2020's Top Home Trends and Features to Start the Decade Off Right

By Clare Trapasso | Senior news editor of Realtor .com 


Millennial Pink? Anything but that! Word art? We're so over it. Please, whatever you do—no more shiplap! So what are the top home trends and features of 2020? What are going to be the most popular types of homes? And what does new construction look like these days?

If you're looking for answers, the best folks to ask are those who are actually building homes. They have their fingers on the pulse of what people want—not just today, but tomorrow, and even next year. (After all, it takes a while to build!)For starters, despite a lot of hullaballoo about luxury condos and urban living, the most popular type of home remains the single-family residence, according to survey research on about 3,000 homebuilders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. Those were followed by townhomes, condos and co-ops, and manufactured homesThat's because the majority of buyers are heading to the suburbs, where there's more space for a stand-alone house and a yard. 

The next most popular type of destination was rural areas and then cities.

"It's part of the American dream: the single-family detached home," says Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research at NAHB. "That's despite having less expensive options.”


New homes today are getting smaller

So what do we know about new homes today?

Well, they're getting smaller. New single-family homes totaled an average 2,520 square feet in 2019. That's the smallest they've been since 2011—and about 170 square feet less than their peak in 2015.

"Builders respond to demand out there in the market, and the demand right now is mostly from entry-level buyers and first-time buyers," says Quint. "They're responding to the affordability crisis by shifting their product to smaller, more affordable homes."

Last year, about 44% of new homes have at least four bedrooms, down from 47% in 2015. A third had at least three full bathrooms, down from a high of 37% in 2015. And just 18% had a three-car garage, down from 23% in 2015. Small is the thing.

However, home buyers were more likely to choose smaller, higher-quality homes with the top home features than larger homes with fewer must-have features if given the choice between both options around the same price, according to NAHB.

"They value high-quality [homes] and amenities over size," says Quint.

First-time buyers were more likely to choose an existing home (i.e., one that's previously been lived in). Meanwhile, repeat buyers were more likely to opt for new construction. That's because new homes cost about a third more than existing ones.

All of those new finishes and features aren't cheap! Some things never change.


The must-have features in new homes

The most sought-after feature that builders are most likely to include in new homes this year is the walk-in closet.

It was followed by a host of environmentally friendly and cost-saving features that are decidedly less sexy than those giant closets. Energy-efficient windows came in second, with laundry rooms, energy-efficient lighting, and great rooms (a combo of a kitchen, family area, and living room) on its heels.

"Energy efficiency has everything to do with saving money," says Quint.

Builders are also installing central islands in kitchens, programmable thermostats, high ceilings, Energy Star appliances, and two-car garages.

The least popular features were cork flooring on the main floor, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heating and electrical systems, dual toilets in the master bath, and laminated countertops in the kitchen.


The top colors, materials, and rooms

Buyers were choosy when it came to colors and materials—as they should be! They wanted stainless-steel appliances (e.g., refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers) over black ones. For kitchen countertops, they preferred granite and natural stone over quartz, engineered stone, and laminate.

But they were undecided when it came to kitchen cabinet colors. First-time buyers preferred medium-brown cabinets, while repeat buyers wanted white.

“No color was a big, large majority for people," says Quint. "Where there is consensus is in the color of the kitchen appliances. Stainless steel is where it is for most buyers."

First-time buyers were also partial to having dining rooms and having both a bath tub and shower stall in the master bathroom. Repeat buyers, many of whom are retirees and soon-to-be retirees hoping to downsize into homes where they can age in place, were more concerned with garage storage and exterior lighting.

Both groups wanted laundry rooms, energy-efficient windows, hardwood floors on the main level, and patios.

But there doesn't seem to be one main architectural style that buyers are clamoring for.

"What's the trend in architecture? Everything," says Donald Ruthroff, principal at Dahlin Group Architecture. "We're seeing contemporary that is based on traditional. You're seeing mixes in neighborhoods of that traditional with that contemporary [style] along the same street."

They're also looking for seamless indoor-outdoor living.

"This is hugely important to buyers," says Ruthroff. "This is the marrying of landscape architecture with architecture."


Top 10 Value-Enhancing Home Improvement Projects for Older Homes

(BPT) - Many of us live in older homes and love it. But there's always something to upgrade or improve. What are the upgrades that matter? Strategic enhancements not only increase a property's resale value, but also functionality.

For potential sellers, this is important for younger buyers. Many millennial homebuyers experience some form of buyer's remorse. Higher new home prices, along with builders slow to recover from the recession, puts them in older homes rather than newly-built ones. Shortly after, these homebuyers feel disappointed with the dated features of their homes, unsure what and where to renovate.If you're one of those buyers or if you're a potential seller looking to attract a younger buyer, here are some leading home-improvement facelifts for older homes:


Smart-home features are frequently requested in new construction. Fortunately, your older home can become a smart home too when you implement technology, such as home automation. Thanks to WiFi, there's no need for clumsy and costly rewiring. Smart thermostats, smart music and programmable lighting are prime examples.

