Real Estate by Debbie Reynolds: Is a Formal Dining Room the Choice of 2018 Buyers?

Is a Formal Dining Room the Choice of 2018 Buyers?

Is a Formal Dining Room Still Important?

Dining room 2282 Ellington GaitI have been working with a custom home buyer and the buyer is expressing no need for a formal dining area. If I had a chance to do over my house I would not include a formal dining room and just make the breakfast area bigger and better.

No longer are all new homes including formal dining rooms. Some don't even have large dining areas off the kitchens but have eating bars and outside dining instead. This is a sign of our changing lifestyles, We are an on the go society, do a lot of eating out and use take out food rather than preparing big meals at home. We dress more casually, entertain less at home and are a less formal society.

If the home has a formal dining room, many buyers choose to use the room for other purposes. Dining rooms make great offices especially if there are doors installed. They make good music rooms or libraries. Young families turn the dining room into a downstairs playroom for the children so the parents can keep a close eye on the smaller children.

Is it wrong to still want a formal dining room? Of course not and for the one or two times a year it might be used for that, it could be worth it. We all have good intentions to do more entertaining but that requires preparation, grocery shopping, carving out the time and cleaning house. That in itself creates stress so less and less entertaining is being done.

For a real estate agent that works 10-12 hours a day, finding a time to entertain is difficult. It is so much easier to have a cookout, meet at a restaurant or for drinks and appetizers earlier in the evening. That way it can be more spontaneous and enjoyable.


The rise in the sale of paper plates and paper cups tells us that we are a society looking for ease and convenience. Those people that still entertain take shortcuts and use disposables. They hire caterers and use the services or the local bakery and deli's to prepare the food. They host potlucks or ask guests to bring a dish. 

It is all good whichever way we choose to live. I suggest not buying space that is not needed or if you do, plan to use it in another way. The formal dining room may be a thing of the past.

Trends are changing and so are we. 2018 Buyers want diffferent things.


Is a Formal Dining Room Still Important?

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Comment balloon 29 commentsDebbie Reynolds • September 23 2018 12:39AM


Good morning Debbie Reynolds,

You are right buyers today usually don't care about a formal dining. They like an over-sized center island that doubles as a breakfast bar and one large breakfast dining area. They'd rather have a home office than a formal dining.

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799) 3 months ago

Hi Debbie,
Even though fewer buyers care about a formal dining room these days, I believe it is still important to build one in.  Some people DO still love to entertain and you don't want a buyer to eliminate a home because it didn't have a formal dining room.  That was an issue on more than one occasion during my listing career.  As you said, they can be used for another purpose.

When my husband was ill, I turned my formal dining area into his room, giving him an area that was less isolated than the bedroom.  When he passed away I turned it into a comfortable sitting room where I visit with guests or use it for a reading room. 

Posted by Carol Williams, "Customized Mentoring & Marketing Services" (U.S.: I specialize in helping agents who have been in the business 2 years or less create a thriving business.) 3 months ago

Debbie I still love a home with a big dinning room especially for family gatherings.

Posted by George Souto, Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert (George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages) 3 months ago

Debbie we have a formal dining room but rarely has it been used for that purpose. It is right now, but that's temporary.  We host a lot of events at our home and prefer using that space for many other things. Most of our clients have no need for a dining room anymore.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886, Arizona's Top Banana! (Phoenix Property Shoppe) 3 months ago

Hi Debbie- times and our lives change. We've used our formal dining room a few times during the year for family or holiday dinners. And my friends I know who have formal dining rooms and entertain a lot, still use it for overflow seating. Usually, we're all spread out in the dining room, outside, the bar in the kitchen and the breakfast area table. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 3 months ago

We have a formal dining room that we rarely use.

I would prefer to have an open dining area.

Posted by Roy Kelley, Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs (Realty Group Referrals) 3 months ago


                                      Thank you, Debbie.

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 2 months ago

Good morning, Debbie Reynolds I have a formal dining room that NEVER gets used.... my family loves to sit in the kitchen eating area at the island that fits 10 comfortably and 14 not so the open kitchen area had room for a glass table for 4 and my desktop for my computer is a seat for another... I can fit 19 in my kitchen and only 10 in the dining room.... that might be my next study with a wall mount tv, of course! 

