Is the ‘flexible home’ the future?

veritii   •   Customer, Marketing, New Homes, Property, Real Estate   •   March 24, 2017

Growing populations, space constraints, and changing environmental conditions could impact not only how we build homes of the future, but also how we perceive them, fund them and live in them.

Housing in general is a hot topic right now (even if the recent Budget seemed to sidestep it somewhat) as we have less space to build and less money to buy. Yet technology, for those who can still afford to purchase, is making our homes much more efficient to both build and live in.

We’ve seen significant developments with regards new house building materials and the very fabric of our homes, in recent times, from recycled insulation to energy saving heating systems and off-site assembly options. Homes of the future may well be made out of more flexible materials that can easily be disassembled and reassembled somewhere else or as a different type of home.  3D printed walls and products will become available and even if we don’t change the location of our home we could change the configuration completely without having to get a builder in, or at least not a traditional one.

The impact of these new materials and processes however can often see build costs rise and couple this with the lack of space to build, it’s becoming increasingly challenging for many to even grab a rung on the property ladder.

For an average first time house buyer in 2017 in England the upfront costs now amount to almost £23k, the equivalent of approximately 41.7 weeks salary.

With homebuyer ‘start-up’ costs at an all-time high and social housing at breaking point, perhaps we’ll see more of a ‘hot-home’, flexible approach, a bit like a ‘hot-desk’, where we accept that homes are not necessarily our own ‘bricks and mortar’, but somewhere we can live for a certain period of time.

More than just renting or accessing social housing, where a tenant is at the mercy of a landlord or a local authority, the idea of ‘borrowing’ a house or flat that you actually own for a limited period, could be the first step on the ladder of eventual home ownership.

A version of this sort of future can be seen in the ‘co-living spaces’ that have started to appear in larger cities, like The Collective. Based on the principle of building communities, primarily for younger people, it offers shared spaces and facilities, with all-inclusive billing and services like concierge and room cleaning. But much more than a cheap house share it offers places to live that promote a sense of belonging and a more fulfilling lifestyle, with regular events and shared spaces.

A combination of privately owned space and shared communal facilities, perhaps this is the new utopia that helps alleviate space and cost issues, embraces the notion of a ‘shared economy’ and also re-engages people helping to combat issues of loneliness and isolation.

Another property market disruptor is Pocket Living, which develops compact one-bedroom flats for middle-income earners in London. This sort of service is not just about providing housing for people on varying incomes, it also ensures that people who contribute valuable skills to the economy, are able to continue working in their jobs by living near their place of work. The focus for these types of flats is good quality, efficient design incorporating energy saving elements, whilst also promoting a sense of community.

All of the above alternatives indicate significant moves away from the traditional developer building and selling homes aimed at long-term ownership. As the sharing economy continues to gain pace and impact the way we buy and use services, the property sector will be forced, through technological advances and market forces, to evolve to suit the next generation of home buyer or borrower.