are all more efficient. Buying a new home might cost a little more, but the savings in replacement and a utility bill really add up. Check to see if your area is serviced by the new gas lines. On demand water heaters are expected as price ranges climb.
  • Drive distance is more and less important. This trend toward life quality, instead of home size, seems to bode well for Amelia Island. I care about my time as much as I care about the home I buy or build. I think buyers are beginning to think about quality of life and considering the one thing we can’t replace….time.
  • Lifestyle makes a difference and I think most buyers are considering the variety of factors adding to a lifestyle, instead of looking for a box to sleep and eat. If you consider the changes and the time without much construction, the older and newer homes are remarkably different. Consider the way we live, social media’s education of consumers, the move toward efficiency and even advances in technology over the last 10 years. The crash around 2007 was 10 years ago now. Consider the changes and the recent health of the construction industry. This is, in my opinion, an exciting time to build and the furthest thing from a sideways move. Even moving from a similar price range and size, might net space, efficiency and an improved lifestyle. Consider building, before considering a simple more or refinance. There is, in my opinion, a reason new construction is booming.
  • Downsizing is a thing for everyone. I’ll revise that to say….”almost” everyone. My wife isn’t convinced, but I am doing what I can to convince here the square footage in a home we keep for the next 20 years is more important on the porch, not in the heated and cooled space. Downsizing is trending as buyers begin to live on porches and courtyards, but also as formal spaces are seen as unused or wasted.
  • Garages…..I’m confused. I’m really confused. In the last 30 years, a 2-car garage became almost expected. Now, we’re seeing tandem, single, triple and even, like a home I sold a few months ago, double 4-car garages. Garage space is a bit like the informal porch or outdoor areas replacing heated space. We’re using recreational vehicles more often and a bigger space to store toys is becoming more important. This trend is difficult, given the trend toward smaller lot size.

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