New American homes might be smaller but are still bigger and nicer than the past

Some commentators have taken the US Census data that says new American homes are smaller than they were at the 2007 peak as evidence that the McMansion era is over and Americans will live in smaller homes in the future. While it may be difficult to make predictions about the future (and Americans still have large homes compared to world standards), there is another way to look at the data: the new houses of 2010 are much bigger and nicer than new homes several decades ago.

According to the data, the average new, single-family home built in 2010 was 2,392 square feet. That’s down somewhat from a McMansion-inflated high of 2,521 square feet in 2007, but still up significantly from three decades ago.

In 1980, the average new home was just 1,740 square feet, according to the Census.

Our homes also have gotten a lot more comfortable. For example, in 1980, 63 percent of new homes had central air conditioning. Last year, 88 percent of them did.

In 1980, more than one-quarter of all homes built had 1.5 bathrooms or less. Last year, just 8 percent of houses had such a small number of bathrooms.

This is quite a change from 1980, suggesting that homes have changed quite a bit in the span or just one or two generations.

Questions that come to mind when considering this historical change:

1. Would those who suggest American homes will get smaller in the future suspect that homes will go back to 1980 sizes by 2040?

2. Does anyone expect that Americans will give up amenities, such as multiple bathrooms, on the way to having smaller homes?

3. If the answer to the first two questions is no, what might the new home of 2040 look like? A little bit smaller, say 2,000 square feet, but packed with features?

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