McMansions on the endangered list?
Are McMansions, those oversize houses that came into fashion during the oversize economic growth of the late 1990s and early 2000s, going the way of McDonald’s supersize portions? Could be; recent surveys indicate home buyers are into a "less is more" frame of mind.
After more than 30 years of steady increase, the size of the typical American house appears to be finally leveling off. A study about a year ago by the American Institute of Architects concluded that McMansions are officially out of style. After surveying 500 residential architects the outcome indicated that only 4 percent of their clients were looking for houses with more square footage.
Home buyers are apparently less interested in large expensive homes for a couple of reasons.
Obviously the economy has brought people down to earth forcing them to make decisions on what is actually essential in their lives. Sensitivity to the environment is also dictating to some home buyers what size home they really need.
In addition the vast majority of home buyers are either empty-nesters or first time home buyers, two groups that lean towards smaller houses. This dynamic will only continue to dictate home size as the baby boom generation’s families grow up and boomers start to retire. In 2000, 33 percent of households included children; by 2030 only 27 percent will.
In 1978 the median home size was 1,650 square feet and the average family size was 3.33. By 2008 the median home size had increased to 2,224 but the average family size had decreased to 3.15. According to the National Association of Home Builders the Generation X-ers, who are just starting to become home buyers, want more amenities than previous generations, and they are willing to trade away space to get them. Bells and whistles are more important to younger buyers including high end professional style appliances and exotic woods. With two career couples the norm it’s not surprising that smaller is becoming more popular, who has the time to maintain large homes, not to mention the cost of heating, cooling and lawn maintenance - it comes down to quality not quantity.
This was confirmed by a 2004 nationwide survey by the National Association of Home Builders who asked the question “For the same amount of money which of the following would you choose: a bigger house with fewer amenities or a smaller house with high quality products and amenities?” Only 37 percent of the 2,900 randomly selected respondents wanted the bigger house. 63 percent said they would prefer the smaller house with more amenities.
So what does all this mean to the real estate market? It may mean that if you have a cottage on the beach or an arts and crafts bungalow in town your home could be more marketable. Undoubtedly there will always be a desire for large homes; they are, after all, still status symbols just as much as mega yachts and foreign sports cars, but for the majority of buyers a new era has begun.
Hey don’t get me wrong, every once in a while a supersize portion of French fries from McDonald’s is the just the thing you need, but a steady diet not so much. Same with supersize homes, too much of a good thing eventually just turns into too much.