New houses in America are getting smaller again, in part to keep prices more affordable, a top researcher for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported recently.

After peaking at almost 2,700 square feet in 2015, the average size of a newly built single-family home shrank in 2018 to just under 2,600 square feet, the NAHB analysis of preliminary U.S. Census data showed.

Meanwhile, separate NAHB surveys showed most home shoppers still want a house in the suburbs. Developers are building more homes with laundry rooms, walk-in closets and great rooms while shunning cork flooring, Formica kitchen counters and pet-washing stations.

Those are among the latest new home trends, according to an NAHB report unveiled last month during the annual International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

The report, which tracks home trends and homebuyer preferences, found rising costs are forcing builders to construct smaller homes to keep prices affordable, said Rose Quint, the NAHB’s assistant vice president for survey research.

Builders are offering fewer bathrooms, fewer bedrooms and building fewer three-car garages to get home prices down.


Another way to get home prices down is to build more townhomes (considered single-family homes) since they require less land. Townhomes accounted for 14 percent of the new single-family homes built in 2018, up from 10 percent in 2011, census data show.

A survey of nearly 4,000 recent and prospective homebuyers showed that 77 percent said they want a detached house vs. 13 percent who want a townhome.

Sixty-four percent of buyers prefer the suburbs, while 11 percent want to buy in a downtown area.

Preference for urban areas is greater among the young: 23 percent of millennials (ages 23-38) and 11 percent of Generation X (ages 39-54) prefer to buy in the central city vs. 8 percent of baby boomers (ages 55-73).

One in four buyers prefer to live in a rural setting, the survey showed.

And the vast majority of buyers, 65 percent, prefer a single-story home, compared with 29 percent who want two-story homes.


Is granite still the nation’s most popular kitchen counter? Depends on whom you ask.

The NAHB survey showed 57 percent of buyers prefer granite, compared with 21 percent who prefer quartz and other types of engineered stone.

But the home remodeling site found in an online survey that 48 percent of its users prefer quartz counters compared with 30 percent who prefer granite.

The Houzz survey also showed homeowners like fake-wood laminate flooring (28 percent) better than real hardwood floors (24 percent). Laminate floors are easier to install and don’t require sanding, said Nino Sitchinava, Houzz’ principal economist.

Just 14 percent of homebuyers responding to the NAHB survey were willing to pay extra for a green home.

But when asked a different way, more than 80 percent of buyers said they’d be willing to spend at least $1,000 more for a home that saves them $1,000 a year on their utility bills. Thirty-seven percent said they’d spend at least $10,000 extra for that $1,000-a-year savings.


Homebuyers also said the most desirable features in a home include patios, ceiling fans, energy-saving appliances, walk-in pantries and double kitchen sinks, the NAHB survey showed.

Least wanted features: Elevators, wine cellars and those pet-washing stations.