6 Hot Home Design Trends Shaping Top National Builders’ Features

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    September 21, 2022

6 Hot Home Design Trends Shaping Top National Builders’ Features



Industry Trends Marketing Insights

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic spurred sweeping changes to how homeowners think about their homes — and the features and benefits they expect in a new home. If you’re responsible for marketing to builders, it’s critical to understand how your brand can play to homeowners’ needs and wants.

So, those of us at Wray Ward wondered, how are the top 10 national builders responding to revolutionary changes regarding homeowner desires?

To find the answers, we conducted a small but compelling study, analyzing builder websites and social media profiles to determine which features they offer and which home trends play the most prominent roles in their messaging. In particular, we examined recurring themes such as:

  1. Smart-home technology

  2. Energy efficiency

  3. Sustainability

  4. Healthy homes

  5. Work-from-home considerations

  6. Biophilic design

We uncovered high-level insights about these six hot home design trends, shedding some light on how leading homebuilders are meeting homebuyers where they are. While our results merely scratch the surface of a complex (and still evolving) topic, we hope they help you think about your brand’s role in the homes of today … and tomorrow.

1. Smart homes

Early on, it became clear to us that smart-home technology is top of mind for America’s top builders: Eight of the 10 builders we examined lead with smart-home messaging.

When the smart-home market first entered the scene, it mainly consisted of programmable thermostats and doorbells. Nearly a decade later, smart-home technology is decidedly mainstream. Today, the same homeowners who may have once thought of these highly tangible features and benefits as unattainable don’t simply want them — they expect them.

According to a December 2021 Home Innovation Research Labs poll, “Many builders said they had been caught off-guard by the expansion of home tech and were scrambling to keep up with the expectations of a new wave of tech-savvy buyers.” Now, some of those same builders are making fully automated smart homes the standard rather than the exception. Their buyers, in turn, can control their thermostats and doorbells but also their lights, appliances, garage door, door locks and more with the simple tap of a button on their smartphone or even via voice commands.

KB Home touts its commitment to building smarter homes, defining smart technology as “a way to enjoy a higher quality of life with more convenience, energy savings, security and well-being.”

Despite many builders’ significant focus on smart-home solutions, it’s important to note that those marketing their homes as “affordable” often have to make tradeoffs in order to control construction costs. For some builders, this may mean downgraded materials and smaller spaces; for others, it may mean less advanced technology comes standard. On the other hand, it may simply mean the builder does not include smart-home features in the basic package, yet they may offer them as an upgrade. This route helps control base pricing while providing the option for more.

2. Energy efficiency

Like smart-home features, energy efficiency is an important theme for eight of the top 10 national builders. While always attractive, energy-efficient measures became more critical — and more rapidly adopted — in lockstep with skyrocketing energy prices over the past year. The benefits of energy efficiency, which saves money and helps the planet, are also easily understood by consumers.

New Home Trends Institute researchers note that energy efficiency is a top consideration. According to NHTI’s recent Future of Home Design Insights report, “Energy efficiency drives home design choices more than entertaining or privacy.” Furthermore, “Most architectural designers are already implementing building envelope solutions, mechanical system optimization, and solar panels.”

3. Sustainability

    Five of the builders we analyzed devote content and other resources to sustainable homebuilding practices.

    For example, some tout Energy Star–certified ratings or awards and recognition from agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and Environments for Living. Several builders mention continuous efforts to “improve upon their environmental stewardship” or describe how they utilize renewable resources to reduce their carbon footprint.

    However, these builders don’t promote their green initiatives as often or as predominantly as some might expect — and frankly, I’m not surprised. After all, sustainability is not easily understood, and it can be challenging to measure the benefits. According to Allie Martin, manager of design trends for John Burns Real Estate Consulting, consumers won’t really know the true value of sustainable homes unless their builder takes the time to educate them better.

    “In the homebuilding world, energy efficiency and air quality are the biggest drivers for a healthy and sustainable home,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, many consumers lack the understanding and education behind the various certifications and standards for a healthy home.

    “There is a learning curve. It’s the homebuilder’s job to make the ‘why’ easy to understand and also make it memorable with a compelling message that buyers resonate with.”

    The NHTI study referenced above also explores sustainability and its place in the market today. According to the results, designers don’t believe sustainability is enough of a consumer priority to drive design choices — yet. But the study also found that 46% of architectural designers are researching sustainable, carbon-neutral designs in homes.

    Is sustainable design still in the early stages? Yes. But it’s an intriguing consideration, and we’ll continue to track its development.

    4. Healthy home

    Four of the builders we reviewed focus on healthy home features such as enhanced indoor air quality and water quality, a direct result of their decision to use better construction materials (that may contain fewer potentially harmful chemicals).

    For example, Taylor Morrison designed its suite of solutions, dubbed TM LiveWell™ designs, to appeal to homeowners who are concerned about health risks inside their homes. “You spend most of your time at home,” they say on their website. “Isn’t it time the air you breathe and the water you drink are as clean and pure as possible?”

    In terms of indoor air quality, builders are incorporating higher-quality filtration and HVAC systems, helping minimize harmful particles such as dust, dirt and mold. As for water quality, these same builders are taking measures to protect homes’ water supply from contaminants and are installing touchless faucets to help stop the spread of germs.

    Builders conscious of healthy home features promote their use of higher-quality materials with fewer chemicals during construction. They largely focus on materials, particularly paint, with low-to-zero volatile organic compounds. These low-VOC materials are made to reduce indoor air pollution and lower occupants’ risk of chemical exposure.

    5. Work from home

      I found it interesting that of the 10 builders we researched, only two promote work-from-home features or design in their content. One would assume that the meteoric rise of virtual work and home offices would have had a greater influence on builders and new home construction. But perhaps many builders are relying on smart-home messaging to convey work-from-home design.

      The two builders who do promote work-from-home features detail their home office offerings, highlighting the benefits of these features and even sharing helpful advice about how to transform new home offices into more productive environments.

      Here, the availability of and access to high-speed internet throughout the home, including the home office, is a predominant selling point. Whether it’s through hardwired internet ports or an enhanced signal around the house, this seems to be a sticking point for homebuyers. I think we’ve all been on enough glitchy virtual meetings to understand why this is so important.

      Ironically, our limited findings regarding work-from-home features don’t match the sentiments of the 47 homebuilders and designers surveyed by Fixr.com earlier this year. According to their data, 96% of experts believed home offices were the most important interior space. While these findings initially seem contradictory, we’re curious to see if this anomaly corrects itself as we look deeper into the list of the top 100 moving forward.

      6. Biophilic design

        While biophilic design is top of mind for many designers, it isn’t a driving factor outside the industry. Like sustainability, the concept of biophilic design isn’t easily understood and is even less familiar.

        While many builders may be discussing biophilic design internally and even incorporating elements of it into their homes, they aren’t using the term widely in marketing. Instead, they’re talking about outdoor spaces as well as the practicality of bringing the outdoors in.

        No matter what you call it, it’s clear that these principles are becoming more popular. According to the Fixr.com survey:

        • Ninety-two percent of experts say outdoor areas are “very important” or “important” to homeowners.

        • Second to outdoor spaces, natural light is a priority for people who are spending more time at home.

        What’s next?

        While just a start, I hope these insights help inform your work in marketing to builders. I expect the themes discussed here to influence homebuilding even more in 2023. How will your brand position its products or services to help lead the charge?

        Explore more articles from Wray Ward.