Builders are building more houses, but a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found they are essentially building the same ones.  The survey, released during the association's International Builders' Show last week, found the size and configuration of homes built in 2017 changed little from the previous year, even though builders increased their output by 9 percent.

Home sizes had been trending down, but they were up ever so slightly last year, from 2,622 square feet (SF) in 2016 to an average of 2,627 SF in 2017.  Forty-six percent of homes had four bedrooms and 37 percent had at least three full baths compared to 45 percent and 35 percent respectively in 2016.

Home builders continue to battle problems of affordability due to the scarcity of buildable lots, and labor shortages which are beginning to push wages higher and the majority of builders (65 percent) surveyed don't expect things to get better in the short term.  Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research for NAHB, said 79 percent of prospective buyers can only afford half of the homes in their local market, but most are still hoping to buy a home within a year.

Despite concerns over affordability, builders don't appear ready to scale back their product.  The survey indicates that homes coming on-line this year "will most likely include a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, separate laundry room, a great room, nine-foot ceilings on the main floor and granite kitchen counters."   They will probably also feature low-E windows and Energy Star-certified appliances and windows.

NAHB says there appears to be a market for less ambitious homes - even for "tiny houses."  They found that 53 percent of homebuyers might consider purchasing a home of 600 SF or less at some point in their lives.  Younger buyers were more receptive to that idea than were baby boomers and seniors.

Home owners are remaining in their homes longer than they used to, an average of 12-13 years, and are thus more willing to make changes.  NAHB quotes surveys conducted by Traditional Home and by Better Homes and Gardens in which 80 percent of the respondents - female home owners - say they want to make home improvements this year; perhaps only painting a room or rooms (48 percent) or making improvements in the kitchen, bathroom, or outdoor spaces.  Those changes, along with new flooring, were the top five remodeling projects named by survey respondents.

Mainstream buyers, defined as those with a household income under $125,000, are more likely to do-it themselves and to chose cost over quality.  They also place a premium on energy-efficient changes.  Luxury buyers on the other hand, desire high-end outdoor fireplaces and furniture, a bathroom renovation that includes a spa shower or expansive, free-standing bathtub and expensive kitchen additions like built-in wine coolers and warming ovens.

One trend that Better Homes and Gardens is watching, is the great room. This space, a must-have for the last 30 years, appears to be giving way to more separate and defined living spaces.