Demand for more space during the coronavirus pandemic could reverse a recent trend towards slightly smaller homes.
The average size of a new single-family home peaked at 2,689 square feet five years ago, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Perhaps imagine a two-story house with four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.
That average has steadily declined since then, as more millennials entered the market looking for affordable first-time homes, said Rose Quint, who studies housing trends with the National Association of Home Builders.
“Due to the pandemic, we are already seeing data that builders are receiving more requests for larger homes because people want more space,” she said.
Quint predicts second half of this year numbers will show average home sizes will rise again, as shoppers seek space to work, attend school and exercise – at home.
A return to larger floor plans is not good for the environment, said Maurie Cohen, who teaches sustainability at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The larger the house, the more carbon emitted during the construction process. Large spaces also require more energy to heat and cool, he said.
“Very little attention has been paid to the fact that if we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making a meaningful contribution to climate change, one of the surest ways to do that is to focus on about size reduction, ”Cohen said.
But even if people want bigger homes, they can’t necessarily afford them, said Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, a housing data and advisory firm. Home prices have continued to rise during the pandemic, as construction costs rise and buyers taking advantage of low mortgage interest rates compete for a limited supply of homes for sale.
“Builders really have a hard time asking, should we be building bigger houses that might have to cost more? Or do we continue to build achievable homes and find creative solutions so that people can still use their homes as a gym and home office, but can also afford it without stretching their budgets? Said Wolf.
A builder she knows took a little extra storage space and turned it into a Zoom room – just big enough for a desk and chair.
Same size, completely different atmosphere.