Coronavirus has homebuyers rethinking open floor plans

Mother and daughter
After months of 24/7 work from home parenting, some home buyers aren’t so sure the open floor plan works anymore. (Getty/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages)

For many years, homebuilders and cable TV home design shows have touted more open floor plans, and families have embraced them. Owners can keep an eye on the kids, have a conversation while they cook and more comfortably entertain.

But after months of 24/7 work from home parenting, some buyers aren’t so sure the open floor plan works anymore.

“Now we’re learning that open-concept living is not so conducive to privacy. We’re learning it’s really, really hard to have a Zoom conference call when your kids are playing in the background,” Amanda Pendleton, lifestyle expert at real estate firm Zillow, told WTOP.

Sales of new homes in May were up 13% from a year ago, according to the Census Bureau, and the biggest increase was in sales of new homes that had not yet started construction, giving buyers more input on the design.

Zillow talked with homebuilders across the country to see what kinds of changes potential buyers are looking for and found many builders are predicting that a demand for more privacy and more space is now driving decisions.

A recent Harris Poll found 27% of potential home buyers surveyed said they would consider moving to a home with more rooms — one of the top reasons for considering a move — after spending more time at home because of coronavirus safety measures.

Katie Detwiler, vice president of marketing at Berks Homes, expects more demand for doors and dedicated home offices.

“Open floor plans are changing,” Detwiler said. “People are feeling like they need more privacy, so we’ll see more doors, more insulation for noise control and separate spaces to keep the kids busy while parents work.”

Mudrooms with their own wash-up stations are also in more demand.

Buyers are also now more interested in clean home features, such as technology.

“Think tech features, like touchless faucets, self-cleaning toilets, and just general voice control,” Pendleton said. “Things that will limit the amount of surfaces that are touched with potential germs. Those tech features are already out there. We just think they are going to increase in popularity.”

All of these trends may seem extreme, but even when the current pandemic eases, work-life balance for many families has still been changed forever.

“I think a lot of people are looking into the future and realizing that even when the virus threat has waned, remote work is going to become the norm,” Pendleton said. “When it comes time to move, people are kind of rethinking their needs and their preferences and moving to a home that better suits their new-normal.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up