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The End of Open Floor Plans? Zillow Explores How Homes Will Look Different After Coronavirus

As stay-at-home orders took hold around the country, a home quickly became more than simply…

  • July 10, 2020

As stay-at-home orders took hold around the country, a home quickly became more than simply a “home” — it became a school, gym, playground and office practically overnight. Now, many are reconsidering their home’s functionality as once popular design features have become less workable — and turning buyers to new construction homes as an option.

Now, many home builders are predicting that a demand for more privacy and more space will help drive building decisions as they imagine how future homes can better serve the people living in them.

Open-concept living has grown in popularity over the past few decades, especially in recent years as home-improvement TV shows pitched it as a must-have feature of any house.

Previous research from online real estate company Zillow found the share of for-sale listings mentioning open concept layouts more than doubled since 2015. Open-concept floor plans remove doors and walls in favor of combined spaces, offering families a greater sense of togetherness.

However, along with these open spaces comes a lack of privacy, and being at home emphasized for many that there were not enough quiet spaces to work, reflect, and take a break from the chaos of life.

In a recent survey by Zillow and The Harris Poll, 27 percent of those surveyed said they would consider moving to have a home with more rooms — one of the top reasons for considering a move — after spending more time at home because of coronavirus orders.

Berks Homes agrees that more people will want more rooms after the pandemic, and believes homes built after coronavirus will see the return of doors — especially for dedicated home offices as more people work from home full-time.

“Open floor plans are changing. People are feeling like they need more privacy, so we’ll see more doors – especially for home offices – more insulation for noise control, and separate spaces to keep the kids busy while parents work,” says Katie Detwiler, vice president of marketing at Berks Homes. “More people will work from home in the future – period. There will need to be space and privacy to accommodate that.”

Jennifer Pyatt with Pyatt Builders doesn’t think open-concept living will vanish completely, but thinks it will be done differently in the future to give buyers the best of both worlds – privacy and openness.

Zillow Design Expert Kerrie Kelly agrees, saying features like barn doors will continue to be popular, as they give people privacy while preserving an open-concept space, allowing rooms to serve multi-purposes for a variety of ever-evolving activities.

Berks Homes is also already thinking of ways to incorporate separate spaces in homes to keep germs away from main areas.

For example, adding mud rooms to garages as a space to take shoes off, wash hands and get clean before even entering the house.

The coronavirus has increased the need to keep the home clean and free of germs, so there’s likely to be an increase in double masters or ensuite guest bathrooms as well to keep guest germs away from the rest of the house as much as possible.

In addition to physical room separation, Kerrie Kelly predicts smart-home features like touchless faucets, bidets, and self-cleaning toilets will become increasingly popular, as the pandemic emphasized the importance of keeping spaces as clean as possible.

“Touchless faucets and bidets are only the beginning,” Kelly says. “Just wait until the floor tile takes your temperature and the bathroom mirror checks your vitals. Exciting new products are on the horizon when it comes to keeping a clean, safe and healthy home.”

Searches for new construction homes have recently seen an uptick on Zillow, up 73 percent from last year, as an increasing number of shoppers appear interested in designing their new home.

According to Zillow’s 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report, new construction buyers were most likely to rank everything being brand new and never used among their top three reasons for choosing new construction (41%).

Other popular reasons included appealing home features (35%), like the floor plan for example, the ability to customize the features (27%) and the option to select floor plans (25%). With ongoing coronavirus concerns, those benefits may make new builds even more attractive.