To this day, Weezer’s highest charting single – which makes sense, as it’s about as close to the lowest common denominator as the band has ever sunk. A lumbering monument to the pursuit of wealth and luxury, “Beverly Hills” matches its vapidity of message with a McMansion’s worth of painful musical ideas: the clumsy half-rapping of the verses, the annoying “gimme, gimme” rejoinder of the chorus, the talkbox solo of the bridge. Even louder than the caveman thud of Pat Wilson’s opening drum salvo was the sound of dyed-in-the-wool diehards stampeding for the exit, finally ready to accept that the glorydays of Pinkerton weren’t coming back.
The reference to “the lowest common denominator” could be linked to the critique that McMansions are vapid and mass produced. They are not real mansions; they are attempts to mimic higher quality construction and more architecturally pure mansions.
All together, the use of the term McMansion here does not refer directly to the actual homes. Rather, it highlights how familiar the term is in order for its use in a music review to highlight abstract ideas.
Maybe you, too, can afford a Southern California McMansion. How about paying just interest, not principal, at a rock bottom 1.875% mortgage rate for the first three years?
For a $1.5 million loan on a $2 million home, your house payment is locked down at $2,344. Assuming monthly property taxes of $2,083 (1.25% annual property tax rate) and $250 for monthly homeowners’ insurance, your total house payment is $4,677…
If rate and payment uncertainty gives you too much heartburn, you can find longer interest-only lock terms of five, seven or 10 years in the 2% to 3% interest rate range on 30-year mortgages.
Even 30-year jumbo fixed rates are super cheap. I’ve found rates as low as 2.375% for Inland Empire properties, where jumbos start at $548,250. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, where jumbos start at $822,375, rates are as low as 2.625%.
Why buy a McMansion? Because it is relatively cheap due to low interest rates. As the commentary notes, renting a McMansion could be significantly more costly than buying. Since Americans like large houses and this is an expensive real estate market, a large McMansion at reasonable rates may look like a good deal.
At the same time, the idea of even cheaper interest rates for just three years should cause some pause. What happens if interest rates go up? This sort of approach sounds like some of the mortgage options of the 2000s that helped lead to difficulties for some in keeping up with their mortgage.
Another way that McMansions could continue to be an attractive financial option in the future is if their relative value drops compares to other homes. If fewer people want such a home, this might depress values to a point where others who value space or like other McMansion features might be able to get a bargain.
By the 1990s, the mob was operating out of detached villas with swimming pools in upstate New Jersey, but if you want to learn precisely why the adult Tony Soprano lives in a gilded McMansion rather than a clapboard house with a stoop in Newark like his mother’s, The Many Saints Of Newark has the answer.
As Harold’s fortunes rise, black families move onto the same streets as Italians, causing much angst to the latter, including Tony’s parents, Johnny Boy and Livia Soprano. It makes Tony’s racism that much more obvious when, 30 years later, his daughter, Meadow, brings home her mixed-race college boyfriend. “I think there was talk, back in the day, about ‘Were black people getting short shrift on The Sopranos?’” says Odom Jr. “Was our story being told? I think David had a desire this time to look at an arc that really didn’t get explored the first time, at how the two communities intertwined and where they butted up against each other.”
At the same time, this narrative could say more about a general move to the suburbs and less about the specific move to the suburban McMansion at the heart of the show. Tony Soprano presumably used his wealth to purchase a big home in a quiet subdivision to hide his work and give his family an opportunity at a more normal suburban life. But, did he go straight from Newark to the suburban McMansion? Did his journey include a more modest suburban starter home or a suburban apartment (as it did for other characters on The Sopranos)? Did a young adult Tony Soprano make his moves from a suburban split-level or anonymous apartment off a major suburban road?
The housing path of Tony Soprano is not an inconsequential part of the story that is being developed here; it highlights his family history, his success, and his goals in life. If I see The Many Saints of Newark, I will be keeping an eye on the residences depicted within the film.
But Chicago’s density is declining, and some of the city’s most prominent neighborhoods have actually started to lose residents. Lincoln Par, once home to 102,000 people, barely housed 70,000 in 2020. Lakeview, once holding 124,000, was at 103,050 around the same time. North Center had decreased from 48,000 to 35,114, and nearby community such as West Town and Bucktown had similar fallen in scale.
These neighborhoods are becoming more expensive, and much of this de-densification may be due to a “spreading out” of sorts; wealthier people are moving in and are able to afford more space.
But there’s more to it than that. Previously, when a neighborhood in Chicago was in demand, builders capitalized, and the housing stock swelled. Chicago’s zoning laws, however, have changed, and while they allow for high-rise development in various downtown areas, they prohibit this same approach in neighborhoods. One thing is for sure, though: No matter how strict the zoning ode is in residential areas, single-family homes are pretty much always allowed.
