Survey Says: Future Buyers Rate Their Home Design Preferences

National Survey of the Changing Design of the Home

Survey results from Ashton Woods outline what design features future homebuyers want.

The all-white look in kitchens is out — again. Would-be homebuyers now prefer natural wood cabinets — again. That’s just one of the key findings in a poll of 1,400 people ages 27 to 70 who said they will dump their current homes within the next 10 years and purchase another, more modern one.

These people don’t want carpet, either, preferring hardwood flooring instead. And they balk at shower-tub combos in the master bedroom, giving them the boot in favor of either separate showers and tubs or a walk-in shower with no tub at all.

The survey (link:, conducted by Roswell, Georgia-based Ashton Woods, an independently owned national builder, discovered trends in home design preferences and priorities. 

“The survey’s goal was to identify clear trends in what homebuyers want in their next home in terms of layout, design, style, bonus rooms, materials and finishes, leading to surprising results in some areas,” a summary of the survey’s findings said.

Survey results from Ashton Woods outline what design features future homebuyers want.

Plenty of Options

Respondents didn’t seem to give a hoot about community amenities and specific brand options for materials and appliances. Most important to them, at 31 percent, was the builder’s customer satisfaction ratings, and second on the list, at 27 percent, was having a variety of personalization options when designing their new homes. 

Three out of every four survey participants said they are more likely to select a builder that offers design personalization options over one that does not, and two out of three said they’d be willing to pay more for a home with a builder that allows its buyers to personalize their choices. Respondents were not asked how much more they’d spend, however.

Future buyers also will be looking for builders that offer professional design services, and will want to select all of their materials, finishes, colors and so on in a single place as opposed to traveling to a different location for each choice.

Layout Likes and Dislikes

Only a fifth of the respondents would like to have fewer bedrooms next time around. For slightly more than a third, three bedrooms is ideal, but nearly half want more bedrooms than they now have. And as might be expected, the older the would-be buyer, the more bedrooms they want.

Two bathrooms is enough for a third of these future buyers, but more than half want more than two and more than what they currently have.

When participants were asked which areas of their homes they find frustrating, the responses covered just about every area. Kitchens bedeviled 46 percent while 32 percent were dissatisfied with the current master bath, and backyards came in at 30 percent, garages at 26 percent and secondary baths at 21 percent. And they were also less than satisfied with their formal dining rooms (15 percent) and basements (14 percent). Only 14 percent had no frustrations whatsoever with their current digs.

Survey results from Ashton Woods outline what design features future homebuyers want.

Kitchens Remain Supreme

The kitchen takes priority with future homebuyers, with nearly three out of four saying that they would spend whatever bucks are necessary in this key room — often called the modern-day focal point of a house — to turn it into something special.

More specifically, they want their kitchens to have a warmer look than the all-white look provides. So in a major turn from the current trend, white is on the way out and natural wood is coming back, as are darker countertops — but not with dark cabinets, which a third of respondents said would not work when partnered with dark countertops. 

Granite remains the top choice for countertops, followed by marble, quartz and laminate, in that order.

Other Key Preferences

In the master suite, size and location take precedence, but for the bedroom more than the bath or closet. Location in the floor plan is key, though exactly where was not asked. Respondents also prefer a walk-in shower and no bath (37 percent) or a separate bath and shower (36 percent) above a bath-shower combination (27 percent).

If there is extra square footage not already designated, future buyers want a dedicated laundry room (81 percent), home office (67 percent) or entertainment room (59 percent). A third would be willing to spend up to $10,000 extra for these or other types of rooms, but 24 percent wouldn’t shell out any more money if they were not included in the base price.

When it comes to architectural style, future buyers are all over the ballpark. Ranch, modern, traditional, farmhouse, craftsman and Mediterranean each garnered no more than a 13 percent rating. But Greek revival, Spanish, Tudor, midcentury modern, transitional, contemporary and Victorian were the least popular choices.

Inside, 27 percent are hoping for custom built-ins and 21 percent favor decorative ceilings. Other design elements participants said they would like include colored backsplashes, arched doorways, wallpaper, window boxes, antique light fixtures, wood patterned tile, window treatments and fully tiled bathrooms.

Lew Sichelman is a nationally syndicated housing and real estate columnist. He has covered the real estate beat for more than 50 years.

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