National average home size decreasing

USA Today reports that Americans are building smaller homes:

New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically, from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter, Census data show.

The trend for smaller homes is predicted to continue after the economy recovers:

“This will remain a trend. I don’t expect this (home size) to come back up,” says Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of research for the National Association of Home Builders. Nine of 10 builders surveyed by NAHB this year say they’re building or planning smaller, lower-priced homes than in the past.

“We don’t need big homes,” he says. “Family size has been declining for the past 35 years.”

In 1982, during another recession period in US history, the Census Bureau reported the average new home was 1,710 square feet. Homes are currently more than 600 square feet larger, but the recent downward trend (in my personal opinion) is still a step in the right direction.


Speaking of home sizes, Unclutterer senior writer Matt was recently quoted in a MSN.com article on downsizing. “Cut your square footage in half.”

25 Comments for “National average home size decreasing”

  1. posted by The Demand for McMansions on

    [...] a housing crisis but the markets are adjusting. Average home size for a single-family detached home is declining from 2,626 to 2,343 square feet. The average home size was 1,710 in 1982 but the average family size has in fact decreased over the [...]

  2. posted by Meredith on

    That’s a good thing. I’ve seen huge homes with just one or two people living in them. Nobody needs that much space.

  3. posted by infmom on

    If this is the demise of the McMansion it can only be a good thing.

  4. posted by Sky on

    Living in a small space is so easy. Quick clean up, less stuff to care for, etc. You learn to make double use of space quickly.

  5. posted by L. on

    Is there anything inherently wrong with a larger house? Particularly built on more than one story and with modern construction, they don’t necessarily consume more resources than a smaller house. And I wouldn’t mind more square footage for us, for our kids, and for our dogs. The trick is just not to clutter it up with stuff you don’t need.

  6. posted by Marie on

    I’ve often wondered how much of the increase in housing related to the explosion in telecommuting and people starting their own home businesses. Several people I know upgraded when they started working from home.

  7. posted by Kaori on

    I wonder if American house will ever be reduced to the size of UK houses, or even Japanese homes? I doubt it. My experience of American family homes is that they have way to go.

    I currently live in a shoe box sized flat and trying to get the most out of the limited space. It is a good training environment to learn how to live simply. I hope the unflattering/ cleaning/organizing skills I am acquiring now can be used in whatever size of house we live in future.

  8. posted by Factoid of the day: No place like (not-so-big) home | Daniel Pink on

    [...] “New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically, from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter, Census data show.”(Source: USA Today via Unclutterer) [...]

  9. posted by Karyn on

    I agree with Kaori. Living in a small space really is a good exercise in clarifying what’s essential and what’s not. It also makes it easier to weather the ups and downs of the economy. If I don’t need more space, why pay for it?

    The one thing that would be nice about having more rooms is that I’d have a place to host people I know who are in need of a place to crash for a few days, or weeks, or months. On the other hand, I rather like my little Urban Hermitage :-D so maybe I’d rather use the money to help them pay the month’s rent, or something like that!

  10. posted by ME from Italy on

    2,343?! Ouch! Almost 218 square meters – the house I’ll hopefully buy soon is 80 sm, and it’s quite roomy, on 2 floors. Big houses are so American, and it’s natural – you have a lot of space. I’m a bit envious. Colonial houses are so pretty :)

  11. posted by Rebecca on

    I think this current state of the economy is making people reconsider just about everything they thought they “needed” before. With a bigger house comes bigger utility bills and the need for more “stuff” to fill it. We live in 1200 sq. ft. which is perfect for the four of us.

    When we took our kids trick or treating last Halloween, I noticed some of the houses that were twice our size had empty living rooms. These people had bought more house than they could afford and now can’t afford to furnish them.

  12. posted by minnie on

    I confess my family of four was among those who jumped on the “bigger is better” bandwagon. It’s truly hard to resist the lure of a nice, brand new home that has been staged to reflect a desirable lifestyle (ie. playroom for kids, home office, etc.) Thankfully, we can afford to furnish and decorate it and I do love our home, all 3,000 feet of it. But the reality is that I spend too much time cleaning it and if it’s not clean, then how can I enjoy it? I would love at least a slightly smaller home but the state of real estate being what it is, I’m reluctant to sell and lose so much money on a home that has depreciated so much. So I decorate, enjoy our home … and clean.

