Anita Gullo-Eardley As we look fresh at 2011 following a year in record foreclosures, interest rates unseen in years and a tax credit that helped spur many to purchase homes, we turn our sights on some of the likely trends in this year's market. Many of the predictions we are seeing for 2011 are cautious assumptions that the market may change slightly. For the most part, experts are predicting that changes will be slow and subtle and that there will be no huge surprises in the year ahead.

- Smaller homes make a comeback: The average size of a new home decreased for the first time in decades from 2008 to 2009, and analysts believe that trend will continue into 2011. A shift has begun toward urban cores, smaller homes and away from large suburban communities according to FrontDoor.com. Behavior is changing as we start to think differently about the extent of our disposable incomes and necessary savings as many found themselves unprepared for the recession. New buyers will have to be more conservative with their mortgages and will need to pay a higher percentage for a down payment, which means they’ll need a home with a smaller price. As a result, we’ll see builders continue to trim the size of their homes and look for new ways to make square footage work harder.

- Rental properties: People are choosing to rent with the intent of living in their houses longer once they do buy. The census shows the average person moves about 11 times, but some predict that number will slowly decrease. "Thankfully, the idea of a home as a short-term moneymaker is essentially gone, so when people do buy, they’ll do it with the intention of staying put for closer to 10 years rather than two to three,” says Jim Chittaro, president of Smykal Homes. This means people will be studying floor plans more closely, to ensure the home will grow with them. Chittaro says “floor plans that can adapt to lifestyle changes with flexible features like second family rooms should do well in 2011.”

- Healthy homes: When you consider a study by the National Institutes of Health that found the number of people with allergies is as much as five times higher than 30 years ago, the trend toward building homes with a healthier environment will also gain ground in 2011. Indoor air quality, low VOC paints and adhesives, and all-around healthier materials are becoming more and more of a concern for people building homes – especially for those with children. This trend is effecting existing homes, too. Due to the economy, many people have decided to stay put in their existing home and invest in changes to make it look better and live healthier. Construction companies are pricing more jobs that include installing HVAC systems with better filtration, using low-VOC materials and replacing old doors and windows to safeguard against exterior pollutants.

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