Architecture and Renovation, trends in Brisbane property

Shrinking homes and dinner on your lap: Design questions for choosing your next home or investment

Stats out this week show the average size of a new Australian home is at its lowest in 11 years, shrinking to 241m2. A new apartment/townhouse in Queensland now averages 131m2, and this new CommSec report confirms what many home buyers are witnessing. Higher costs have pushed size down to keep sale prices affordable.

But rather than be frustrated by the shrinkage, savvy shoppers are paying close attention to how the available space is used. Good design is more essential than ever as size comes down. Often we’ll be selling a rented apartment and an investor will scratch their head wondering why the tenants don’t have a dining suite. One generation might see this as essential furniture; the other has turned that space into an office, media room or gym station.

Did you eat dinner on your lap in front of the TV last night? Be honest now… Was breakfast at a table or maybe on a stool at the kitchen bench? And if you think back over the past month, how many times did you sit in a dedicated “dining room”? The challenge when you’re buying – both for your own home and for investment – is to work out what spaces deliver ‘bang for their buck’. All of us have small trade-offs when we buy: no view but more modern; less bedrooms but more central etc. So should you still put priority on a dining room?

Kitchens are far bigger today, and much more integrated into living spaces, than they’ve ever been before. Ask someone aged in their 70’s or 80’s and there’s a good chance they’ll like a kitchen that’s hidden from view, while most of us want it in amongst the action. Many modern kitchens have TV’s of their own and plenty of stools so meal prep becomes interactive; open plan design has the kitchen at the heart of the action. Better than the Jones’ appliances, sparking splashbacks and impossibly gleaming stone benches are no longer “ad-worthy” for real estate agents: they’re just expected. The eating itself is usually done right there on the benchtop, on the deck outside (see results of our recent tenant survey – outdoor spaces are very highly rated) or in front of TV.

Or we eat out. ABS stats show our spending on meals away from home has jumped 55% over the past 30 years. This had a short dip during the GFC then we were back out at restaurants in big numbers again. (Albeit with an appetite for cheaper meals – our spend per diner has dropped 10% in the past 2 years.)

So today’s tip that could save you thousands: Spend some time working out where you really spend your time at home and think twice about what you need. And if you’re buying for investment, ask a property management specialist what tenants will really value. It might be too early to proclaim the death of the formal dinner party, but she’s well and truly on her last legs.

We’d love to hear your comments. Could we see a revival of formal dining rooms?!