During the recession, many Americans—reeling from downsized paychecks and declining home values—scaled back their super-sized lifestyles. Sales of giant SUVs and four-door pickup trucks fell, new-home sizes shrunk, recent graduates moved back home with mom and dad, and newlyweds stayed in rental apartments. How quickly we forget the recent past.
Commerce Department data shows that the average size of a new home was 2,647 square feet during the second quarter of 2013, eclipsing the record of 2,561 square feet set in the first quarter of 2009. The new-home average was 2,380 square feet in 2010, and it’s been climbing ever since.
While new houses are larger nationwide, they’ve expanded the most in Lancaster, S.C., Jacksonville, N.C., and Naples, Fla., according to data compiled by Metrostudy, the research arm of BUILDER. For example, the average size of a new house in Lancaster, a fast-growing suburb of Charlotte, was 3,321 square feet during the second quarter, up 39 percent since 2010.
I don’t think people need bigger houses; what they need are homes that are well
designed to accommodate the way they live. They also need dwellings that are more
energy- and water-efficient, helping families live more comfortably and affordably.
Twenty years ago my husband and I bought a two-story 1,500-square-foot brick Colonial built in 1945. With 1.5 bathrooms, three small bedrooms with little closet space, and two rapidly growing sons, we built a 1,200-square-foot addition to the original square footage. My husband insisted on a enormous family room with 9-foot ceilings where he could watch college football on a gigantic flat-screen TV. Fortunately, I convinced him to ditch the living room, and to make the old and new parts of the house as energy- and water-efficient as possible.
We quickly learned, though, that we don’t need all that space. My husband isn’t having his buddies over every weekend to watch a big game, and the additional space just gives our two sons more places to spread their sports equipment, shoes, iPods, backpacks, etc. As a busy working mom, all I see are more rooms to clean and more kids’ stuff to trip over.
I grew up in a small three-bedroom house with only one full bathroom. I had to beat my younger brothers to the bathroom in the morning; otherwise, I might get stuck with a cold shower. The house was cramped, but on a minimal budget, my mother was a tasteful decorator. Other than sharing the tiny bathroom, it was a cozy, comfortable place to grow up.
Today, my friends and I often chat about chucking our oversized houses and moving into much smaller places. With age comes wisdom. We all now agree that quality trumps quantity (along with fewer square feet to clean).