  13. posted by anonymous on

    The chorus to “Stuff” by Diamond Rio mentions the need “to get a bigger place so I can move in … more stuff”. Video at http://www.cmt.com/videos/diamond-rio/42493/stuff.jhtml .

    Catalogs fillin’ up the mailbox
    Home shopping on the cable box
    And www dot
    Oh there’s no escape
    Delivery truck coming up ’round the bend
    Beep, beep, beep, just backing in
    Sign here and here and here again
    ‘Cause it’s no money down no payments till
    Your whole place is cram packed filed with

    Stuff (stuff) stack it on stack it on up
    (Stuff) never gonna ever get enough (stuff)
    Oh it’s treasure till it’s mine then it ain’t worth a dime
    It’s stuff (stuff) spreading like weeds
    Dragging me under in an endless sea of stuff
    (Stuff) There ain’t no end
    Got to get a bigger place so I can move in
    More stuff

    It’s getting late but it’s alright
    The get-it-all mart opened up all night
    You can catch it all with a quick swipe
    It’s easier everyday
    Suv’s and mini vans
    Parading ’round in caravans
    Toting off more than their tires can stand
    ‘Cause it’s no money down no payments till
    Every square inch of the whole world’s filled with

    Stuff (stuff) stack it on stack it on up
    (Stuff) never gonna ever get enough (stuff)
    Oh it’s treasure till it’s mine then it ain’t worth a dime
    It’s stuff (stuff) spreading like weeds
    Dragging me under in an endless sea of stuff
    (Stuff) There ain’t no end
    Got to get a bigger place so I can move in
    More stuff

    Drag it in, pack it in
    The man with the most
    He just wins more stuff

    Stuff (stuff) stack it on stack it on up
    (Stuff) never gonna ever get enough (stuff)
    Oh it’s treasure till it’s mine then it ain’t worth a dime
    It’s stuff (stuff) spreading like weeds
    Dragging me under in an endless sea of stuff
    (Stuff) There ain’t no end
    Got to get a bigger place so I can move in
    More stuff

  14. posted by Sue on

    I think the huge house trend is a reflection of what is wrong with America lately. The American Dream morphed from “work hard and you will succeed” to “giant house in the ‘burbs”. Since when did it become about “stuff”, instead of character?

  15. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    that makes me feel better! although I won’t lie to you, I still dream of owning a large home someday. Of course anything after the 1680 sq. feet we live in now will feel large. :)

  16. posted by Battra92 on

    I have issues with those who say “No one NEEDS that much space” since, really, you don’t know the family nor their needs (or wants for that matter.)

    Sure we only need food, clothing and basic shelter to keep us alive but if that’s all that we wanted in our lives we’d work maybe one or two hours a day scavenging food and killing some wild animal for their skins and food.

    Personally I’m 26, single (for life most likely) and I have a good idea of what sort of house/apt I want to move into. I’m currently living in one bedroom (long story) and will be moving later this year to someplace more spacious. I want a place where I can surround myself with the things that enhance my life. I don’t want to live in a desolate empty jail cell.

    For me, uncluttering is about balance. Some may like the Spartan (MADNESS) decorating and others may flourish in a room filled with knick knacks. I’m somewhere in-between.

  17. posted by Beverly D on

    Since when are McMansions a NEW thing? Look at Cape May NJ, Newport RI, just to name two. The Hamptons have long been the ideal real estate for show houses. Wretched excess is not unique to the US either, I’ve seen plenty in the UK, France, Holland, and Germany.

  18. posted by Lex on

    This is comforting, especially after seeing a show on HGTV this weekend where a single woman felt “the walls were closing in” on her in her 2,000 sq. ft. townhome so she was shopping for a 3,000 sq. ft. home. To live in BY HERSELF.

  19. posted by Diane on

    Interesting… We live in a 1300 sf house with 2 adults & 2 boys 17 & 22. It would be great to have a bit more room, especially when they have friends over – it can get a bit crowded.

    With just the 2 adults, this would be plenty enough space for us, although I would love larger porches!

