“The typical American home” is a reminder not all American homes are new

The 2011 American Housing Survey provides a summary of the traits of the typical American house:

This Is What the Typical American Home Looks Like Now

A little bit more on the changes to American houses over time:

Some aspects of the American home have changed dramatically since the first survey was conducted in 1973 (which makes sense because half of the occupied homes today were built in 1974 or later). Central air conditioning was a luxury that only 18% of households enjoyed back then, but the number grew to 43% in 1993, and today 66% of dwellings have central AC.

The number of bathrooms in a typical home has also grown. From 1973 to 1991, one bathroom was the norm, and for the next 20 years, it was one and a half bathrooms. The 2011 survey is the first time that the median residence was found to have 2 or more.

What strikes me most about this summary is that this is a very different picture of housing than we typically see and hear about. A lot of attention is lavished on new housing: people are interested in the size (new homes are on average about 2,500 square feet so way above the full average for US homes), new building trends (McMansions, green homes, homes of the future), new features (less granite countertops and stainless steel appliances?), and new housing starts. There are good reasons for all of this: housing is a big industry with lots of money involved.

At the same time, most houses in the United States are not new houses. They are homes that need maintenance, updating, and aren’t necessarily bringing in similar amounts of money into the economy. They are probably more accessible to average Americans and are probably located in older, more established communities. In other words, we need to also pay attention to the existing housing stock to think how both the existing and new stock can be effectively utilized.

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