Home is more in 2021 than it ever was. 

It's a place where people work and log into school. It's a place where people are enjoying cooking at home more. It's a place where people are looking for entertainment and recreation in their back yards or inside their homes.

"With COVID, it's been a little interesting as far as what people's wants and desires are for the home," said Mindy Hamilton, a third generation home builder with the Hamilton Group in Longview. She's also president of the East Texas Builders Association. "We used to think about going out as our source of entertainment, for recreation, for eating, and now we're seeing that transition to where people are in their homes more."

That has translated into an emphasis on specific areas of the home when it comes to new construction and remodeling.

East Texans will get a chance to take a look at current building trends when the East Texas Builders Association and the Tyler Area Builders Association host their Parades of Homes, May 7-9 and May 14-16 in the Longview area and June 5-13 in the Tyler area.

All the technology

Hamilton said there is a renewed interest in studies or home offices, along with an emphasis on technology and integration of smart home technology.

More people are using the internet at the same time for working and participating in online school at home. Hamilton said that means ensuring the technology can support the necessary Wi-Fi network in a home with Wi-Fi repeaters throughout the house. Hardwire connections also are requested to accompany Wi-Fi, she said.

The great outdoors

"This may change in the next year," Hamilton said, but builders are seeing customers focusing on outdoor spaces — outdoor kitchens, backyard space for children to play and pools.

"Anything that is entertainment at home," Hamilton said.

Curtis Clader, owner and project manager of Clader Homes in Tyler, said he also has seen a focus on outdoor areas, including outdoor fireplaces. Clader also is chairman of the this year's Tyler Area Builders Association's Parade of Homes.

"If you're going to be stuck in the house," Clader said, those outdoor recreational areas become more important.

The great indoors

Bigger kitchens, where parents can cook while children sit around an island working on homework, are another building trend resulting from the pandemic. "Flexible spaces" are too, where a game room might become a home school room instead.

"We're seeing spaces that are more flexible and that are more in keeping with family time," Hamilton said.

Building strong, prices up

Clader said the home building industry is doing well – "going crazy," although the pandemic pushed prices higher.

In February and March of 2020 plywood prices were $8 a sheet. Now, they're at $32 a sheet, because the lumber mills aren't yet back up to full capacity, Clader said. Steel product prices also are "skyrocketing," he said.

Builders also have had to increase lead time for ordering supplies, considering COVID-19 interruptions.

"We can mitigate things taking a lot longer for the most part," Clader said, "but we don't have any control over pricing."

Here are other trends you can expect to see during the Parades of Homes:

* "I think you're going to continue to see a push with kind of farmhouse style homes. You're going to continue to see a push on painted brick homes," Clader said, adding that homes have been a mix of traditional homes with modern features.

* Clean lines, less trim work and more streamlined countertops and lighting fixtures are popular right now, as are beams in the ceiling, Clader said.

* Hardwood floors are still desired in a majority of homes, and stained cabinets are making a comeback, Clader said.

* Lighting is a mixture of recessed, chandeliers and hanging fixtures that serve as artwork in the room, Hamilton said.

* Everyone has made the transition to LED lights, with Hamilton saying they have many great benefits for energy use.

* Overall energy efficiency has become more important for homes, she added, with people gravitating toward spray foam in the attic and also using what's known as freeze resistant PEX piping.

* Generators were popular even before this year's snowmageddon, with a majority of people requesting them to be tied into the house during construction, Hamilton said.