A narrative about McMansions at the heart of the economic crisis

With an ongoing economic crisis and housing slump, there are plenty of stories about who has been hit the hardest. But one writer suggests that perhaps we can’t just simply say that those who were excessive in their consumption and purchased McMansions are the only ones affected:

With an ongoing economic crisis and housing slump, one target of blame is McMansion buyers. But one writer suggests the economic crisis affects more people than just those who consumed beyond their means:

The nation’s lingering housing foreclosure mess is too often about folks with McMansion-size aspirations and duplex paychecks, granite counter appetites and laminate budgets.

And when we hear that one of the nation’s hot spots for foreclosures is Prince William County, we nod knowingly, thinking of the vast tracts of huge new homes and the dreamers who drowned in them.

But the other day, I met some of the folks who lost their homes or are fighting with banks to try to keep them. And McMansion isn’t what comes to mind.

The rest of the story goes on to describe the stories of a few people who lived more modest lifestyles and yet have still fallen into housing issues.

I would be interested in seeing some figures about what kinds of homes or types of owners are those who have experienced the most foreclosures or mortgage difficulties. Is it really McMansion owners or others? We hear quite a bit about regional differences, such as high vacancy rates in Florida and high foreclosure rates in certain states or cities, but less about other factors.

In reading this one particular story, I wonder why people might be quick to jump on people like those who live in Prince William County (a wealthy county – this Wikipedia list has it as the 14th highest county in the country in terms of median household income). How much of this is a moral judgment leveled against McMansion owners and houses more broadly? With this housing crisis, it now looks like McMansions are also a bad economic deal, adding to the other issues that critics say McMansions have.

0 thoughts on “A narrative about McMansions at the heart of the economic crisis

  1. Unfortunately, I do not have the statistics you’re looking for at my fingertips – but do follow this discussion very closely.

    To single out the buyer’s of homes that were large, new and “ugly” (ugly defined as not appealing to the majority) is just not fair. IMO the problem has been well played out in the media.

    In summary, it appears that (for a variety of reasons) excess capital became available to support housing – all sizes, shapes and price range. Many people took advantage of this available credit, which was also offered as revolving credit (i.e. credit cards) and used it.

    The “real estate is always a good investment” mentality that most American’s were weaned on stopped working one day when the price on a single home “down ticked”. The ensuing tickle became a waterfall and all the dominos fell. Blame can be spread around to many. Moral judgment was questionable from the top – Government programs, banks, and lenders all the way down to the hard-working hourly waged individual.

    I believe that’s how the story will playback?

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    • Brian,

      Thanks for commenting. I don’t disagree with you: there are a lot of players involved and affected by this economic crisis and housing slump.

      But I found it interesting that this particular news story started this way (and I’m paraphrasing here): “You might think that McMansion owners are the primary people affected by this housing slump but it is also affecting people who never overconsumed…”

      I try to keep up with references to McMansions in the media and it is interesting to note that in the last 11 years or so (back to the early 2000s), McMansions are often cited as an example of overconsumption (oftentimes mentioned alongside SUVs). I just wonder if this economic crisis now gives McMansion critics more room to make this overconsumption argument now that there are economic issues facing McMansion owners. It is one thing to say that McMansions are ugly or inappropriate or part of sprawl but another to say that they are economically unfeasible and a key sign of American avarice.

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