Some key trends that had been declining for four years—including the average size of the home and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms—reversed course in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19, which prompted a shift in buyer preferences, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports. The average size home remained at 2,486 square feet, but the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms and three or more bathrooms rose to 46 percent and 33 percent, respectively, putting those numbers closer to 2015 peaks.

“The primary reason is that COVID-19 has led a segment of homebuyers to desire larger homes and to move out to the suburbs,” said Rose Quint, NAHB assistant vice president of survey research, at a press conference held during the NAHB International Builders’ Show virtual experience (IBSx).

An increased number of rooms within the same footprint means homeowners are becoming more creative in how they use the space within their homes, and using features such as windows to help make these spaces feel larger.

“The space works harder rather than larger,” said Donald Ruthroff, AIA, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. “Open spaces are better defined, and spaces are flexible.”

New homes are gaining popularity as well, with 60 percent of buyers preferring new homes-the highest level since 2007. Quint attributes this increased interest in new homes to three key factors.

“One is the absolute lack of existing home inventory,” said Quint. “Two is buyers are concerned about touring other people’s homes. And last but not least, new homes are more likely to be located where buyers want to live.”

She noted that outlying suburbs are the most popular geographic location, driven by increased interest among minority homebuyers.

Among the preferences the NAHB found would sway buyers was ENERGY STAR windows and appliances. NAHB also asked recent and prospective home buyers how COVID-19 may have impacted their housing preferences. Although 67% did not feel the pandemic had an impact, a quarter did feel their preferences had changed because of COVID-19, with households with at least one teleworker and one virtual student being the most likely to feel an impact and most likely to desire a larger home.

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