Tim Bailey likes to joke that he’s always on the look-out for something sexy in the data he tracks on the preferences of Canadians new-construction home buyers.
“Give me something to work with, consumers,” pleads Bailey, the division president of Avid Ratings, a market research company that has been surveying new-construction home buyers since 2014 for the Canadian Home Builders Association.
What the survey shows is that Canadians’ home-buying tastes are, well . . . quintessentially Canadian.
Forget home theatres and indoor swimming pools — it’s upstairs laundry, walk-in closets and stand-up showers that quicken our collective pulse.
Canadians still like a fireplace, but its desirability has cooled. In the age of open-concept, we have oddly been warming lately to formal living and dining rooms.
When it comes to home exteriors, there’s a marked preference for brick over vinyl siding, particularly in Ontario. But vinyl still has a place on the Prairies.
Single-car garages are trending up slightly, but double-car coverage continues to be the preference, although it’s our gear rather than our autos that typically take up that additional space, Bailey suggested.
“As Canadians, we tend to be — or at least we want to be — active. That brings with it a lot of gear like bicycles, snowboards, skis, stand-up paddleboards,” he said.
In-unit luxuries are more important than building amenities among condo-shopping, downsizing baby boomers, said Bailey.
“Psychologically, they’re ready to take a smaller footprint in life but they don’t want to sacrifice. They want the treats in the suite — the quartz, the granite, the custom glass showers,” he said.
Builders are seeing a slight uptick in the take-up for homes with two master suites.
“My theory is that culturally we’re more diverse than ever before so you’ll see more multi-generational families under the same roof. If you have a mom and dad still living with a son and daughter-in-law, you might want to have two master suites,” said Bailey.
The online survey, which contains about 200 questions, gives home builders of every housing category — from high-rise condo, to suburban detached houses — a beat on the must-haves and the might-be-nice-if-we-can-afford-it features that buyers want.
The 2,775 survey respondents have purchased a home from one of 86 builder members Canadian Home Builders Association that commissions the survey. So the answers are based on experienced buyers’ preferences for a second or subsequent home, including 47.5 per cent who identified themselves as move-up buyers.
Three years of survey data isn’t enough to see a revolution in the country’s housing tastes, but there are signs some features are fading, as others are growing in popularity.
“Special-purpose rooms have fallen off the grid — the man caves, the wine cellars, the workshops, home theatres,” said Bailey, who attributes that to a space issue. Most condos don’t have room for those specialty spaces.
Skylights, on the other hand, are trending up.
“That could be density. If we’re getting into more townhomes, you don’t have as much exterior wall to put windows on so you’ve got to find other ways to get brightness into your home,” he said.
The drive to density is a national phenomenon that means the Toronto region isn’t unique in building fewer single-family, detached houses, said Bailey.
“In Calgary, where they could sprawl forever, there are government initiatives that don’t let them . . . it’s about intensification. It’s not like they’re constrained by Lake Ontario or a mountain region, and yet they’re still having that drive to density there as well,” he said.
At the same time, the Canadian appetite for a house with a yard is growing. The 2017 survey found 65.5 per cent of respondents want a single-family house, up from 55.7 per cent in 2015.
That desire for low-rise, single-family homes is impacting affordability in markets such as Toronto, said Bailey.
“There’s not a lot of product coming on stream. Again, desire and actuality don’t necessarily mingle,” he said.
But the study report notes that buyers are increasingly reluctant to save money by buying a smaller lot and — no surprise in the Toronto area — will commute farther for a more affordable home.
About 91 per cent of new-construction homes sold in October in the Toronto region (4,884 units) were condos or stacked town houses. Only 9 per cent were low-rise homes, including detached and semi-detached houses and townhomes, according to the Building and Land Development Association.
When it comes to traditional ground-level homes, Canadians must be good neighbours, because they like their patch of paradise to be private. Fences are considered a must-have item by 49.7 per cent of new-construction buyers, and a further 28.2 per cent said that’s something they really want.
In the most recent research, 42 per cent of respondents were families with children; 37.9 per cent were singles or couples with no children. The respondents were almost evenly split among millennials (36.9 per cent) and Generation Xers (35.9 per cent) followed by baby boomers (23.7 per cent).
Those with household incomes of between $100,000 and $149,000, comprised 23.9 percent of respondents, followed by 18.6 per cent who made less than $75,000 a year and, 18 per cent, with incomes of $75,000 to $99,000.
The findings are considered accurate within 2.45 per cent.
What Canadians want in new construction
A luxury, spa-like bath is a priority for home buyers. But the shower beats the tub in buyer preferences.
48.5 per cent of buyers of Toronto-area detached, two-storey homes considered a whirlpool tub a priority, compared to 68.2 per cent who wanted an oversized shower. Among high-rise consumers in Toronto, 48.2 per cent wanted the oversized shower versus 30 per cent who wanted the whirlpool.
The most popular en suite feature was a double sink. Among single-family home buyers in Ontario and the Toronto region, about 80 per cent consider that a priority. Among mid-rise buyers in the area, the quest for a double sink rose from to 63 per cent from 50 per cent in 2015. Only 61 per cent of high-rise buyers in the Toronto area considered the double sink a priority.
Open concept is the overwhelming design choice across all categories of home buyers in Ontario and the Toronto region, the preference of between about 85 per cent and 90 per cent of consumers.
About 90 per cent of buyers of detached homes want a kitchen island. But the number of island-seeking Toronto high-rise buyers fell to about 75 per cent from 87 per cent two years earlier.
When it comes to counters, quartz was edging up on granite’s popularity but the latter stone remained the clear favourite among 90 per cent of GTA mid-rise buyers and 75 per cent of high-rise consumers.
Solid surface counters such as Corian and Staron weren’t as popular as stone, but about 48 per cent of GTA high-rise buyers cited those materials compared to 28 per cent in 2015.
Cabinet preferences didn’t change much over the three-year survey period. Maple and oak remained the clear favourites among detached-house buyers. But more condo buyers were looking for oak in the GTA, where it was the preference of 75 per cent, compared to 39 per cent two years earlier. High-rise consumers looking for oak cabinets rose to 65 per cent in 2017, from 39 per cent in 2015.
The survey shows that consumers will pay more for a house with energy efficient features — but we’re in it to save utility costs rather than the planet. High-efficiency windows were the most often cited preference (91 per cent) among detached home buyers, compared to 77 per cent of high-rise buyers.
LED lighting has increased among detached- and mid-rise home buyers through the three survey periods. Among GTA high-rise shoppers, however, it has dropped to about 70 per cent from 87 per cent two years ago.
Source: Canadian Homebuyer Preference National Study 2017
Top 10 ‘Must haves’ for new-construction homes
Overall energy-efficient home
Open concept kitchens
HRV-ERV air exchange
Source: Avid Ratings for the Canadian Home Builders Association
Courtesy of: Toronto Star
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