BAM Key Details: 

  • A new Opendoor report explores the “simple-sizing” trend, how it relates to “intentional consumerism,” and how it influences consumer spending and home purchases. 
  • According to a recent Harris poll, the idea of a “happy life” has shifted for 61% of Americans, and over half are taking action to actively pursue the life they want.

A growing number of today’s consumers are making more conscious choices with their spending. And that includes home purchases. 

With the rise of “intentional consumerism,” more home buyers are deliberately choosing a simpler lifestyle and adopting habits like decluttering, spending less, prioritizing self-care, choosing experiences over things, and patronizing companies that align with their values.

A new Opendoor report focuses on how this “simple-sizing” trend is influencing home buyers. Because as consumers increasingly turn to simplicity to create healthier, easier-to-manage, and more integrated lifestyles, the homes they shop for are changing, too. 

According to a recent Harris poll, the idea of a “happy life” has shifted for 61% of Americans. More than half are actively pursuing alternative lifestyles to create the life they want. 

And simple-sizing contains a multitude of ways to do that. 

The key drivers behind intentional consumerism and “simple-sizing”

A key instigator behind the rise of intentional consumerism and simple-sizing is inflation. Most consumers (93%) say their big purchases have either remained the same or become more intentional (so only 7% have been less intentional with big purchases). 

When things cost more, people are more likely to re-evaluate their spending habits and cut out the things that don’t add value to their lives—or not enough value to justify the cost. 

Lesser items that are enjoyable but that don’t contribute much to their welfare and happiness are likely to give way to expenses that enrich their lives or those of the people closest to them. 

Aside from higher costs, external factors behind this drive for simplicity include— 

  • Health concerns (57%)
  • Environmental concerns (40%)
  • COVID-related events (21%)
  • Pressure from work (21%)

Not just a fad

The mindset behind simple-sizing has become more mainstream, thanks to influencers like Marie Kondo and floods of ebooks on simpler, happier lifestyles, including the Danish “Hygge” approach to life and various styles of minimalism. 

Roughly two-thirds (66%) of consumers say they’ve taken intentional steps toward simplifying their lives in the past year. More than three-quarters (77%) say they make intentional life choices on a daily basis. 

The craving for simplicity is not a new thing, after all. And while this could all be a pendulum swing that will eventually take us right back to indulgence and excess, for now, it’s got enough staying power to influence how people are shopping for homes.

Redefining the dream home

The “simple-sizing” movement has even changed people’s definition of their dream homes. Nearly six out of ten (59%) survey respondents say their ideal home has changed, with 52% wanting something smaller and 81% searching for homes with a simpler design. 

Nearly seven in ten (67%) say they would like to move to a quieter place. And for most people, close proximity to shopping and restaurants (50%) and outdoor recreation (51%) are top priorities. 

That’s more or less in keeping with a growing trend that favors investing more in experiences than in material possessions (not that the two are mutually exclusive—hence the “shopping”).

The dream home, then, is a home that allows the homeowner to live a simpler, more intentional, and hopefully more fulfilling life. 

Time will tell how much influence this has on new construction and whether it helps, in any way, with housing affordability. But simpler doesn’t necessarily mean less expensive. 

Takeaways for real estate agents

Ultimately, what we really need to “simple-size”—i.e., simplify and declutter—are the process and expense builders have to go through before starting new construction projects

We could also use more intentional legislation and local policies designed to incentivize the construction of affordable housing

Until then, simple-sizing may make it easier for potential buyers to save for a down payment–since, presumably, they won’t be spending as much on things that add no lasting value to their lives—but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on housing affordability.