The Undersupplied Housing Market and Rise of Fast-Home Decor
The struggles of finding a place to live and making it feel like home.
What’s harder: finding a place to live or making the space feel like home?
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Long time no talk! Over the past few weeks, I’ve been going through the energy-consuming process of apartment hunting in New York. Despite the hassle, I am extremely thankful to live in this city another year. I’ve moved over ten times in my 25 years of life, so I consider myself a pro.
I lived in on-base housing on and off, which meant tiny rooms, permanently white walls, and a long talk from Dad every time we ever scratched the floor. Despite the lack of character and short stays, Mom was always able to make the houses we lived in feel like home. The close quarters condensed her care and effort in an unignorable way. Even though things were far from picture-perfect, my friends always chose my house to come to after school. One of my favorite quotes my mom would say growing up was, “you can pack a home in boxes; you just need a house to put it in.”
Thanks to my mom, I can call any place home. That being said, I’m excited to finally have a room big enough that my closet door isn’t blocked by my bed. (And yes, I will have a closet. A luxury.)
One of the places I lived was Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg, Germany, which shut down the year I moved in 2013. In 2017, it was announced that an MIT professor was transforming the “abandoned WWII military village” into a “futuristic commune.” I don’t hate apartment hunting to the point where I’d move out of the country to live in a “futuristic commune,” but it sounds pretty cool.
I’m unsure if communes are the solution to housing problems, but it’s hard to ignore that development hasn’t kept up with the growing population, with the US housing market undersupplied by more than 5.5M homes. Since I’ve started to pay attention to my own housing needs, a few startups in the space that recently raised funds showed up on my radar… and I’m not just talking about the WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann’s new real-estate startup Flow.
Welcome Homes, a luxury home construction platform that elevates the design and buy process, raised $42.4M through a combination of debt, Series A, Series A1, and Series A2 in January. Users can design a home online, and six months after permitting, they could have it made without having to be too hands-on in the process. Welcome Homes makes building on teardowns and vacant lots scalable by letting home buyers and real estate investors gain access to pre-vetted and price-locked properties.
ValueBase, a six-month-old US-based property valuation startup, raised a $1.6M Pre Seed round in early February. It believes that if you value the land first, you can get a better understanding of the value without even entering a building, thanks to factors like the distance from schools or if there is a nice view. The land is a key value aspect, so taking invasive photos of a home and documenting its state on pen and paper isn’t necessary or efficient. By automating a big chunk of the appraisal process, including land and buildings, users can focus more of their time on the characteristics of the building and less on the land where it sits.
Freemodel, a pre-sale home renovation service that helps agents and homeowners sell homes quicker, raised a $19.5M Series A in January. It contacts third-party contractors to renovate and provides feedback on updates that could be done, monitoring, and quality control. It makes money by increasing the sale price of the house. The differentiating factor is it does not charge the homeowner until the house is sold or a year after the renovation. Each area that the company deals with has a local project manager who is a professional designer. Customers are acquired by working through real estate agents, who benefit from the higher sale prices and earn a percentage of the sale price.
Higharc, a homebuilding platform for the design, sales, and construction of newly built homes, raised $1.3M in a strategic investment from Simpson Strong-Tie in January. This investment brings the total to $26.8M. Higharc claims to be the first intelligent Homebuilding platform providing an all-in-one solution. As of October 2022, it has helped support the visualization, design, and creation of 38 communities across the US.
Market Prediction: the rise of fast-home decor
During the pandemic, we saw the rise of fast-home decor. Furniture was back-ordered thanks to the supply chain disruptions, so small items filled the void until couches and tables arrived. Now, consumers are shifting even more of their purchasing power to items that cater to inflation-era priorities. I predict that small home decor purchases aren’t going anywhere. It’s safe for family and friends to come together, and price-conscious consumers are noticing how expensive it is to go out, so it makes sense that there will be a rise in entertaining homeware. For example, check out the Ikea x VARMBLIXT collection launching in Spring 2023. The tableware looks amazing and is affordable.
In 2020, TikTok became a preacher, telling consumers what to fill their homes with, and Amazon became the place of worship, offering all the products and DIY tools you’d need to make your space a sanctuary. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a walk by any college dorm during the end of the semester. It’s a goldmine for stooping. It feels like I can’t be online for five minutes without being bombarded by the latest home DIY project or the newest drop-shipped item.
With the increased time people were spending inside, the more people wanted to make their space a reflection of who they wanted to be rather than what was practical for their lives. (Remember those DIY mirrors with foam frames? Not for me.) With the increased amount of people working from home and the number of people that moved into bigger homes, this isn’t a fad that is going away overnight. The expectation for the interior of a home has culturally changed. The homeware market size is expected to grow by $94.05B from 2022 to 2027.
Are you living in your home or on the internet?
With the increase in space I’ll be getting in my new apartment, I will attempt to avoid buying items that will cause me more stress or end up in a landfill after the next move. I don’t aim to be a minimalist, but I do aim to be intentional. I like having too many coffee mugs and pairs of shoes; they bring me joy, even if they might take away from the aesthetic. At the end of the day, I’m the one living in my space, not the internet.
Another Big Move: re-homing my portfolio!
TL’DR: Use this link to pay $1 for your first month of portfolios at Contra.
A few weeks ago, my friend Emily told me my personal website sucked… and she was kinda right. Previously, I used a custom URL that directed users to a Notion page that I was constantly fussing with. It was unprofessional, always a work in progress, and honestly, it just never looked good enough for me to be proud of.
I’m super pumped to be switching my site over to Contra! Contra is an all-in-one platform for freelancers to build their careers and clients to hire the perfect match. I’ve used my profile on Contra for over a year to show off the projects that I’ve done, and now, they are launching a portfolio feature.
Portfolios by Contra showcase your brand with portfolio website templates. From your portfolio, you can get paid directly with commission-free payment tools for independent work. (No more sending invoices and keeping track of Quickbooks payments!)
Check out my portfolio on Contra and let me know what you think. I want to use it as my personal website, so any improvements you have are welcome!
Want to create a portfolio of your own? You can get your first month for just a dollar using this link!