The U.S. is becoming a nation of singles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all American adults live in one-person households, and this demographic is heavily influencing the companies that want to reach out to them. Restaurants are including more communal seating to be inclusive for single diners. Multifamily communities are offering shared spaces such as home theaters, outdoor spaces, and work areas so that singles can socially connect while still having a private apartment.
In many ways, 21st century home building will be uniquely different from the past, when fewer adults were living on their own; for instance, in 1976 only 37 percent of adults were single. This has risen to 50.2 percent of Americans– roughly 124.6 million people –who were single in August. This marks the first time that single Americans make up the majority of the adult population since the government began tracking the data 38 years ago.
Thanks to the growth of single-adult households, floor plans will go from static to flexible as living arrangements change more frequently. Analysts project that this group of adults will job hop more often, bring new types of living arrangements into the housing market (think friends buying homes together), and expect their environments to adapt to their frequently changing lifestyles as easily as picking a favorite Keurig coffee flavor.
Affordability is crucial for most single home buyers and renters, who have less discretionary income per household. The dual-earner power couple trend of the pre-recession boom years has faded into one of single earners that are often struggling to make ends meet.
Greater numbers of singles across all age groups will challenge home building in ways that speak to a market of one versus a market of many. Housing developments will need to embed elements of community that address the social aspects singles need, similar to what we have seen in multifamily new builds.
Builders, developers, and designers who create housing for single consumers need to consider fresh concepts, such as communal sheds for lawnmowers and snow blowers, and even cars that can be rented as needed versus owned. Work/live spaces will evolve to reflect the growing number of entrepreneurs working from home. And, backyard cottages will bring solutions for related and/or unrelated adults sharing a single lot. Zoning laws will need to change and innovative builders will bring inspiration for how the 21st century home can adapt to a society that is much more diverse in household composition than ever before.
Change is never a bad thing, just something different that leads us to explore new possibilities. Challenges are coming from many areas, such as the growing influence of women, an aging society, economic moderation, and the active adult generation. Singles are just one more of these new challenges for home builders to consider as we move forward.
Senior Director, Coldwell Banker New Homes Division
With over 200 condominium, townhome and loft projects successfully marketed
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