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) 2 months ago

Hi Debbie - yes changing times.  When I built our house 30 years ago family dinners on Thanksgiving were top of mind.  Different today.  In my new house in Florida the so called dining room is my office.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) 2 months ago

I still have some folks who request homes with formal dining rooms, but not that many.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) 2 months ago

Good morning Debbie. I enjoyed this and agree that we are living different, more casual lives today.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) 2 months ago

Congrats on the feature this week from Kathy!  Well deserved!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) 2 months ago

New construction around here has been omitting the formal dining for a while except for in the luxury homes. Most buyers don't miss it. We don't have one and thinking of all the times we have people over, we usually grill and eat outside. -Kasey

Posted by Kasey & John Boles, Boise & Meridian, ID Ada/Canyon/Gem/Boise Counties (Jon Gosche Real Estate, LLC - 2 months ago

When we decided to downsize last year, I was concerned about giving up my dining room. When we found "the one" to buy and it was indeed confirmed that my precious dining furniture would not be making the move, I was a little sad.

However, once it was sold and we moved....I am totally fine with it. Yes, there will be times that we are limited on space and will have to be creative, but that is only a couple times a year.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) 2 months ago

Debbie Reynolds  I tend to agree but then I do have some buyers that must have as they host large family dinners as George Souto has said so glad Kathy Streib featured this as i missed this post

Posted by Hannah Williams, Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-953-8818 (Re/Max Eastern inc.) 2 months ago

Debbie, interesting take on this.  Am working with a custom home client who thought they wouldn't need a formal dining but they changed their minds.  Here in Florida, we have been including formal dining rooms for thirty years as our primary buyers are northeasterners who are lugging their dining room sets down here to retire.

I think resale is a regional market decision that should be considered.

Thanks for the post!~

Posted by John Henry, Residential Architect, Custom Home Design (John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc.) 2 months ago

Hi Debbie Reynolds as I was reading your post, I was thinking the same as  John Henry, most of my buyer clients are from the northeast and request a formal dining room. I have one that gets used maybe twice a year but I wouldn't want to give it up.

Posted by Beth Atalay, Cam Realty of Clermont FL (Cam Realty and Property Management) 2 months ago

 We haven't had a formal dining room since 1986 and don't really miss it until the holidays. We've hosted Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners for the past few years and I'd much rather have a table for everyone to gather around than several small groups eating and socializing independently and certainly no more "Kid's table" to separate us even further. Here via Kathy Streib & P.S. NO CELL PHONES ALLOWED during dinner! 

Posted by Kevin J. May, Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida (Florida Supreme Realty) 2 months ago

I’ll I can see why a lot of people find it unnecessary For me and when I do it’s more about the composition and the intention than the formality.

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) 2 months ago

Hi Debbie

It's definitely become less important for many buyers, although in larger homes it still probably makes sense to have one just in case. There still is a very strong trend toward having a large kitchen/family/eating area.


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 2 months ago

I know that they are going the way of the buggy whip but I still like having mine for those two or three days a year! In the meantime, it is a good place to walk through! LOL

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) 2 months ago

Interesting post with lots of good comments. Here in our retirement, resort, second home community we don’t see many formal dining rooms. We see a lot of  very large kitchen dining areas. We see a lot large living/dens that are connected to the kitchen. In fact we see a lot of homes with one giant room that is kitchen, dining , and living room all in one. None of the Big Beach houses have a separate dinning room 

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) 2 months ago

HI Debbie Reynolds - Lots of discussion on this topic. For agents, we generally have choices in older homes for our clients who prefer having a formal dining room. When I lived in CA, homes were being built with living/dining room combo. My husband thought back then it was ridiculous. A room we never used except for the holidays.  All time was spent in the "family" room. 

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) 2 months ago

The rise in "flex" rooms signals the demand for either formal dining & living rooms is weak.

Posted by Linda Metallo DiBenardo (RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois) 2 months ago

I have had buyers say they would not buy a home because the dining room wasn't big enough for their dining room table. Some families regularly entertain and dine in formal settings. I think it depends on your culture.

Of course, I finally have the dining room table I have always wanted and now we rarely use it, maybe 2 or 3 times a year. It's also way too large for our Hawaii house so I'll probably sell it a dirt cheap price or throw it out whenever we get around to moving in later years.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (Lyon Real Estate) 2 months ago

In our former home, a dining room was a "must", Debbie Reynolds as we hosted all the family gatherings for extended family.  But as older family members have passed on, that type of entertaining has passed on too.  The kids and grandkids just don't want to sit down formally like that.  Our new home reflects that change.  The answer to your question lies in the need of each individual family and their lifestyle ... but as a rule, I'd say formal eating is out ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) 2 months ago

It all depends upon lifestyle - and perhaps the number of people in your close family. If you love to entertain at sit-down dinners, it might be a must.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) 2 months ago

I have found that formal dining rooms are still wanted in certain price ranges, but the formal living room is a wasted space.  I think that it all depends on the buyers and whether they have heirloom dining sets that they have inherited from family.  :)

Posted by Karen Feltman, Relocation Specialist in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, IA KW Legacy Group) 2 months ago

We have some people who actually make formal And informal both on their list of "must haves" with more open concepts the division of rooms blurs

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 2 months ago