Personal Finance

The Incredible Shrinking House

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Last updated on July 22, 2019 Comments: 7

New homes are shrinking. According to the the Census Bureau’s statistics, the median home new size in 2009 fell from 2,300 to 2,135 square feet. Are homeowners shifting away from McMansions? The market is soft. If new homes are smaller, is it a result of what consumers want or what builders can afford? Many new homes are built before buyers are arranged, so I’m not convinced that these figures represent a shift.

I do see that house prices are generally low, and in a rough economy, it may make sense for people to downsize. The market, however, seems to show that homeowners are staying put. Other than during the availability of the homebuyer tax credit, potential first-time homeowners are opting to rent rather than buy. On top of this, mortgage loans are difficult to obtain right now, so those who might consider moving to a house are finding they qualify for less than they’d like if they qualify at all.

Is your house typical? How well do these features of a typical American home in 2009 describe your living space?

  • detached, single-family residence
  • located in the suburbs
  • 6 rooms
  • 2 or more baths
  • Central air conditioning
  • Dishwasher and garbage dispenser

You can take this to the extreme. There has been some hype surrounding tiny houses. Could you live in a space measuring less than 100 square feet? If that is too much space for you, consider living out of your car. I’d like to believe I could manage to fit my life into 100 square feet, but I’ve done well to expand my life, including my ownership of stuff to fit the space available to me where I live. If forced to, I could eliminate my belongings, though living out of my car — a small Honda Civic — may be beyond my ability.

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Article comments

Anonymous says:

Most people could live in smaller spaces if they had to. There is truly no real need for McMansions, or any of the fads from a few years ago.

Personally, I live in a smaller place than I did some years back. Does it take some adjusting to? Sure, it’s nice to have more room, including a big yard as well. However, more space = more work to clean and maintain, not to mention more money (including real estate taxes).

Anonymous says:

I wonder if that statistic could be in any way reflective of the huge, aging baby boomer generation, many of whom are downsizing to adapt to their changing lifestyles, as opposed to the economy.

I’m a huge fan of the tiny house and aspire to live in one someday. If not under 100 sq ft, at least under 500 sq ft would, I think, be an easy transition for me.

My car? I don’t think so and size isn’t the only problem. I appreciate indoor plumbing :)!

Anonymous says:

Us aging baby boomers are looking forward to downsizing. I live in a 6 bedroom house with a wife and 6 kids, looking forward to a little quiet time. Three have left for college, yet I still like a big house, it gives me a place to hide from my wife. We all need our own space, I can’t imagine how I could live in a 2 bedroom apt.

Anonymous says:

A typical house has 6 bedrooms? That’s amazing. It seems like there’s not that many kids per family any more though. I would love to have a 6 bedroom house, especially since I want 4 kids. I’m looking but there’s not a lot out there in the price range I’m looking for.

Luke Landes says:

That would be six rooms, not bedrooms. That includes kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, etc.

Anonymous says:

“If new homes are smaller, is it a result of what consumers want or what builders can afford?”

I’m not so sure its what consumers want…but the fact is that the lending environment FINALLY depicts reality–not the overlending and overspending that we saw in the last decade. As a result, homebuyers have no choice but to be realistic about their financial means, and size of house they can afford. Likewise, builders have come to realize that although there may still be plenty of consumers interested in buying a large home, the potential pool of qualified (operative word) just isn’t there.

Anonymous says:

My house is pretty typical except for the last item. Do people really have garbage dispensers? (maybe you’re thinking about kids) I’ll also sell you a Buick if you really want to give it a try 😉