What are Americans prioritizing when it comes to their well-being? According to John Burns Research & Consulting’s January 2023 Healthy Homes survey, the three most important non-financial health and wellness factors for households earning $50,000 or more are mental wellbeing (60%), healthy diet (48%) and physical fitness (47%). “Expect health to impact home selection more often,” the report predicted, citing young consumers prioritizing health impacts more than other groups, but older adults closing the gap.
Nearly all (95%) respondents said they now believe that a home impacts its occupants’ health, and close to three quarters (73%) will be considering health when choosing their next home. What might this mean for builders, designers, remodelers and real estate professionals? It’s likely that the trends they’re already observing will continue, especially as more in the massive Generation Z cohort age into the housing market.
Jennifer Hyman’s Chicago area real estate and interior design clientele are often first-time homebuyers, she shared in an email. They are either starting out or upsizing due to adding children or bringing other family members into their household, she wrote. “As we walk through houses, health and wellness design features are not foremost in their minds.” But when she points out healthy amenities like antimicrobial countertops, or that a home has been freshly updated with zero emissions paint, she sees these clients becoming interested.
The buyers who start their home search with a wellness focus are more commonly her older clients, Hyman noted. “The downsizing retirees are the ones who are most interested in health and wellness features.” These include touchless faucets, bidet toilets or seats and tile floors.
This was the top wellness priority by far, and it’s showing up across the market. “Over the last few years, we have seen clients wanting to create sanctuary spaces where they can tune out and unwind,” shared San Antonio-based interior designer Shea Pumarejo in a Facebook designers’ group. “We are designing a lot of spa-like bathrooms with ambient lighting, aromatherapy, chromotherapy, soaker tubs and steam showers where homeowners can practice self-care right at home.”
Dedicated areas for meditation, journaling or quiet reflection are often requested by interior designer Carrie Leskowitz’s Philadelphia and South Florida clients, she posted in the group. Keeping these holistic spaces separate from the home’s office and social areas are ideal.
La Jolla, California-based Realtor Michelle Silverman commented in an email, “A buyer will be willing to pay more for a home that has a room dedicated to meditation, yoga, or contains a sauna.” She has also seen an emphasis on gardens, tapping into the region’s Mediterranean climate.
Design-build firm owner Anne Capozzi in Cleveland wrote in the group, “Our renovation projects frequently incorporate lighting schemes that promote relaxation and serenity for our clients, often utilizing aromatherapy.” She is also installing more windows and automated blinds to enhance the garden’s biophilic benefits and enhance circadian rhythms for better sleep.
Across the country in Broward County, Florida broker Sharon McLennon emailed that buyers are requesting homes in move-in condition that can serve as safe, sanctuary spaces for themselves and their families. “They are looking for homes that are open and airy with enough space to create home offices or work out areas, as well as good outdoor space that can be used for family gatherings.”
No home space supports maintaining a healthy diet like a well-planned, well-equipped kitchen. and upgrades are something buyers are willing to pay extra for, McLennon said. “Given the severe housing inventory shortage in our market, buyers are generally willing to upgrade their appliances after a home purchase to support their requirements.”
Covid inspired Pumarejo’s clients to enhance their healthy home cooking skills, she shared. “Steam ovens, air fryers and sous vide cooking have been popular.” Her clients and Silverman’s have been interested in healthier kitchen surfaces too.
“It is exciting to see the emphasis on healthy cooking,” commented Capozzi, commenting that her clients are prioritizing that capability for their indoor and outdoor kitchens. Both are likely to have specialized zones, upgraded cabinets and enhanced appliances. For indoor kitchens, “We especially love the steam oven,” she wrote.
Leskowitz is often organizing “kitchens or a pantry to include a smoothie or clean shake area," she commented. These will typically have a blender and storage spaces for protein powders and supplements.
Silverman has also seen a strong interest in outdoor kitchens. “The ability to have a fully functioning outdoor kitchen along with a stunning fireplace to entertain is always an important feature for a buyer.”
Leskowitz is seeing the downsizing of fitness spaces Burns reported in her markets, she said. “Home gyms, as well as rooms in general, are becoming smaller.” This enhances their intimacy and privacy, she observed. Amenity-wise, “Saunas (infrared and regular) as well as cold plunge baths are on the rise,” the designer noted.
Silverman is not seeing a gym size reduction in her San Diego area market, the Realtor commented. “Since Covid, having a home where you have a physical fitness area has been important, whether it is a pool, gym, or having a tennis or pickleball court. I do not see that changing or the areas getting smaller,” she declared.
McLennon’s South Florida clientele like rooms designated for workouts, but are not specifically requesting them, she said. In her area, house hunters are more interested in rooms that allow extra space for a treadmill or bike, whether in a large bedroom or loft.
These trends are not going away. Especially with the pandemic having driven everyone home for so long, that first-hand experience of the links between house and health are going to endure. “I believe clients are really becoming aware,” observes Leskowitz. “Understanding our healthy home goes hand in hand with our healthy lifestyle means taking a mind, body, spirit, approach.”