  20. posted by Our Clean House « An Expatriate in Rapallo on

    [...] the whole story, either.  By and large, Italian homes are much smaller than American homes.  The average house size in the U.S. is +/- 2300 square feet.  Here in Italy, the average is 700-1100 square feet.  So [...]

  21. posted by Mimi R on

    What nonsense!

    Of COURSE homes will continue to get bigger after the economy recovers. We have the biggest homes because, in real terms, we’re the richest. Sure, you may like to downsize when you’re older, but along with the big home comes the cleaning lady.

    We have 3200 sqft. We downsized from 4000 sqft because of changing states and relative housing prices. And guess what? We’re working on a 260sqft addition. And after that will be a 230sqft addition. And after that, a 1840 sqft “inlaw house” for my parents to retire to. (My parents’ will be downsizing from 3400 sqft. They want a smaller house, and 1850sqft is literally THE smallest footprint I could squeeze their “must-have” list into–that’s 925sqft on the entry level with the same necessarily below.)

    I grew up in a house that was MAYBE 1400sqft. Probably more like 1200. We moved in middle school, and I never want to live in that kind of space again.

    Do we have a lot of “stuff” here? Probably less than the average family with half as much space. Having a larger-than-average house doesn’t mean you have to junk it up any more than having a small house does.

    I have a feeling that the average sized house FAMILIES would choose would be around 3600sqft, if they had the option.

  22. posted by Mimi R on

    Oh, and as far as crass consumerism goes, this kind of snobbery is as idiotic as me criticizing you for your wardrobe. (Since 19 out of 20 adults have more clothes than I do, and 49 out of 50 SPEND more on them, I think I’m pretty same to use a general “you” term here.)

    I spend my money on activities and durable goods. If you choose to spend yours on other things, that’s fine. But don’t pretend it’s noble. You still spend money, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you stay out of debt.

  23. posted by Irene Turner on

    I think part of the downsizing trend is not just the economy or the smaller families, but also the aging of the boomers. Between age and empty nest syndrome the thought of taking care of a large house is no longer an option. Smaller and efficient both functionally and efficiency is crucial.

  24. posted by Mo Baker on

    Noone may read this, but I’m going to post it anyway, just in case.

    A good number of years ago (thank goodness) I feel upon some very hard times. I recall a day when my daughter opened the refrigerator and started crying. I recall that and many other similar moments when now, as I live in a very different financial reality, I consider buying a $2000 pocketbook, or a $4000 dress because they’re just so gorgeous (they always are) and they actually are “on sale.” I think about how many meals I could feed a young child the age my daughter was when she was hungry with that pocketbook money, or how much of an impact my $4000 could make in the life of a family desperately sacrificing to provide a decent education for their child/children in an area where the public school education is like it is here in Philadelphia.

    I drag myself from the store where I was really going to buy the pocketbook, or the dress, (it really is hard to buy anything, no matter how outlandish the price, when you really like it, and you can easily afford it). I chose to leave it behind, find myself something more reasonable (I still find fabulous items in thrift shops for less than $10) and donate the rest anonymously to help a specific person or group of people. For instance, I will call a school and ask them to identify a student or group of students whose families are falling behind in tuition payments and ask them to spread my donation among those families.

    I learned similarly, from the transition period when I left that impoverished period, but had not reached my current level of comfort. I had a decent sized apartment with small rooms, and it was beautifully decorated by me (a passion of mine), and cozy. I found that there wasn’t much that I didn’t have that I needed. I identified those things I did need: an eat in as opposed to a walk in kitchen (we ate in the living room), a space for entertaining guests (my living room could only hold maybe 7 guests at a time), a master bath and a laundry room, a larger office space and a guest room (I am always taking on an extra “tenant.” I found my needs were met in a charming small house with a nice amount of land around it, room for my pups and for me and my now teenage daughter to exercise, run around, and have privacy. I do sometimes hire someone to clean the little house, but more because I’m busy, and less because it’s too much house to clean. My bigger expense is lawn and garden care – but I do much gardening myself. I hire help when I need an extra hand and some expertise. I think the thing that’s important to me is that I am not so driven by what I own that I give any less than possible to the development of my community. I feel I improve my own life best when I improve the state of those around me. More people steal due to hunger and desperation than greed. The world is safer when we give.

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