In talking to a couple this weekend I realized a few differences between people who bought homes in the 60's-70's and people who bought in the 90's.
People who bought in the 60's-70's were in the job they were going to stay in for life. They did not have to move, to move up in the company. They were company people, no matter who they worked for, they were a company person be it Sears, Winn Dixie, the local mill or manufacturing plant...did not matter they had made a commitment for their job and their life. The company took care of them. This employee worked to live and lived to work.
When they bought a home, they were looking for a 2nd bath, but not necessarily for each kid to have their own bedroom. They were looking at yards and family spaces. They were also looking at out buildings and garages, to house their 2nd most expensive purchase, their car. They saved for higher education for their kids and they hated going into debt.
Move forward to the 90's and we get a totally different picture. Jobs were good for 2-4 years and then you moved on to make the move up. Companies did not take care of employees...you had to work for temp services with no benefits till you proved yourself and then you started out at the bottom, lived under the strain of knowing you were the bottom of the list and the first to be out the door during short time. This employee worked to be able to play...the company is not their whole world.
This consumer needed a bedroom for each child...a TV in each bedroom, smaller living areas--no formal living room or dining room. This consumer needed/wanted room for bigger cars and wanted more features. At this point in history we were selling houses with bedroom/bath combo if the bedroom did not have a bath it was harder to sell. Credit was king...have it today, pay for it tomorrow.
We have now come full circle, in 2011 the consumer is looking for smaller homes. They are still looking for 2 bathrooms, but each bedroom does not have to have its own bath. Family rooms are in the formal living room is out as we are looking for gathering spaces. Dining areas that spill out to decks or patios are in. Energy efficiency is also the first question we are asked. This group are retirees. Most are retiring with debt they accumulated during the 90's. They are paying for the trip to Europe or the kids education. They are looking to buy, but on a budget. Monthly costs must be known to the penny. They are looking at areas that have things to do that are free or cheap. Not because they are cheap, their values have just changed from what they were.
We are back to where cash is king. 30 year mortgages are being phased out. Larger down payments required. The next 20 years will show another change, if I could predict what it will be, I would be rich.