Dec. 9 -- Value retention and volatile fuel costs are driving more consumers to seek out closer-in communities and infill sites closer to public transportation, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey for the third quarter, released today.

“With weak house prices in most markets, buyers are looking for locations where houses will have the best chance of retaining their value,” the survey stated. “This often means infill locations, which are more convenient to employment centers, commercial opportunities, and other daily household activities. These typically require less driving, which is an additional positive given the spike in oil prices in recent years.”

The report also says interest in mixed-use facilities within developments is gaining in popularity, though less than recent years because they are already present in many infill communities. 

Among the other reported trends: 

  • The weaker housing market is leading to simpler home styles, including single-story designs and contemporary looks. Front and side porches continue to be strong.

  • The trend carries over to the exterior, where simpler detailing is expected along with less expectation for more windows, upscale entry doors, or accent exterior lighting. Durable, sustainable, and low-maintenance materials continue to rein. 

  • Decline of business conditions for residential architects continues to accelerate. More than half of all architecture firms indicated at least a 5% decline from the second to third quarter; 57% of firms saw a “significant drop” in new project inquiries. Backlogs are down 25% versus a year ago. 

  • Second homes and vacation homes show the largest decline, followed by first-time buyer/affordable homes, move-up homes, townhouses and condos, and custom and luxury homes. Home improvement projects had very weak growth.

The AIA’s quarterly report surveys 500 residential architecture firms. Click here to see the full report.