The pandemic has triggered new expectations for homeowners
By Joe Mandola
‘New and improved’ is quite the commonplace phrase in the world of advertising. In this pandemic era it carries a new, special meaning with regard to the most special, uncommon places: our homes. COVID-19 has altered the way Americans view and use their homes. As a result, homebuilders have had to adapt by offering innovative digital tools and options, increased communication, a focus on premium customer service and flexible approaches to meet these new expectations.
A lot of homebuyers today want more from a home. Many are still 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. The stay-at-home schedule may have given way to a resumption of in-person classes and a hybrid work schedule, but customers still are choosing a new home with the space and flexibility to better accommodate their modified lifestyle.
The evidence can be seen in the healthy housing demand. Just look at one of the hotter markets in the nation and consider Houston, where home sales in the $500,000 to $1 million price range are leading the way.
Spurred in part by rising material costs, labor shortages and supply chain issues, and compounded by a shortage of new home options, the median sales price for a single-family home jumped 19.4% from the start of 2021 through November.
Even with those challenges, the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) reported sales of 106,618 single-family homes during the 12 months ending in November 2021, up 13.1% from the same period in 2020. Gains like this have been seen in markets all over the United States, with no clear end in sight.
People are continuing to do more from home, a trend that translates to demand for bigger or more flexible spaces. While there was already a growing demand for more modestly sized homes (45’, 50’ and 60’ wide homesites) and more attainable price points prior to the pandemic, Tri Pointe Homes continues to see strong interest in new home sales of larger homes (70’ and 80’ plus wide homesites).
“Flex spaces” in residential design translate into floor plans that are able to accommodate more activity or offer a room that can serve as a home office space, gym or classroom for families engaged in virtual learning. Many customers desire homes that 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.
With families, we are seeing a growing emphasis on open concept plans so that homes offer better flow and sight lines allowing parents to multitask more easily.
Capacity and Convenience
While supply chain management remains a challenge today, low interest rates are still helping to fuel housing demand, calling for flexibility in home designs and the homebuying process. This is where exceptional customer service is essential, especially given all the challenges due to Covid.
With an ongoing desire to have information at their fingertips, we provide homebuyers with a number of digital assets in an effort to create the best online customer experience possible. These online tools – 3D elevation renderings, interactive floor plans, virtual tours and video walk-throughs – let buyers easily visualize home plans they might choose to build and/or view specific move-in ready homes virtually without actually having to step foot inside the home.
When Americans were forced to give up control and give in to restrictions — school, work, sports, dining, travel and more — they reacted by demanding greater possibilities in their homes. Their base of comfort, convenience and operations is both new and improved and bigger and better. We expect these trends to persist, even after the pandemic is behind us.
Joe Mandola is the Division President of Tri Pointe Homes Houston. For more information, visit www.TriPointeHomes.com.