The American Dream used to include a house with a white picket fence. And then, at some point, expectations grew larger and more grandiose (perhaps coinciding with Dallas, and Dynasty, two wildly popular prime time TV soap operas with the wealthy, sprawling settings). Opendoor’s report reveals that consumers are moving away from such opulent homes in favor of something more streamlined. A report by Opendoor reveals that consumers are moving away from such opulent homes in favor of something more streamlined.
According to the survey, 60% of respondents say they have changed their definition of a dream home:
52% want a smaller home
81% want a simpler style/design
57% say the top priority is a quiet and secluded location
67% would move to a quieter place
61% would move to a smaller space
Maureen McDermut, realtor at Sotheby’s International-Santa Barbara, isn’t surprised by the findings. “Overall, I have had more buyers express that they want to find homes that are further away from urban or suburban settings, with many wanting smaller homes in general,” she says.
Opendoor refers to this as “simple-sizing,” or a less-is-more approach to where and how Americans live. 87% of respondents to the survey rated living a simple lifestyle as important. 66% have taken steps in the last year to make it a reality. In addition, 75% said they were willing to downsize, and 79% planned to actually downsize in the next 12 months.
So, what’s fueling this trend toward smaller homes? Brett Ringelheim is a licensed real estate agent at Compass, in New York, NY. He says that he works with homebuyers looking for smaller houses. He says that although a large, beautiful home is a wonderful thing to have, the cost and upkeep can be a major issue after moving in. “Having a large beautiful home is always something special to have, but after moving in, the amount of upkeep for the property and the cost can be drastic.”
In fact, the OpenDoor survey also found that Americans want to declutter, reduce personal spending, focus on what’s needed now, and prioritize self-care.
And according to
DeLisa Dawkins, realtor with Realty ONE Group Freedom in Greenville, SC, it’s a multi-generational trend. She believes that the current generation wants to buy a smaller or mid-sized home regardless of price. The current generation of homebuyers wants a small or midsize house, regardless of the price. McDermut says that buyers are also considering the environmental impact and energy costs. In fact, she believes the cost of the home itself isn’t as much of a factor as these other considerations.Also, a smaller home may offer other, more important amenities. Greg Forest, a senior global real estate adviser at Sotheby’s International Realty, Palm Beach, FL, says that exterior space has become just as important as the interior, leading to greater relaxation in the home when entertaining or working. And he says smaller homes with larger yards can provide the type of well-rounded living experience that many people are craving.
In addition to a smaller home, buyers and homeowners have a desire for simplicity when purchasing a home. “ We age in our homes, so the comfort and convenience of a space is critical when we know we’ll often be in it for the long-haul,” says Opendoor broker Jennifer Patchen. “As a result, buyers are looking to not only find a home that helps them prioritize their health from a future-planning perspective, but also encourages healthy habits in the near-term.”
In terms of neighborhoods, Patchen says buyers are looking for easy access to outdoor recreation like parks, bodies of water, and bike lanes.
Also, those COVID-19 lockdowns may have contributed to the current mindset. Patchen says that “our homes have become our everything: Our gyms, offices, restaurants, and movie theaters.” “The focus shifted to reducing the size of the home and creating space with multiple uses that increase functionality while eliminating less-used space,” explains Kristina ODonnell,
associate broker and realtor at Realty ONE in Collegeville, PA. “An open floor plan encourages togetherness with an easy flow for entertaining and being able to keep an eye on the kids while in the kitchen or working from home.” In addition, a smaller home requires less time and effort to clean, which results in more time for enjoyable activities.There’s also another reason why simplicity is back in style. Forest says that simplicity is the new luxury. “Simple designs are increasingly seen as luxurious because they often focus on quality over quantity, they prioritize function, and enable homeowners to create spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and personally meaningful.”
Quiet, Remote Locations
The rise of remote work may have also spurred the rise of remote living. People are no longer restricted to living in cities or places with “reasonable commute times” because they can work from anywhere. So, the question becomes, ‘If you can live anywhere, where do you want to live?’
And for first-time homebuyers who were previously living in cramped apartments during COVID-19, the desire for privacy and solitude could be especially strong. “While cities and even some suburbs offer amenities, many homebuyers are more focused on solitude and space,” says McDermut. “A home should provide a retreat from the world, and many buyers are looking for that in their home’s location.”
This view is shared by Forest, who also notes that people are craving privacy. Living further away from the city means less traffic, which leads to a more peaceful, quieter environment. Forest also points out that homeschooling is a factor. “With less noise and distractions, children can concentrate better, and there is often more space for outdoor learning activities, providing a well-balanced education experience.”