Tankless water heaters

Tankless water heaters are ideal for older homes because they are easy to install, take up much less space and can reduce energy costs by as much as 60 percent. Because they heat water on demand, you never have to worry about running out of hot water. What's more, longer warranties than what can be found with traditional storage-tank water heaters are now available. Check out the new 25-year warranty from Noritz on select tankless water heaters.

Wall removal

Removing a wall between the kitchen and living room can enhance the functionality of the area and provide a modern open concept design. Cutouts in walls are another option if the wall cannot be completely removed. Remember to ensure any wall is not load-bearing before removal, so you don't impact the structural integrity of the home.


Once upon a time, popcorn ceilings were the top trend installed in every house. Today, they distract the eye and make a home look old. Consider hiring someone to redo your ceilings or research how to scrape it yourself. Leave flat or add a knock-down texture, which is a popular modern drywall finishing technique.


That '70s pea-green paint in the bathroom and the '80s floral wallpaper in the bedroom instantly date your home. By updating the walls, your house will feel more modern and you can customize to your personal tastes. Dedicate a weekend to painting the walls in your favorite spaces and you'll be amazed at the transformation.

Old grout

After years and sometimes decades, grout in bathrooms and kitchen spaces really takes a beating and turns a dirty color that's impossible to clean. It can be time-consuming and tedious to replace grout, so to get a fresh look consider painting it instead. Specialty grout paint makes the process simple with easy application features that simply roll on.

Update hardware

Hardware throughout a home gets dingy and dated. To update a space without an overhaul, simply change out the hardware. Cabinet knobs, drawer handles, towel racks and more in a modern metallic hue can make a space feel fresh again without much investment. Don't forget about air registers, which can also impact the visual appeal of a space.

Energy-efficient insulation

There are many modern insulation options available today that weren't around when older homes were built, and many of those homes have little to no insulation at all. In addition to insulation, remember to seal spaces for air loss, such as air ducts, doors, windows, pipe inlets and the attic.

Embrace the history

Be sure to research the history of the home and neighborhood. Would pulling out that original wood built-in be a detriment to the home's authenticity and value? Perhaps you can hire someone to update the original wood flooring, so it has the modern stain tone you like, but the planks still maintain the home's original luster.

Light fixtures

Light-fixture styles change through the years and can make your home appear older than necessary. Replacements can make a world of difference. For example, replace an old brass chandelier with a modern pendant design. Not only will it be a style update, but the light output can make the space more usable.

For Buyers: Tactics for Buying in a Seller's Market

(BPT) - For over two years, it's been a record home market in Indiana. We call it a seller's market, when the demand for homes has been much stronger than the inventory. That, along with low interest rates that make homes more affordable, makes it a marketplace in which buyers have seem to be competing for nearly every listing. The forecast for 2019 is that, while the market may slow a but, the seller's market trend will continue throughout the coming year, with millennials fueling the home-buyer pipeline.

So if you're selling your home, that's great news. But it makes thebuying process trickier. 

That doesn't mean you should wait to grab your slice of the American dream, however. An experienced, knowledgeable Realtor® can help you navigate this marketplace and find a great deal on the home of your dreams. Here are some tips for what you should be thinking about when considering buying a home.

Pre-qualification or pre-approval? They're not created equal. Pre-qualification is simply a statement that you could qualify, not that you have. In a pre-approval, you do all of the paperwork upfront and your bank verifies the amount you can safely afford to pay, and boom, it's done. Sellers and sellers agents prefer a buyer who is pre-approved because it means you're more likely to get the loan. It's faster, too, because a large chunk of your paperwork is already done. It gives buyers a competitive edge in this tight market.

An experienced Realtor. Don't even think about starting the process of buying a home in a seller's market without me in your corner. It matters in every market, but it's critical when the sellers are holding all the cards. I'm not here to just show you homes for sale. I can offer valuable insights, insider knowledge and advice, and guide you through the entire process. I can help find the perfect home and negotiate a great deal for you.

Interest rates.The Fed might continue to raise interest rates with financial experts predicting a few more increases in 2019. Higher interest rates may lower some homebuyers' purchasing power, which is all the more reason to get out there now if you want to buy.

Low inventory.It's a seller's market because there are so many buyers, and as a result available homes sell fast and pushes inventory down even further. Don't let this discourage you from making offers on home you love. I can be your ace in the hole when there is low inventory. I can guide you through the process, knowing exactly how much to offer, how to get through the appraisal process, and get the deal done.

Speed.Be flexible enough to get to showings quickly, shortly after the home goes on the market. Let me set up a new listing alert for you. Then, if you love it, make an offer as soon as you can. 

Your best offer. In a tight market, it's go big or (don't) go home. This is not the time to be cagey about negotiations. Figure out the best offer you can afford and go with it up front.

Buying a home in a tight market can be a challenge, but with me in your corner, you can still grab your slice of the American dream.