When any crisis strikes, there's a natural inclination for people to retreat to the comfort and safety of their homes. It happened after 9/11, and it's happening again now as we muddle through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Trends forecaster Faith Popcorn coined the term cocooning in the 1990s to explain the phenomenon of individuals' socializing less and spending more time at home. Popcorn identified cocooning as a commercially significant trend that would lead to, among other things, stay-at-home electronic shopping — and we all know how popular that has become.
For years, builders have appealed to new buyers with homes equipped with a range of entertainment features, from large kitchens and dining rooms to home theaters and outdoor living spaces. Meanwhile, a growth in home offices has addressed the increases in telecommuting and home-based businesses, as well as social networking.
More recently, rising fuel and food costs have made stay-at-home vacations a necessity and dining out a luxury for many people. Therefore, as builders re-engineer their homes to make them more affordable during the credit crunch, it's important they don't eliminate design features important to cocooning home buyers. Fortunately, the Third Annual "Home Design Drivers Survey," conducted by Avid Ratings, outlines the features that buyers deem must-haves — many of which speak directly or indirectly to the nesting trend.
More than 900 homeowners were surveyed via e-mail and asked about the importance of various design features should they suddenly find themselves in the market for a new home again. All of the survey respondents had moved into their new homes between 2005 and 2008.
With consumers rediscovering the pleasures of home, it's no surprise that many must-have features identified in the survey focus on home cooking and entertaining. These include large kitchens, kitchen islands, granite countertops and energy-efficient appliances. Even a butler's pantry, a formal dining room and an outdoor cooking area were deemed "desireable." This might seem contrary to the trend toward smaller homes. Rather, it simply means that home buyers are willing to compromise on square footage as long as it doesn't hinder their ability to play "Top Chef" at home. In fact, as more consumers stay home to cook and entertain, some retailers have reported increases in the sales of cookbooks and small kitchen appliances.
In these tough economic times, builders can't afford to build homes that don't perfectly meet the needs of new buyers. Retaining amenities that appeal to a nesting population should be a top priority. For complete findings from the Avid study, please visit www.avidratings.com.
|Paul Cardis is CEO of Avid Ratings, a research and consulting firm specializing in customer satisfaction for the home building industry. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.|