Insights and Application from the 2021 International Builder's Show (virtual)

Insights and Application from the 2021 International Builder's Show (virtual)

      Last week, I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) International Builder's Show (IBSx) . Packed full of educational sessions, this platform provided valuable insights into what's trending and what's ahead in the real estate, building and design industry, particularly post-pandemic or as one speaker called it, "The Great Disruption."


       Certainly, the overwhelming consensus among speakers and presenters was that the building industry is experiencing unprecedented demand, given that the real estate market has its lowest inventory since it began being measured in the early 1980's. There are fewer than one million listings nationwide. Correspondingly, builders have very little inventory to offer prospective buyers and are struggling to keep up with demand. Building costs are also up and home prices have risen 10% in the last year. What does all this mean and how can we learn from the market and the post pandemic pivots in the design and building industry?


Perhaps most fascinating is the demographic of the typical buyer in today's market. The highest percentage of home buyers right now are 30 years old. These millennials are searching for homes in suburban areas, with lower density and costs of living. As they begin to start families, they want homes with green spaces and good schools. They are departing from high density areas so they can raise children in non-urban settings. What this means is that outgrowth in suburban areas will increase with new developments to absorb demand.

 Furthermore, in 2018, 41% of millennials made offers on houses without even seeing them! This reinforces my previous blog posts that online photography is EVERYTHING! Along with photography, virtual tours like Matterport® are also critical to captivating this demographic, especially now that shopping at home (even for houses) is a part of our daily existence. For sellers, this is a lesson in listening to your Realtor® and their staging partner in having a home well styled and professionally staged. One image could spell the difference between getting an offer or not. With the click of a mouse, buyers can move onto the next property without a second glance. Homeowners should be highly focused on details, leaving nothing to chance.

One last item of note: second home purchases are up 23%. Opportunities to live and work remotely along with lower interest rates have provided a ripe season of alternative home purchases, which can be used as income-producing short-term rentals or alternative seasonal living.


      In the design world, the pandemic has shifted how we live and work, enabling our design focus to be on working and learning from home, health and sanitation, color, as well as smart home technology and efficiency. Examples of this include inserting learning alcoves for home school conversions of guest spaces to exercise rooms and home offices. Homeowners are finding new uses for niches and odd spaces in order to make room for everyone working and learning from home.

 Additionally, the mudroom is now the "everyday entry" and includes the term "drop zone" is dead, given that backpacks and laptop bags are no longer dropped, but work and school are a part of the everyday home. Formerly rarely used guest rooms now take on new functions for secondary entertaining, work out rooms, homework rooms and offices.  Food delivery stations now occupy the front door

 The fresh white paint color palette that was the rage only a year ago is now being supplemented with colorful accent walls in order to add interest and visual stimulation in lieu of staring at four white walls. Storage has also become a valuable component of home design as more room is needed for our less frequent but more productive grocery trips and Costco® adventures. We are bringing the outside world in. Green design and solar energy are also growing in importance with zero-based energy homes, eco-friendly comfort zones for heating and air conditioning, and smart home air monitoring for clean air solutions.


      While the pandemic may soon be behind us, the rapid changes in both real estate, building, and design are here for the long haul. The new normal is semi-permanent and the shifts we have made reflect the ongoing need for fluidity and flexibility. Builders and designers have adapted in a myriad of ways to the new demands and needs of our cultural crisis and will continue to do so with innovation and creativity.

Lorelie Brown, M.A., CPRES, CID is the Owner of Showhomes Charleston in Charleston, SC.  RESA-PRO member, an HSRA-Elite Member and part of HSRA Elite Leadership. She is passionate about the power of home staging and has staged over $300 million in real estate.