What does 2020 hold for the housing industry? A lot of the same with a few surprises. Here are a few areas to watch:
• Open-concept floor plans—to a degree: The trend toward open layouts that maintain connections from room to room is not abating. Still, homeowners are starting to look for some semblance of separation, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting’s latest DesignLens report. “Great rooms are starting to shift shape, and homes are incorporating more alternative gathering spaces, bringing back the good old formal dining room or den,” the report says. “We aren’t necessarily going back to the full formal layout, but survey your local customer, and you will likely learn that they need more space for their stuff and are looking for more intimate places to gather.”
For large expanses, consider the floor as a system in order to optimize its performance. In this scenario, all of the products come together to deliver predictable performance that can meet the builder’s and homeowner’s expectations. A premium sub-floor such as LP Legacy® over properly spaced, stiffer I-joists, for example, can help reduce deflection that shakes china cabinets or causes nail pops and cracked floor tiles.
• Affordability to take center stage: Housing affordability continues to be a challenge, especially as first-time homebuyers struggle with student loan debt. According the NAHB Q3 2019 Housing Trends Report, 80% of buyers can afford fewer than half the homes available for-sale in their markets. Still, Millennials want single-family homes, Redfin says, even if they have to commute farther to get it.
• No full-blown recession (yet): In a conversation with Professional Builder, NAHB’s Chief Economist Robert Dietz says the association isn’t expecting a full-blown recession in their forecast window through the end of 2021, but they are anticipating the growth rate to slow this year and each year until then. And unlike the last recession, where builders flocked to luxury homes, Dietz expects to see growth in entry-level product.
• Mortgage rates will remain low: Redfin says it expects that mortgage rates won’t dip much below 3.5% next year, and will remain under 4.1% as the Federal Reserve looks to remedy slowing economic growth.
• Labor shortages continue: Products that ease installation or reduce labor are an ideal option for addressing continued shortages of framing labor. For example, LP Legacy® premium sub-flooring offers superior resistance to moisture and carries a Covered Until It’s Covered® no-sand warranty, so installers don’t have to waste time sanding the edges.
• Multi-generational living: Accommodating multiple generations of family members or creating space for renters has been coming on strong for a couple of years and, according to theDesignLens report, it’s going to continue. “Living spaces come in a variety of layouts: a suite within the home that can only be accessed from the main home, suites with private entrances, and flats over the garage,” the consulting firm says. “Whatever the layout, the key to a great multi-gen space is privacy, where connection is on the resident’s terms and not forced by shared spaces.“
• Indoor-outdoor connections: Homebuyers continue to crave connections to the outdoors, whether through full-blown outdoor living spaces, including those with seamless transitions from inside to outside, or via large expanses of windows that allow in ample daylighting.
• Durability, resiliency, longevity, and maintenance: Neither Baby Boomers nor Millennials want to spend time caring for their homes, so they’ll be seeking products and design elements that don’t require a lot of upkeep. This includes floor systems that don’t warp, squeak, or buckle, so consider a sub-flooring product like LP Legacy, which has a high panel density for exceptional fastener holding strength and a quieter floor.
Kelly Harmon is national product manager at Louisiana-Pacific Corp.