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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of key trends, including the average size of homes and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, reversed course in 2020, according to data presented in an education session during the National Association of Home Builders’ virtual 2021 International Builders’ Show.

NAHB asked recent and prospective home buyers how COVID-19 may have impacted their housing preferences. Although the majority, or 67%, did not feel the pandemic had an impact, a quarter did feel their preferences had changed because of COVID-19, with households that have at least one teleworker and one virtual student being the most likely to feel an impact.

The average size home remained flat at 2,486 square feet, while the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms and three or more bathrooms rose to 46% and 33%, respectively.

"The primary reason is that COVID-19 has led a segment of home buyers to desire larger homes and to move out to the suburbs," says Rose Quint, NAHB assistant vice president of survey research.

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," says Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning. "Open spaces are better defined, and spaces are flexible."

New homes are gaining popularity as well, with 60% of buyers preferring new. Quint attributes this increased interest in new homes to three key factors.

"One is the absolute lack of existing home inventory," says 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."

NAHB also examined preferences among buyers to help builders determine what features are most desired in the market in 2021. The top features include:

  • Laundry rooms
  • Exterior lighting
  • Ceiling fans
  • Energy Star windows and appliances
  • Patios and front porches
  • Kitchen double sinks
  • Walk-in pantries

Outdoor spaces, such as patios and front porches, allow homeowners to utilize more space, Ruthroff adds, with the connection between indoors and outdoors continuing to become more seamless. Builders at every value level should consider how to integrate such connections into their homes and incorporate detailing that helps to dress up these spaces.