When I asked Realtor Sam Westelman about the biggest change he's seen in his 15 years in the market, his answer was ... us.
These days, he said, we all want houses with:
- an open first floor concept;
- bedrooms and baths on the second floor;
- a mudroom with cubbies;
- 3-inch shelves, staggered, built for picture frames but not books;
- white woodwork, to set off creative wall colors ... sage green, anyone?;
- and a very short home improvement to-do list.
"All those years ago," he said, "people would accept a quirky layout. They might even enjoy a quirky layout."
Put a doctor, patients coming to the area for treatment, a retiree couple and a group of grad students in the market for a rental property, and they'll all want to see the same apartment.
Put a diverse group of homes on the market, and some quickly get multiple offers -- while others go months without a showing.
Buyers and renters, he said, "are all looking for the same darn house."
"I think these very powerful outlets are telling us what we like," he said. "And it’s working."
Two other factors, perhaps. Houses may represent a bigger portion of our income than they once did, so we're less willing to take chances. And younger buyers are a bit jaded. They want what they want now, not later, and aren't as willing to compromise as their parents might have been.
There are exceptions, he said -- like a 1920s crafts-style bungalow, and even tiny houses.
But square footage, which used to be oh-so-big, is no longer a selling point.
Because we don't entertain; we go online. You don't a big living room for that.
We may aspire to fix things up, but we don't buy houses that need work.
Because we don't have the time or energy.
Which may explain why we're all watching HGTV ... and buying houses that fit the image the fixer-uppers on TV are building for us.