McMansions Out Of Favor: New Homes Reportedly Getting Smaller

by Rich Vetstein on June 14, 2010 · 2 comments

in Massachusetts Property Values, Massachusetts Real Estate Law, Realtors

The Wall Street Journal Blog has a very interesting article on the recent demise of McMansions:

America’s love affair with McMansions continues to wane:  The size of new single-family homes completed last year fell 3.2% to 2,438 square feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders trade group, which analyzed Census data.

It’s the second year of downsizing, officially ending an expansion that spanned nearly three decades: The average home sized peaked at 2,521 square feet in 2007. It came in flat in 2008 and fell in 2009 as builders built smaller, less ornate homes priced lower to compete with foreclosures. The new generation of homes has fewer bedrooms: Just 34% of last year’s homes had four or more bedrooms. Between 2005 and 2009 – years that include the building boom – the proportion of homes with three bedrooms jumped from 49% to 53%.

Fewer bedrooms means fewer bathrooms. The percentage of homes with three or more bathrooms came in at 24% last year, down from a peak of 28% in both 2007 and 2008.Home sizes have fallen before, but this time the change might stick around for some time.

“We also saw a decline in the size of new homes when the economy lapsed into recession in the early 1980s,” says David Crowe, the National Association of Home Builders’ chief economist. “The decline of the early 1980s turned out to be temporary, but this time the decline is related to phenomena such as an increased share of first-time home buyers, a desire to keep energy costs down, smaller amounts of equity in existing homes to roll into the next home, tighter credit standards and less focus on the investment component of buying a home.”

I’ve witnessed the steady influx of McMansions into my own 1960’s era Sudbury neighborhood, and I dealt with them as a zoning board member. There are obvious pros and cons with the trend. I’ll raise some thoughts, and open up the dialogue.

A dilapidated property converted into a McMansion can be beneficial for property values and  neighborhood aesthetics. Local zoning boards have come up with good guidelines to minimize the impact of larger houses in a neighborhood of smaller houses. However, on a macro level, McMansions tend to reduce the stock of otherwise suitable affordable housing stock within a community–and that can have long term effects. That 3 bedroom multi-level will do just fine for many first time home buyers. But the sprawling 4,000 s.f. McMansion is unaffordable to most. Once a McMansion is built, the affordable home which it replaced is gone from the housing stock, and will most likely not be replaced as builders aren’t interested in those types of starter homes anymore.

It’s encouraging to see the market self-regulating and providing a shift back to smaller and more affordable homes. I think that’s good for everyone.

Your thoughts?

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  • So glad to see this trend!! I grew up in a little ranch home and you know what, we didn’t feel deprived in the least. We even had my aunt’s whole family living with us for a year–in a house with one bathroom. 🙂

    As an aside, have you seen the Habitat for Humanity home in Sudbury? I was so excited to hear there was one built there. (And surprised to hear of something affordable in town!)

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