What are Buyers Really Choosing for Their New Homes?

Builder Practices Survey Reveals Realistic View of Home Features and Options; Granite’s Gone and Luxury Vinyl Tile is In

This kitchen has white, flat-panel cabinets, along with an electric stove.

Kitchens with white cabinets and with flat panels are popular features in new homes.

While interior designers reveal cutting-edge trends in home features and finishes, builders must choose the standard features and the options they offer based on their understanding of buyer desires.

These design trends reflect a realistic view of their market and their price range.

“One of the biggest changes is in the kitchen, where the number of builders that install quartz counters has more than doubled in size every year for the past few years,” says Ed Hudson, director of the Market Research Division of the Home Innovations Research Labs, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders in Upper Marlboro, Md. “Right now, granite is still installed about half the time, but eventually quartz will take over entirely.”

The 2017 Builder Practices Survey by the Home Innovations Research Labs asked 1,500 builders about their choices.

“The next new thing in home finishes and fixtures starts in luxury homes, but sometimes we also see style leadership coming from multifamily [apartment] finishes,” says Hudson. “For example, the modern European-style kitchens in luxury apartments are starting to be offered in single-family homes, too.”

Purely custom-designed homes, currently representing about 25 percent rather than the normal 20 percent of all newly built homes, also influence interior design trends, says Hudson.

You’ll Be Seeing These Kitchen Trends More and More

More than half of kitchens have raised-panel cabinets, while most of the rest have flat-panel, Shaker-style cabinets, says Hudson. Modern, frameless European-style cabinets are just starting to appear in single-family homes.

“Most of our kitchens feature white cabinets,” says Heather Martin, design studio manager of Fielding Homes in Charlotte, N.C. “Almost none of them have raised-panel cabinets. Everyone wants very clean straight lines, so we’re seeing more Craftsman-like cabinets with recessed panels.”

About 50 to 60 percent of buyers mix their cabinets, with white cabinets on the perimeter and then a dark espresso or gray cabinet base for the island, says Martin.

Megan Harris, director of design at Edward Andrews Homes in Atlanta, says white-painted cabinets are far more popular than stained wood cabinets among their buyers, too.

“Two-thirds of builders say they install wood finish cabinets, with the other one-third painted,” says Hudson. “However, about 40 percent of luxury-priced homes have painted or non-wood finishes, so we anticipate that trend will mature and spread further into more moderately priced single-family homes.”

Laminate, tile and Corian counters have essentially disappeared from kitchens over the past 20 years, says Hudson.

Harris says buyers want a clean look, with a white-and-gray palette, so they like quartz counters better. “They think granite has too much pattern and is too busy,” she says.

In addition, buyers today do their research and know that quartz is more durable and stain-resistant than marble. “We do almost 100-percent quartz counters with a Carrara marble or subway tile backsplash,” says Martin.

Hardwood Flooring Will Dominate Flooring Options

Harris says hardwood flooring is standard on the main level in all of Edward Andrews’ townhouses and single-family homes, with most buyers opting to install it throughout the house. The exception is that some young families prefer carpet in their children’s bedrooms so it’s softer for playing on the floor.

Hardwood flooring dominates in all new homes, with the biggest jump in the kitchen, where 45 percent of builders are installing wood floors, says Hudson.

“We’re seeing real growth over the past decade in engineered hardwood, which is pre-finished wood flooring that is easier to install,” says Hudson. “Ten years ago, only 1 percent of builders were using it, now it’s 21 percent.”

Martin says that buyers are moving away from distressed wood finishes to matte finished, wider wood planks.

Vinyl flooring and laminate flooring have dropped in popularity, although “luxury vinyl” is becoming trendy. So far though, Hudson says only 3 percent of builders are installing luxury vinyl flooring.

Luxury vinyl planks have digital imagery printed on them so they look just like hardwood flooring, says Harris. She says it’s a more affordable option than hardwood and makes it easier to install wider planks without buckling. Since they are waterproof, they’re especially popular on the lower level.

“Millennials in particular are choosing luxury vinyl planks for the whole house, especially in our in-town homes,” says Harris.

Martin, too, says buyers like luxury vinyl planks for their durability and affordability, especially in kitchens and basements and sometimes throughout the house.

Martin says buyers want hardwood in the bedrooms, but budget constraints often mean they install carpet since its more affordable.

Carpet has dropped from being installed in 60 percent of new homes to 40 percent, says Hudson.

Faucets and Fixtures and Bathroom Features

The Home Innovations Survey found, for the first time in the history of the survey, that nickel-finished faucets were the most popular in kitchens and is becoming more popular in bathrooms, too, coming in at a close second to chrome. Harris says matte black and gunmetal drawer pulls are appearing in kitchens.

In master bathrooms, buyers want a large shower and no tub or a freestanding tub. Traditional tubs are out.

“We haven’t installed one whirlpool tub in the past year,” says Martin. “We used to offer an air bath but no one wanted it, so we don’t even install those anymore. We offer freestanding tubs, but it’s not always in the budget for people.”

To find out what’s on the horizon for new homes, tour a high-end home or a luxury apartment. Visit NewHomeSource to find your favorite new-home community and your dream home.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades. You can find her on Google+.

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