Housing Market Trends & Preferences
By Rose Quint
Source: NAHB Economics & Housing Policy Group.

NAHB regularly conducts national polls of American adults and home buyers in order to understand new trends and preferences in the housing market. The findings are typically revealed during NAHB’s annual convention –the International Builders’ Show (IBS). This paper will cover topics and trends presented during the 2018 IBS, such as attitudes toward tiny homes and driverless cars. Results are based on national polls conducted by Morning Consult in the second half of 2017. The samples used to conduct this research are representative of the US population in terms of age, income, and region of the country.


Potential demand from first-time buyers has made the concept of a tiny home a frequent topic of discussion in real estate news. In a recent poll, NAHB asked a representative sample of adults if they would even consider the possibility of buying a tiny home now or at some point in the future. A tiny home in this project was defined as one with less than 600 square feet.

A bit surprisingly, a majority of respondents (53%) said ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to the prospect of buying such a small home. This basically means that more than half of adults are at least willing to consider it at some point during their lifetimes (Figure 1). Yet not all generations feel the same way, with potential interest waning with age. While 63% of Millennials and 53% of GenXers might eventually consider living in such a small space, the feeling is shared by only 45% of Boomers and 29% of Seniors.

Prior to the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC), a tiny home on a permanent foundation was subject to all the same requirements applicable to any other house built under the IRC (e. g. a minimum 6’ to 8’ ceiling height and stairs to the loft with treads at least 12” deep, risers not more than 7-3/4” high, and a 36” width –all typically unmet by tiny homes). A new appendix (Appendix Q) in the 2018 IRC, however, allows for the relaxation of these requirements in tiny homes. The appendix can be adopted by any jurisdiction that wants to allow this type of homes to be constructed.

Tiny homes, however, may be inviable in many areas. Many local zoning laws have minimum lot size requirements, which would not prohibit tiny homes, but would make them very expensive considering the cost of land. In addition, many communities prohibit the construction of accessory structures, preventing existing home owners from adding them to their lots (although it should be noted that some communities have passed ordinances in recent months relaxing this restriction).


Driverless cars are currently being developed and tested in the United States. These vehicles use GPS, radar, laser and other technologies to operate without direct human input. Some potential benefits may include reduced stress from driving, better traffic flow, and fewer traffic accidents, yet liability and safety concerns remain serious barriers to market adoption.

A recent poll found that 59% of adults in the US would at least consider the possibility of buying one of these cars if a safe and reliable model was developed in their lifetime. But the likelihood that someone would consider this transportation option declines with age: while 71% of Millennials and 66% of Gen Xers say they might consider buying a driverless car, the share drops to only 36% of Seniors.

Among the possible connections between the development of driverless cars and housing is the location question, can these cars potentially impact where people choose to buy their homes? One recent poll found the answer to be yes. When those open to the idea of buying a driverless car were further asked if having one might encourage them to move further away from work, a significant share (63%) said ‘yes’ or ‘maybe.’ But as with other trends, younger people would be far more likely to be swayed: more than 60% of Millenials and GenXers say they might be encouraged to mover further, compared to only 18% of Seniors.


Another important finding in a recent poll is the length of time it is taking to look for a home to buy. When prospective buyers actively involved in the search for a new home were asked how long they have been looking, 61% said three months or longer. The other 39% have been looking for less than three months.

There are a number of reasons why those searching for three months or longer have been unable to pull the trigger and buy a home: 42% say it is because they can’t find a home at an affordable price, 36% can’t find a home with the features they want, 34% can’t find a home in the neighborhood they want, and 27% have been able to overcome all those problems but then get outbid whenever they make an offer (Figure 3).

This result suggests there are several important reasons why prospective buyers actively searching for a home are being held back, but the most important one is lack of affordability –not being able to find a home at an affordable price.


Even though unaffordable prices are the primary culprit behind buyers’ inability to find homes more quickly, a scarcity of homes