Here is an argument that new home sales of recent months might be driven in part by larger homes, sometimes known as McMansions:
Data released on Wednesday shows that sales of newly built homes rose 3.3% in April from a month prior and 9.9% from a year ago. While the figures do not disclose the size of these new homes, home builders credited the McMansion side of the spectrum. That’s a reversal from recent trends: During the recession the size of homes got smaller, shrinking 3.4% to 2,382 square feet, according to the US Census. But last year that size jumped 5.2% to 2,505 – the largest in at least four years. In many regions of the country, homes are even larger.
Home builders say the trend toward larger new homes picked up more this year. Michael Villane, president of Lead Dog Builders, a custom home builder in Rumson, N.J., says he’s currently building homes with sticker prices of $1.5 to $4 million, up from the $1.3 to $1.5 million his clients were commissioning a year ago. While the average size of homes in the region is 3,500 to 5,500 square feet, he says the orders he’s received this year are for 7,000 plus-square feet homes. Though there’s no official definition of the word, many define McMansions as new homes larger than 3,000 square feet.
In some cases, home builders are enlarging homes even if clients don’t ask for it. Michael Dubb, CEO and president of The Beechwood Organization, a New York-based home building company, says his firm is building houses with larger kitchens, higher ceilings, and overall more spacious rooms in an attempt to appeal to buyers who might be on the fence about buying a new home. By building bigger without raising the price, he says, the company is hoping to increase its sales. (He says they’re not downgrading quality, but rather cutting into their profits in order to make more sales.)…
Requests for large new homes come at a challenging time for the overall new home market. New home sales hit a 51-year low of 307,000 last year, according to the NAHB. That figure is expected to jump 18% this year, but it would still be way off its peak of 1.3 million homes in 2005.
If I had to guess at what is behind this, here is what I would say: there is a bifurcation in the current housing market. On one hand, you have a large group of potential homebuyers who are looking for smaller homes. One recent book I reviewed calls this the “demographic inversion” as young adults and retiring Baby Boomers look to downsize and purchase in denser areas. Proponents of these trends argue that the Americans of the future are looking for a different kind of homeowning experience in the future. On the other hand, you still have a decent number of wealthy homebuyers who are now moving out of a hibernation stage brought on the economic/housing crisis several years ago. They are looking to buy homes similar to what they would have bought ten years ago but now feel financially stable enough to pursue this.
The article doesn’t mention this but I wonder if this is also at play: new home sales are at the lowest stage in 51 years so this new push for larger homes among the wealthy is really raising the average in a way that we haven’t seen in the past. When those at the lower economic spectrum get back into buying homes (though some would argue that they won’t – perhaps we’re moving to a rental society), the average figures for the whole country might come down or stabilize a bit.