Flashback Friday! Past, Present, & Future Housing Trends

Summer is the season for nostalgia. While we’re not quite sure why the warm weather and clear, bright skies make us cast a longing eye to the past, we can certainly venture a guess. Those three or four golden months seem to signify freedom . . . Freedom to travel, to run and play outside, to stay up later and breathe deeper. Perhaps this idea was instilled in us during childhood, the moment the school calendar flipped its last page. At a younger age, the summer months no doubt appeared to be a never-ending stream of fishing and bonfires and juicy burgers sizzling on the grill.

No matter the psychology behind it, summer’s approach (The season officially begins on June 21!) has The Karen Marshall Group in a nostalgic mood. But, of course, we have a bit of a one-track mind: We’re ruminating on real estate trends of the past!

We’re thinking popcorn ceilings. Avocado-colored everything. Bathrooms covered in carpet.

The Gatsby-eqsue elegance of the roaring 20s.
The technicolored dream of the 70s.
And just about every other year in-between.

So on this Flashback Friday, take a walk down the real estate memory lane with us. Below, you’ll find some interesting facts and stats about real estate – past, present, and future.



Let’s start with some current trends and statistics.

Home buyers are continuing to rely on the internet, but know they need the expertise of a professional REALTOR to get the job done correctly.

In 2005, 75% of homeowners used the internet to search for a home, but now that percentage is in the 90s. Here’s the truly interesting statistic from an article published by Housing Wire: Despite this increase, both buyers and sellers continue to seek out real estate agents in their home-buying or selling process. The rate of homes that are for sale by owner hasn’t risen above 9% since 2011.

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What about how population affects real estate?

Population growth strongly dictates what kind of homes you’ll find for sale. As the map of our country loses more green space and moves farther away from the empty canvas that greeted our frontiersmen and women, we’re obviously more likely to find newer homes in previously undeveloped areas.


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A May 2013 Forbes article tells us, that across the Sunbelt, population growth has been more recent, so truly old homes are rare . . . The oldest homes for sale – those built before 1900 – are concentrated in New England and upstate New York.” In addition, “You’ll find a large share of homes built in the 1900s in San Francisco (6.4%) – especially just after the 1906 earthquake – while homes from the 1920s are easiest to find in New York. there are essentially no homes from the 19th century across much of the South and the West. In fact, fewer than 1% of on-market homes were built before 1940 in Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, and other Sunbelt metros.

What do you think of when you hear the word “modern” as it pertains to real estate?

Again, Forbes has us covered: Which features are distinctly modern? Homes built in the 1980s offer cathedral ceiling skylights, sunken living rooms, and mirrored closets. The 1990s gave us palladium/palladian windows (a large arched window flanked by smaller rectangular windows), island cooktops, and pot shelves. Next came the decade of water and audio: infinity edge pools, snail showers, and pre-wired surround sound are often mentioned in listings from the 2000s. Finally, phrases emphasizing artisanship and nature popped in the 2010s, like hand-textured walls, handscraped hardwood floors, and natural light exposure.

Luckily for us, Pennsylvania has a nice mix of the old and new. So, if you’re looking for that specific new-construction smell or are dreaming of claw-foot tubs and pocket doors, you’re likely to find something that suites your tastes.


The 70s!

What immediate image comes to mind? Perhaps the fashion? Think Stevie Nicks in her signature flowing bohemian chic style. Or maybe you’re thinking of Nixon and the political climate of the times. What about scientific advancements? Did you know the first face lift was attempted in the 70s and the first MRI was done in 1973?

Of course, we’re thinking of the color schemes, textures, materials, and architecture that defined the times. neatly summarizes some of the housing trends.


What were they?

Surprisingly, a move to a more natural look.
70s style was greatly influenced by the back-to-nature movement . . . Architect S. Claire Conroy points out that many 70s architects were early adopters of new energy-efficient technologies and designed houses “as organisms that mesh with their surroundings—living, breathing, and changing together.” Big windows and skylights were popular, as were indoor gardens and elevated or stacked stone fireplaces. While high-tech plastics were obviously big in the 70s, so too was teak and pine furniture.

Open-Plan Living.
While many rooms in the 70s resembled wall-to-wall carpeted, wood-paneled dungeons, residential architecture of the time was actually very innovative when it comes to light and space. In many ways, the 70s introduced the concept of “open plan living”, according to some architectural historians. Heathcote says designers responded to the “altered sociology of the family” with double-height spaces, open planned living and grand entrances. Many homes had massive windows, spiral or “floating” staircases, interior second-floor balconies and vaulted ceilings. Often the living room was spread out over multiple levels, sometimes with a sunken seating area. Think of the Brady Bunch home and you get the picture. You may not like the look but you have to admit it was pretty radical.

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Color. And Lot’s of It.
Love it or hate it, the 1970s was a colorful time in interior design. For every drab earth-toned room there was an equally colorful one. Today there is a lot of talk of “pops of color.” In the 70s it was more like “explosions of color”. Says Conroy, “these houses were funky and friendly.” The architects “had exuberant spirits; they reveled in form, function, and funkiness.” The toilet seat covers were brightly colored, as were the toilets themselves. Lamps, bedspreads, walls, and furniture: Nothing was spared the Technicolor rainbow.

Reign of the Ranch
From the outside, most 70s homes were pretty uninventive. There were the post-and-beam style homes, A-frames, domes, cubes and A-frames. But . . . the king of the 70s home was the one-story ranch. In 1975, 60% of new single-family homes were one-story. Outside the house, you were likely to encounter a Hibachi grill, blacktop driveway and concrete patio, and a metal swing set. The average American house was much smaller, at 1,700 square feet compared with 2,500 sq. ft. in 2007.


The 1950s! shares some retro kitchen décor, which was all about economy of space and apparently . . . the color blue.






The future. provides us with some predictions about what we’ll see more of in the coming years.

  1. Community Gathering Spaces. Think clubhouses, community pools, outdoor movie screens, outdoor fitness classes, and food trucks.
  2. More Playful Homes. theororizes that because we’re working harder than ever, we’ll want to play just as hard. Larger backyards, putting areas, indoor/outdoor golf simulators, big rear decks and outdoor kitchens with pizza ovens are on the rise.
  3. Naturally Renewable, Warmer Surfaces. Our homes, cars, offices, and just about every other space are filled with technology. So, in order to balance the aesthetic of our lives, we naturally want a more natural feel around us. They predict we’ll see this on many different surfaces from floors to counter tops.
  4. Surface-Deep Energy Conservation. The trend towards more renewable, cleaner energy isn’t anything new. But more people will make a conscious effort to have eco-friendly homes and those already up with the trend will push it even further. This translates into money saving for buyers too.

PLUS . . . The article highlights six more ways that you can expect homes to change in the near future.


What do you most miss?

Do you like new construction or want the charm and character of an older home?

Who is your favorite architect?