Demand for more space has increased dramatically among both homebuyers and renters, underscoring the extent to which consumer preferences and priorities have changed as a result of the pandemic. 

New second-quarter data from the American Institute of Architects shows that homeowner interest in larger homes has ticked up over the last 12 months, a change that’s correlated with a sharp increase in demand for accessory dwelling units. Homeowners are also increasingly looking to build out outdoor space with sheds, barns, and pool houses, and are finishing previously untouched spaces like basements, attics, and garages. 

“Since households are doing more at home, they have been looking for more space during the pandemic. This has included focusing more activities outdoors, and adding other buildings to their property,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, in prepared remarks. “The overall strength of the residential market has driven project backlogs at residential architecture firms to pre-pandemic levels.” 

The changes in home buying preferences align closely with shifting renter demand. A recent analysis of Yardi Matrix data by RentCafe shows that after a decade of shrinking footprints, 36% of new apartment builds in 92 markets across the country are bigger than ever before. Two bedroom units are growing by nearly 50 square feet on average, while three bedroom units are increasing by 105 square feet. 

Everett, Washington and Scottsdale, Ariz., lead the trend, while smaller markets like Orlando, Oklahoma City, and Charlotte are also on track to deliver larger apartments in 2021.

“The pandemic and work-from-home has made people more conscious of the space in which they live and work,” Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix, told RentCafe. “The pandemic has significantly accelerated issues on designers’ minds well before 2020. These issues involve the rise of the home as a workspace, and a deeper emphasis on health and well-being.”