Tex Flex: The Operative Word in 2020

With flex approaches in mind, COVID-19 has changed how homeowners and builders operate

By Joe Mandola

COVID-19 has changed the way America does business, but it has also altered the way Americans view and use their homes. Homebuilders have had to adapt to the former while seizing a silver lining in the latter.

After the initial shock of the shutdown from the pandemic, demand for homes in Houston has been better than expected. The Greater Houston Partnership called the housing sector “the brightest spot in real estate,” with housing starts in the metro area up 10.5% in the last six months compared to the same period a year ago, and existing sales remaining very strong. While job security remains a concern for some, the still very low interest rates are supporting the increased buyer demand.

Consumers are increasingly shifting away from the high density of in-town and multi-family living in favor of the increased space, modern design and in-home conveniences of single-family homes in master-planned communities. Stay-at-home is the safety routine of 2020, but more folks are choosing a new home first to better accommodate their modified lifestyle.

While there was already a growing demand for more modestly sized homes (e.g., 50’ and 60’ wide home sites) and more attainable price points prior to the pandemic, Trendmaker Homes has definitely seen an increase in consumer demand for those home types on smaller home sites in the past few months. However, we’ve also seen a strong continuation in new home sales of larger homes (units on 70’ wide and larger homesites), as many of these homes offer game rooms, media rooms or first-floor guest bedrooms with private baths, which is especially beneficial for those wanting a shared, multi-generational living environment for aging parents or relatives as a way to help with in- home child care or reduce the risk of exposure to illness outside the home.

Flex Marks the Spot

More people are doing more from home in this pandemic year, a trend that has driven the additional inclusion of “flex spaces” in residential design. Floor plans must be able to accommodate more activity, including having a room that can serve as a home office space or a classroom for families engaged in virtual learning.

COVID-19 has placed a new focus on open-concept plans. Homes with better flow and sight lines allow parents to multi-task more easily, monitoring their children’s schoolwork while working from home themselves. Built-in designs that allow an open-concept game room or loft space that can be turned into an area with multiple, fully wired workstations are of great value to consumers. In the Grayson Woods community in Katy, Texas, Trendmaker’s model home features an upstairs loft space with a large built-in desk area, popular with families in need of virtual learning space for children.

Additional wiring capabilities are important when a home must also serve as a school and office. Through HomeSmartÆ, part of the company’s LivingSmartÆ program, homeowners benefit from a Wi-Fi mesh network that helps eliminate “dead zones” in the home, making connectivity more accessible to everyone.

Remote Control & Convenience

The saying goes that only the strong survive, but it’s more appropriate now to say only the flexible will thrive. COVID-19 has brought major adversity, but builders and developers employing flexible, customer-driven approaches before and during the pandemic are leading the way to success in this new housing stage.

Flexibility is also very important in the home- buying process as people adhere to physical distancing protocols. Buyers desire the comfort and convenience of being able to get up-to-the- minute housing information, visualize home plans and view specific move-in ready homes virtually without having to step foot inside

the home, a convenient option for consumers regardless of whether or not we are in pandemic times. The value of convenience for home shoppers has combined with the concerns over COVID-19 to put even more emphasis on getting the customer experience right.

Recognizing their increased need to have housing information at their fingertips, Trendmaker — with the support and resources of parent company TRI Pointe Group — has added digital assets to the company website in an effort to create the best online customer experience possible. Strategically positioned for maximum visibility and accessibility, these visual assets and/or interactive tools include 3D elevation renderings, interactive floor plans, Matterport tours and video walkthroughs. Also, NterNow lockboxes on completed move-in-ready homes give consumers an opportunity to take a “self-service” and self-guided private tour at their preferred time.

Pandemic or not, buying a house is still one of the biggest and most important purchase decisions of one’s life. The more online convenience and options a consumer has, the better the home-shopping experience will be.

The saying goes that only the strong survive, but it’s more appropriate now to say only the flexible will thrive. COVID-19 has brought major adversity, but builders and developers employing flexible, customer-driven approaches before and during the pandemic are leading the way to success in this new housing stage.

Joe Mandola is president of Trendmaker Homes’ Houston Division. For more information, visit www.TrendmakerHomes.com.

Leave a Reply