AIA: Homeowner preferences trending toward walkable, community-style developments

Dive Brief:

  • The American Institute of Architects has released the results of its third-quarter Home Design Trends Survey and found that design elements such as access to public transportation, multi-generational housing, walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use facilities dominate homeowner preferences. The AIA said this indicates homeowners are "increasingly favoring amenities and features that offer residents a sense of community."
  • The AIA also found that more homeowners are choosing simple, contemporary-style homes, with an increasing preference for features like low maintenance exterior materials (69%) and front and side porches (40%).
  • The AIA also reported strong business conditions, driven by the remodeling market, for residential architects and found that most residential construction segments and regions are performing well.  AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that the one weak spot is the market for investment-oriented second and vacation homes. But he added that the jump in first-time buyer demand and in the "move-up" market for existing homeowners is a good indication of health in the housing market.

Dive Insight:

Baker said the desire for walkable communities and other complementary amenities is no surprise.

"There has been a pronounced shift in driving habits over the last few years, with increasing numbers of people being far more interested walking and utilizing public transit options," Baker said. "With that is a desire for proximity to employment and commercial activities."

The AIA survey reinforces a national trend toward more community-oriented living.

According to a National Association of Realtors survey over the summer, walkable communities are growing in popularity among Americans of all ages, particularly among millennials. The NAR noted that 48% of respondents on a 2015 transportation survey said they preferred a smaller yard over a longer driving commute. 

Based on the results of the survey, the NAR suggested that if developers want to attract this demographic, they should consider building attached homes within walking distance of shops and restaurants and near public transportation.  

However, not to be left out, baby boomers are also increasingly seeking out more of a neighborhood feel as well. In fact, a Washington Post report found retiring baby boomers are downsizing and buying smaller homes in urban areas at twice the rate of millennials, in some cases crowding them out of the market.

Recommended Reading

AIA.org: Community Access Continues to Top Housing Preferences