As land costs escalate, more houses will be two stories, built on smaller lots. They will be more secure and energy-efficient, with fewer defects.
A committee of industry prognosticators offered this portrait of future houses at the recent convention of the National Association of Home Builders in Las Vegas.
What happens in the auto industry, the researchers noted, is sometimes duplicated later in the housing industry. Thus, the emphasis on quality initiated by Japanese automakers and more recently pursued by their American counterparts, they said, is taking hold in the housing industry.
The trend toward defect-free housing is accelerating. "Consumers are demanding it, and the courts are demanding it," said Randall Lewis, a principal in Lewis Homes Inc.
Mr. Lewis and other panelists noted that the increased use of manufactured housing components is helping achieve this goal by providing better quality control.
"Consumers want to know not only what their houses are made of, but where the material is coming from," said Kristelle Petersen, owner of a marketing research company.
"They also want quality at Wal-Mart prices," she said, which means "they are demanding value."
Another panelist, Gopal Ahluwalia, the association's research director, said studies show:
* That more houses will be equipped with automation systems that control not only heating and cooling but also security, lighting and entertainment systems.
* That entertainment centers or media rooms -- with a large-screen TV set as the focal point -- will grow in popularity. And, in most houses, it will be the family room that serves that function.
* That zoned heating and air conditioning systems will become widely available, so homeowners can reduce temperature in one part of a house while raising it in another.
* That home offices and exercise rooms will grow in popularity.
* That raised ceilings and skylights will become standard features.
* That higher-priced houses may have two master bedrooms -- one on the upper level for parents, the other on the first floor for live-in grandparents or guests.
* That consumers will want more storage space.
* That bathrooms will be equipped with more fancy fixtures.
A key trend that will affect housing will be rising crime in cities, said Sanford Goodkin, a market analyst. He foresees strong growth in gated communities and the installation of home security systems.
"People are feeling insecure," he said. "They want their home to be a fortress."