We met with a successful home builder in Richmond Va. last week to discuss the new normal for housing and what 2012 and beyond should bring. He raised an interesting point about the marketplace and the resulting movement. “As Americans, we feel under attack,” he said. “Collectively, all of us feel under attack and have for the last several years. Our bank account, our stock portfolios, our home values, our jobs, everything….is threatened at a level that we haven’t felt in 20+ years. It makes us uncomfortable and it makes us nervous.” He continued, “When people feel uneasy or uncertain, they tend to seek things that are solid and sure. We seek things that are authentic.”
What a great observation.
This was written in early 2012 after a meeting with a Richmond real estate lifer. I love to meet new people in our industry and Lloyd Poe of Lifestyle Builders and Developers has seen a lot is his 30+ years in the Richmond building business. He had some really good takes on the “new normal” in an idea meeting with our office.
As a homebuilder, the period from 2000-2007 was based on building homes that were flashy and trendy with all of the bells and whistles that no one truly NEEDED, but everyone WANTED. Homes were sold with every imaginable upgrade on lots that were expensive and small. Quality was trumped by quantity and what was outside the walls mattered more than what was inside them.
2008 fundamentally changed the buying public.
Things that feel ‘authentic’ to us are usually things that are in our past and remind of times that were simpler and somehow better. Home designs that are based on simplicity and quality are back in vogue. The ‘Craftsman-Styled’ homes of the 1930-1940’s are re-emerging in popularity. Bungalows and ‘Four-Squares’ of the same era are also becoming increasingly popular as they also represent a very authentic period in America’s history.
These authentic plans with traditional elevations are also being built with a higher level of materials than what was deemed ‘acceptable’ during the bubble period ending in 2007. Vinyl is being pushed to the side and stronger exterior materials are being used. Larger windows, true wood flooring and better trim packages are also becoming the norm. The standard ‘builder-grade’ appliance package is another place where the public has demanded more. “Professional Series’ is the new standard.
Additionally, responsible building practices (EarthCraft/LEED) are quickly becoming both better understood and increasingly demanded by the buyers. For reasons that are economic (lower utility bills and increased builder education) or socially responsible (low VOC paints and responsibly harvested woods), the buyers (and the appraisers) are recognizing that a small investment in GREEN practices pays off in a justifiable time frame. As GREEN building moves from ‘expense’ to ‘investment,’ it will become more and more prevalent.
Building sustainable homes with simple and timeless designs is a good thing and it is too bad we had to endure 2008-2010 to figure this out.