Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Formal Living Rooms Are Out for Future Home Buyers - Bye Bye
Single-family homes, after ballooning in size for decades, began shrinking in 2008 and will continue that downward trend for years, says the survey released at the trade group’s annual International Builders Show.
Completed new homes, only 1,500 square feet in 1970, peaked at an average of 2,520 square feet in 2007 but fell to 2,377 square feet last year, the NAHB reports, citing U.S. Census Bureau data. Their average size will drop to 2,150 square feet in 2015, according to its survey of 238 builders, architects, manufacturers and designers.
Part of the downsizing may be temporary, due to recession-pinched pocketbooks, but several trends such as the “huge desire to keep energy costs down” suggest it will continue in a stronger economy, NAHB’s Rose Quint says.
“Demographics are long term on the side of smaller homes,” she says, pointing to the increasing number of young adults seeking energy efficiency and senior citizens wanting less space. She cites Census data that show people 65 and older will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population in 2050, up from 13 percent last year.
“Let’s buy what we need,” is a common new attitude, Quint says, noting consumers are viewing homes less as long-term investments and more as places to live than they did in the housing boom.
Yet Americans, after two years of belt-tightening, are starting to dream a bit bigger, says Jill Waage of Better Homes and Gardens, which Thursday released a December survey of 2,000 of its readers. They now say they want a home with a median square footage of 1,914 square feet, up slightly from 1,864 square feet last year.
“They are dreaming again but their dreams are definitely reality-based,” Waage says. In her survey, 74 percent of consumers say affordability remains a high priority as they look to remodel or buy a home. So, too, does energy efficiency, cited by 68 percent.
NAHB reports that the average size of new U.S. homes started but not completed last year actually increased a tad – 14 square feet – from 2009. Its survey notes the U.S. increase was due almost entirely to changes in the South.
“By no means is it a national phenomenon,” says Quint, an economics researcher.
In NAHB’s survey, 52 percent of participants say they plan to build smaller homes in 2011, compared with 2010, and 59 percent plan lower-priced models. Only 7 percent say they plan to build larger or higher-priced homes.
As for the near future, in 2015, 74 percent say single-family homes will be smaller and 68 percent say they’ll have more “green” features such as low-flow faucets, dual-flush toilets, better windows and whole-house Energy Star efficiency ratings.
Losing favor is the formal living room, which 82 percent say will either vanish or merge with other spaces in 2015. In contrast, survey respondents say a great room combined with a kitchen will “very likely” be part of the average new home.
© Copyright 2011 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Wendy Koch.