One theory, termed “The homevoter hypothesis,” speculates that this is due to the control that homeowners have on urban development. Their interests have the most influence on local aldermen and, therefore, residential development. The good of the community and the city is not a factor in their agenda, which instead focuses on home value growth, and how to wield zoning changes in order to achieve it.
The argument seems to make sense: those who want to live in more well-off Chicago neighborhoods bring resources and an interest in larger homes. This could mean converting structures to single-family homes or tearing down older structures and starting over from scratch. If there is indeed an increase in larger single-family homes in Chicago, there should be data to support this. Anecdotally, my occasional travels in some of these neighborhoods suggests a good number of new homes nestled between two-flats and three-flats.
Additionally, there may be other forces at work that could also be leading to de-densification in Chicago neighborhoods:
Chicago residents are leaving neighborhoods faster than people want to come in, regardless of what housing stock is available. The population is down in a number of neighborhoods across the city.
The demand for new housing is higher in locations in and around the Loop because of the concentration of jobs and cultural opportunities plus the activity of developers. While Chicago has been known as a city of neighborhoods for a long time, the neighborhoods might not be as hot as the center.
Developers and builders also want these new single-family homes because they can make a lot of money on each property.
Put all of this together and the new Chicago McMansions represent a change to numerous streets and neighborhoods.
For a network focused on single-family homes, the term McMansion is rarely uttered on HGTV. Here is one example I ran into a few weeks back on My Lottery Dream Home:
On the top left of the image, you can faintly see some of the narration over the image: “Willow Park Way that almost looked like a McMansion.”
Almost a McMansion. The exterior here has some interesting features that might place it in McMansion territory: multiple roof lines, interesting window placement, a large house, in a sprawling Texas community.
Even as the couple did not select this home at the end, it is interesting the term was applied to this home and not the others which also could have been viewed as McMansions. Present a large suburban home with a front meant to impress yet some questionable architectural choices and McMansions may just come to mind.
The even crazier part? One super-rich family can live in 6,000 square feet, but the same-size box in Noe Valley and the majority of San Francisco could not include homes of 1,500 square feet apiece for four families. (This proposal would include an in-law unit, but the city doesn’t check whether they’re occupied, and it’s believed there are thousands of vacant units around the city.)…
“We would 100% support this if it was four families,” said Schwarz, who bought his own home in 2004.
So would his neighbor Steve Boeddeker, who said he’s irked developers are scooping up homes all over the neighborhood to turn them into McMansions and resell them for many millions…
The current rules for McMansions aren’t working. They’re allowed, though neighbors can file a discretionary review application, arguing there are “exceptional and extraordinary circumstances” that require more analysis. Five families have done that for the Noe Valley home, including Shannon Hughes and her husband, Schwarz.
At least in public comment, few people would say they want to live next to a teardown McMansion. The extra-large size of the new home in comparison to the existing older homes plus the new and poorly regarded architectural design mean that plenty of neighbors do not like the new land use. The teardown is a threat to the existing character of the neighborhood.
My guess is that plenty of urban homeowners would prefer that neither option arrive next door: keep the teardowns and the conversions into multiple units somewhere else. But, if the choice is between the two, the McMansion may be the worst option.
By and large, Americans chose bigger — and less expensive — homes, particularly if they moved across state lines. Zillow’s analysis looked at data from North American Van Lines, a trucking company based in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This was “a notable reversal of trends from prior years,” Zillow economist Jeff Tucker said in the report.
The average home value in the ZIP codes that movers left was $419,344, versus $392,381 for the ZIP codes they relocated to. That represents a difference of roughly $27,000.
But a cheaper home doesn’t mean a smaller one. While the average size of the homes movers left behind was the largest since Zillow began tracking this data in 2016, the average size of the new homes people chose was even larger. The average difference in size, according to the analysis, was 33 square feet…
This is allowing Americans to get the most bang for their buck in the housing market, rather than needing to sacrifice affordability or space in the name of living closer to urban centers.
Is this a perfect distillation of the American Dream at this period of history? “The biggest house for the least amount of money.”
I wonder how this might affect broader patterns regarding the size of American homes. The size of new houses grew steadily from 1950 on but has leveled off in recent years. At the same time, I could imagine a scenario where small shifts as described above help keep inching up the size of American homes. Here is how this might work:
From the summary, it sounds like people moved, on average, to slightly bigger houses. Having 33 more square feet is not that much – imagine a 5.5 x 6 foot space (bathroom? mudroom? closet?) – but it is an increase.
So imagine the standard size of a “small house” keeps inching up – there are fewer starter homes so people go to bigger houses, new or old, to start – while there is less interest in homes 4,000 square feet and up (which relatively few Americans owned in the first place). In other words, the size of American homes move more because truly small homes are phased out and truly large homes fall more out of favor.
