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Housing: What Americans Want

Thursday, December 18, 2014

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From affordability to energy efficiency, Americans want a lot from their homes—and are not always getting it.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey from The Demand Institute, a consumer nonprofit jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen.

The group polled more than 10,000 households—renters and owners, young and old, moving and settled, affluent and not—to see if Americans have what they say they want or need in a home.

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The report examined the top 10 qualities Americans want or need in a home.

The result is a Top 10 list called “The Housing Satisfaction Gap: What People Want, but Don't Have."

It is a high-stakes issue. According to the institute:

  • One in three U.S. households plans to move in the next five years;
  • Americans will spend more than $7.4 trillion on home purchases; and
  • Americans will spend more than $700 billion on home renovation.

And what do Americans want from their homes? The list:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Renovations
  3. Updated kitchens
  4. Aging-friendly features
  5. Safety
  6. Affordability
  7. Privacy
  8. More space
  9. Responsive landlords
  10. A sound investment

The full report is available here. Here are the highlights.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency has the highest satisfaction gap in the report: 71 percent of respondents considered it important, but only 35 percent were satisfied with their current home’s performance.

The high cost of energy has prompted many households to look for ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Average household spending on electricity has grown 56 percent since 2000.

A desire for energy efficiency will drive renovations, maintenance and new technology use, the report notes.

Renovation Ready

More than three-quarters of the households polled say their homes need work, and home renovation spending has increased steadily since 2010.

Demand Institute
Demand Institute

Sixty-seven percent said they wanted a home that "requires little or no renovation or improvements," but only 41 percent felt their home met that need, the report notes.

Painting tops the list of home-renovation projects Americans are likely to do within the next three years, the report said, followed by replacing the carpeting and flooring and remodeling bathrooms.

A desire for move-in-ready homes will drive a continuing demand for new home construction, the report said.

Kitchens, Aging and Safety

More than six in 10 households want an updated kitchen with modern appliances and fixtures, but only 38 percent feel they have that, bringing good news to the home-appliance industry. Spending on appliances climbed by $3.2 billion to $26.9 billion from 2011 to 2013.

© / PeopleImages

The majority of Americans are want modern kitches in homes that are aging-friendly. For now, more appear happy with their home's accessibility than its kitchen.

Aging-friendly homes are on the wish list of 76 percent of respondents, and 53 percent are comfortable with their current set-up. Still, the rest are looking for homes where they can age more comfortably; heads of household age 65 or older are expected to grow 10 times faster than other groups by 2020.

Safety is the concern of 83 percent of respondents, despite a drop in crime over the last generation, the study found. Much of that concern comes from non-city dwellers. Overall, 61 percent said they felt safe in their home.


More affordable-housing options are needed, the survey found. Nearly 40 million households in the U.S. are considered to have a housing “cost burden,” spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing expenses.

The burden is heavier for the rapidly growing population of renters, nearly half of whom fit that description.

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Nearly 40 million households in the U.S. are considered to have a housing “cost burden,” spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing expenses. Still, most Americans believe buying a home is a good investment.

Eighty-one percent valued housing that "fits in my budget"; 60 percent said they had it.

Despite the pinch, Americans still view housing as an "excellent investment," and 47 percent are satisfied that their current home fills that bill. The gap comes largely from renter households that hope to buy homes.

Privacy, Please

Privacy is one of the top desires of Americans, as they spend more time at home and consider it a refuge from the outside world.

Sixty-three percent want homes that provide "a lot of privacy from neighbors," and only 42 percent believe they have it. Those feelings will continue to drive the desire for suburban and single-family homes, according to the institute.

More Space, More Stuff

U.S. homes are bigger than ever but apparently not big enough, the survey found. Only 35 percent of respondents say they have enough storage space, and 52 percent are "always looking for ways to create enough storage space for their households."

Nearly half of movers want more space than they have, making storage "a key reason to renovate," the survey said.


Tagged categories: Economy; Good Technical Practice; Home builders; Housing; Market; Market trends; North America; Renovation; Residential Construction; Trends

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