Impediments to higher housing starts-Designs which reflect lifestyle

Meeting last week with some long time friends, they confessed to me they are just feeling “done” with their current home.  It is a fairly common story- their kids have for the most part moved on, and the house does not effectively reflect their current lifestyle, and their projected lifestyle.  Rather than being relegated to the current home with inadequate storage space (and seemingly able to compound clutter faster than a young family of rabbits in a meadow can multiply) this couple is intent on learning all they can about what is currently available, and what items make sense for their situation.  Both husband and wife have seen first hand some of the effects of aging parents, and finding their parents could no longer stay in their own homes due to the physical constraints of homes built in the 1960s or 1970s.  Stairs, hallways, and doorways came to mind easily, as items to proactively adjust or work around in order for the forever home to allow for aging in place.  To that end, I explained how currently, we design for nearly all our homes to allow for an elevator (which we call elevator-ready design) to be installed initially, or at some point in the future, when it becomes prudent, either by convenience or necessity.  Wider hallways, stairways, and doorways can be designed to allow for canes, walkers, caregivers lending a stabilizing hand, and even wheelchairs.  We have always installed our light switches lower (now standard ADA height (thanks, dad!)) to allow for independence in illuminating rooms by those challenged by out of reach switches for whatever reason.  What then, should help create a higher number of transactions?

That brings me to one of the points of this blog post.  Of course we need an economy to support both earnings and expenditures to allow for money to be allocated to housing.  A rising population is helpful.  Borrowing costs need to be low or reasonably affordable, which they are by historical standards for most of our society who rely upon credit.  But the homes we build today need to provide enough of a solution to a current predicament to compel someone to purchase.  Geography, commute, price point, and community benefits are all super obvious issues which concern the buying public.  One more needs to be considered:  mindful design. Yep!  We need to design our homes today with the proper amount of space in the right areas to initially invite people to be in the space, but to also feel comfortable in remaining there.  We are mostly social creatures, and we are blessed in our country to have homes that are well beyond mere shelter.  Our homes should allow for aging in place with features that can serve us from cradle to grave.  We are finding clients who do not need the vast amount of space they thought they needed a dozen years ago.  They do want the home to reflect their lifestyle.  Builders are constrained by high costs for land, fees, infrastructure costs, and code requirements, so being creative and allowing consumers to dictate their own features and allocate space as they need will make a big difference.  I suggest having a conversation with an expert or two on how your home can be modified or what might be available to build something to accommodate you and your family’s needs going forward.

In order for the housing data to show improvement, people need to have options and opportunities.  Believe me, builders would love to provide both.  However, people will not be willing to offer their existing home for sale, if they feel squeezed by not having a place to go which will somehow make their lives better (better space, lower cost, better commute, improved schools, etc.).  Get together with your family, and think about what your ideal home would have in the future, and how that would impact your lives.  Give us a call or send us your list.  I would love to hear from you.