A purchased home does not need to be a McMansion to be a bigger home compared to past standards or even smaller units today.
There is a New York house for sale that was decorated as a love affair with fast food and it’s crazy. The kitchen looks like a modern McDonald’s complete with a kids section with old playland furniture. There are also tons of old fast food memorabilia like Ronald McDonald statues and stained glass that was used in McDonald’s restaurants in the 70s.
The fast-food theme doesn’t just start and end with McDonald’s. It includes Burger King, Wendys, and White Castle too…
This is the actual kitchen in this house. Does that not look like a modern McDonalds? Just about the only things missing are cash registers and a drive-thru window…
I swear I didn’t just run down to my local McDonalds and snap a picture of their bathroom. I mean really, how creepy would that be? This one of the bathrooms off the kitchen and it looks just like one you’d find in a typical fast food joint.
Is the house a bit odd looking? Yes. Is the McDonald’s and fast food interior unique? Yes. But, I wonder if something else is going on here that does not quite line up with the McMansion moniker. When I first saw the home and location, I wondered if this was a postwar house. Indeed, the Zillow listing says the home was constructed in 1947. My guess is that this home had at least one addition or major change since its initial construction and these add-ons contributed to the odd facade. When people use the term McMansion, they tend to refer to a home built since the 1980s that was constructed with the poor features and quality. This home is not that. When looking on Google Street View, many of the nearby homes look to be older homes as well.
Perhaps this home is more like a McMansion because the interior specifically references fast food. Is it ironic? Nostalgic? Does all of it come the property? Put a Golden Arches in front of the house and this might be accurately termed a McDonald’s House, not a McMansion.
What Benloch Ranch represents is a collision of trends in real estate and demographics. Millennials of homebuying age are rejecting the sizes of their parents’ homes, so-called cookie-cutter McMansions. And the second-home market, hastened by COVID and the same millennial-buying population, is booming. The pandemic has forced buyers to value outdoor spaces and activities more than ever before. Benloch Ranch currently has a waitlist of 175 for its single-family lots…
The development’s amenities include more than 20 miles of trails, a ski hill, a skeet shooting range, an ice skating pond and 900 acres of open space…
A lot of millenials don’t want these big houses anymore. We’re redefining the size and scale of the house and altering the price point so it’s more affordable.”
According to data released by the Park City Board of REALTORS, the median price single-family home rose roughly 26% year-over-year to $2.5 million. Benloch Ranch offers single-family homes starting at $695,000.
The pitch is an attractive one: lean into the terrain and the idea of sustainability, feature interesting architecture, provide amenities, be close to an exciting scene and in at the start of a new development. This is a shift to new preferences of millennial buyers. The vacation homes of today and the future may look different and there is money to be made.
At the same time, this is about vacation homes in a wealthy community. This development has potential because millennials with resources can afford a vacation home starting at $700k. Sure, there are no more McMansions with all of that wasted space and tacky design but this kind of life is only available to those who can buy into it. The price for these homes would be beyond the reach of many residents of the Salt Lake City region, let alone many residents of the United States.
Does this mean the McMansion vacation homes of an older generation will not find buyers? This will be worth watching, both for vacation homes and regular homes. If McMansions go out of style, this could be reflected in lower prices or modifications – imagine multiple units – or even redevelopment.
The survey shows—and it’s not even close—that the No. 1 way in which people define a good life is “having family and friends that love me.” The answer was nearly universal, cited by 94% of respondents. After this came “making a positive impact on society (75%). Having a high-powered job or bunking down each night in a McMansion might be nice, but in the end such things don’t mean that you’re loved or respected or that you’ve made your community a better place.
“When the study began, nobody cared about empathy or attachment. But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships,” Vaillant says. Close relationships, the data indicates, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. The study found strong relationships to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction, and better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, wealth, fame, IQ, or even genes. That finding proved true across the board among both the Harvard men and the inner-city participants.
Yet, the comparisons made to what really matters – relationships – are interesting as they target key markers of success in the United States. The first is a high-status job. Adults often define their worth and status by their job. Second is the home. In a country that idealizes owning a single-family home, this makes for a striking alternative to prioritizing people.
Why pick a McMansion here as opposed to a typical suburban single-family home? There could be several reasons. A McMansion is a particular symbol of success, a home whose facade tries to exude status. A McMansion is larger than a typical single-family home, usually coming in between 3,000 and 10,000 square feet. And, perhaps most important here, the McMansion is a symbol of the wrong kind of consumption. Owners are trying too hard with their home to show off. The home is poorly designed. Compared to life-giving relationships, the McMansion pales in comparison. Rather than think of people who are McMansion-rich but house poor, think of people who own a McMansion but have poor relationships…a furthering of a long-standing suburban plot where people look like they have achieved the American Dream but their lives are falling apart.