Home builders

Homebuilders meet demand for home offices and outdoor retreats in post-pandemic era

1312 Cedar Hill Avenue

It’s been two years since the COVID-19 pandemic blinded Americans, prompting us to self-quarantine, wear masks and do the dreaded dance of social distancing.

Now that businesses have long since reopened and kids are back in school, home is no longer just a place to sleep after a hard day’s work. Adults are there all day now in some cases, and that dictates what they are looking for in a home.

While builders and designers say the changes are so minimal, owners’ preferences over the past two years have clearly changed.

Change space

Heaven Porteous, design director and co-creator of Avant Group, a favorite Candy’s Dirt builder, says the changes are subtle.

Sky Porteous

“Nothing has changed drastically,” Porteous said. “Bigger homes have become a bit more desirable. We don’t necessarily see this as a direct result of COVID. Two or three years ago, people came to us and asked, “Can you reduce it? We haven’t heard that since. We are now hearing from people who want five bedrooms, dedicated office space and a flexible room that could be used as a bedroom or office. We always have, but now it’s not negotiable.

Many families also want an enclosed playroom or play area for the kids – and they want it somewhere very separate from the office space.

“We used to have a lot of open playrooms with no doors or walls,” Porteous said. “It is no longer desirable.”

David Goettsche, founder of Desco Fine Homes, said the changes he has seen in home building over the past two years have been minimal. From a design perspective, buyers still want open floor plans, large kitchens and movie theaters, but the bottom line has changed.

“The costs are higher than everyone expects,” he said.

A survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders revealed that millennials have changed their housing preferences due to the pandemic.

“More than a third (36%) of Millennials are now in favor of a bigger home and more builders are responding to this trend,” the survey says.

However, larger homes are more expensive and high interest rates will make a mortgage even harder to pay, the NAHB report points out.

cool for summer

It’s also become non-negotiable to have plenty of outdoor entertaining space, Porteous said.

“The biggest change we’ve seen after COVID is people wanting pools or outdoor spaces,” Porteous said. “It’s probably the No. 1 request in the last two years. Pool prices are rising. Demand fuels this.

Many homeowners are now requesting a guest house or casita detached from the main house for passing guests.

“[COVID] probably made our appreciation for entertainment — having guests, family and friends, hosting dinner parties — even greater,” she said. “We never know what we’re missing until it’s gone.”

More trends

As houses have become larger, more light is needed. Transitional-style homes that bring the outdoors inside are something homeowners appreciate, Porteous said.

“Now, more than ever, you want the ability to bring the outdoors in,” she said. “It’s always something I like to focus on – an open floor plan with lots of light.”

An open kitchen with a huge island and plenty of seating has been all the rage for years, along with an informal dining space, she added.

“People are now thinking about the landscape early in the process,” she said. “Before, it was an afterthought.”

Avant Group homes — typically purchased by young families and empty-nesters — cost between about $240 per square foot and $305 per square foot, depending on the level of customization.

The recent customized version of 4302, boul. bluffview shows what new buyers are looking for.

“It’s a really cool modern C-shaped house with the pool in the backyard, so it connects directly to the living room and kitchen, directly to the casita, and directly to the master bedroom,” Porteous said. “It’s a really nice and cool floor plan.”

You better work

Equipping a home with an office is nothing new for Avant, which has been in business since 2015.

“We’ve always focused on smart home technology and functionality,” Porteous said. “We have customers who are software engineers or who work remotely for doctors. We need to make sure they have the hard lines they need for data processing. They are very particular about where things are. We do it until the very last take. We go through the whole house, when it’s still just sticks, and mark everything above and beyond. [The clients] also bring a marker.

6840 Walnut Hill Street

Builders now need to think about which rooms have the best lighting for someone spending all day on Zoom meetings, Porteous added.

Millennials and Generation X are demanding home offices, according to the NAHB study, which means new construction square footage will continue to grow.

“The home building industry expects to see home sizes continue to increase due to a shift in consumer preferences as more activities take place in the home environment. post-pandemic,” NAHB President Jerry Konter said in a press release.

Porteous said she’s also met out-of-state homebuyers who moved to Texas during this post-pandemic era because they didn’t want to be locked down.

“They don’t just come for economic opportunities,” she said. “It’s a little more freedom. People in New York and New Jersey, they’ve seen a lot of lockdown. They feel a little more comfortable here, more secure, less confined. There is a freedom of community and neighborhoods where they can feel that sense of community.

The COVID pandemic has brought about positive changes, Porteous added.

“What COVID did was allow people to start pursuing what they actually wanted,” she said. “It allowed them to take that big step, that big leap of getting a custom home. I think it’s important to have spaces for what’s most precious to you.