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During the 2024 International Builders’ Show, NAHB’s Rose Quint with architect Donald Ruthroff presented new research and design trends home builders should be aware of for this year and beyond.

Of the most notable, better designed homes are replacing bigger ones. The average size of a new home continues to inch smaller, dropping from 2,479 square feet in 2022 to 2,411 square feet in 2023, the smallest average size in 13 years.

“It’s related to two factors that are linked,” says Quint. “First, we’ve seen changes in home buyer preferences. Second, housing affordability has worsened in recent years.”

According to NAHB data, builders are acting on the trend, with 38% indicating they built smaller homes in 2023 to help support home sales and 26% indicating they plan to build even smaller in 2024.

In addition to their preferences on size, home buyers are also shifting their overall design preferences, placing higher value on personalization and authenticity.

“Our homeowners are looking to personalize their homes,” says Ruthroff. “They want it to feel like it was made just for them and be significantly different than their neighbors’ homes.”

To learn what’s important to today’s buyers, the NAHB conducted its What Home Buyers Really Want (2024 edition) survey. Home features that remain at the top of buyers’ wish lists include laundry rooms (86%), patios (86%), Energy Star windows (83%), exterior lighting (82%), ceiling fans (81%), garage storage (81%), front porches (81%), and hardwood flooring (81%).

Technology features are also becoming increasingly popular, with security cameras, wired home security systems, programmable thermostats, video doorbells, multi-zone HVAC systems, and energy management systems gaining significant popularity in the last decade.

Other home features that have seen growth over the past 10 years include quartz or engineered stone for kitchen countertops (67%), lighting control systems (63%), outdoor fireplaces (59%), outdoor kitchens (55%), built-in kitchen seating (53%), and exposed beams (51%).

Outside of their homes, the ideal community offers convenience, walkability, and suburban feel. Seventy percent of buyers look for nearby retail space, 66% want park areas, and 66% also desire walking/jogging trails.

Beyond the data and research, Ruthroff also identified eight design trends he witnessed from the Best in American Living Awards, NAHB’s residential design awards program. Check out his conclusions below.

  1. Better replaces bigger
  2. Bespoke replaces ready-made
  3. Midcentury replaces farmhouse
  4. Softness replaces hardness
  5. Traditional replaces contemporary
  6. Attached living replaces detached
  7. Outdoor living replaces indoor
  8. Community replaces neighborhood