Homes over 4,000 sq feet see sales increase

The hottest part of the 2015 housing market may have just been large homes:

Homes 4,000 square feet or larger saw a sharp jump in sales last year, rising 30 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, sales of homes of fewer than 1,800 square feet barely budged from their year-earlier figures.

That’s shifting the new home market in favor of bigger, more expensive homes, catering to the tastes of Americans with higher incomes. The median size of new single-families homes reached almost 2,500 square feet last year, an all-time record, Census found. Much of that growth is coming from sales of ultra-big homes, the type of showpiece properties that sell for well above the median sale price of $232,500 for existing U.S. homes.

See the full 2015 Census housing report (764 pages!) here.

Three quick concerns with the CBS story on this data:

  1. Large houses are not necessarily McMansions. Here, the term is used as shorthand for a large house but the term typically implies garish architecture, mass produced, and in a suburban setting.
  2. Although the story may be correct that “ultra-big homes” are driving these numbers, the Census categories top out at 4,000 or more square feet. This story doesn’t offer data about extra-large homes – it just cites the average price of Toll Brothers homes.
  3. The first line of the story is this: “If there’s a sweet spot in the real estate market, it may be catering to the desires of the 1 percent.” Again, the “1 percent” is probably shorthand for wealthier Americans but you don’t have to reach those levels of wealth to buy a home of 4,000 squar efeet.

Do these three points invalidate the headline: “McMansion redux: Big homes are back”? Perhaps they are evidence of reporting that could be more exact. The story does hint at the growing size of new homes – which is a trend several years in the making:see previous posts here from March 2015 and here from November 2013 as well as this CBS August 2015 headline “McMansions are back – and they’re bigger than ever.


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