Quality of space trumps quality

2013-05-18T00:15:00Z Quality of space trumps qualityMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 18, 2013 12:15 am  • 

Can you believe the average size home in the 1950s was 983-sq-ft?

During the next two decades, US Census data shows a 40% increase to 1,660-sq-ft by 1973. That number continues to climb – to 1,725-sq-ft in 1983, 2,095-sq-ft in 1993 and 2,330-sq-ft in 2003.

Up until the last five years, new home sizes had been steadily trending upward, peaking at 2,521-sq-ft in 2007. Since then, new homes have shrunk by about 5%, and industry experts estimate they will shrink another 10% - to around 2,152-sq-ft by 2015.

Along with a changing economic climate, many builders report increasing concern for the environment to also be fueling the recent decline in home size, with 9 in 10 builders reporting that they are building or planning smaller, lower-priced homes than in the past.

In a National Association of Home Builders survey of industry experts, the most likely features of a new home in 2015 include the following (in descending order of likelihood): great room, walk-in closet in the master bedroom, conveniently-located laundry room, main-floor master bedroom, 2-car garage, home office, mudroom, dining room, sunroom/outdoor living room, media/bonus room (flex space).

A majority of builders point to the great room as the only area of the home likely to get bigger. They also anticipate the trend toward living rooms merging with other rooms, vanishing completely to save square footage or transforming into flex space for an intimate retreat, library or special purpose room to accelerate. Just five percent predict that living rooms will stay the same.

In addition, building industry experts added their input on popular features for 2015. Smaller homes topped the list followed closely by more green features. More technology features, more universal access features and more outdoor living space were also cited as increasing in popularity.

When it comes to other emerging trends in the residential market, home design firms indicated low-irrigation landscaping, accessibility, open layout, rainwater harvesting, blended indoor/outdoor space, single-floor design, exterior/security lighting and eco-friendly fencing.

Further, when asked about their thoughts on what’s fueling the decline in home size, the home design firms pointed to a number of factors, including decreasing lot sizes and aging in place, plus energy costs (the average annual energy costs for 2,200-sq-ft home are $1,386 so you would add at least .63 cents per square foot to your annual bill) and environmental consciousness (one acre of acre of forest is clear cut to build a 2,200-sq-ft home and that number increases relative to size).

So, with the challenge of meeting the needs of homebuyers in a more well-purposed and sustainable package, builders note that the “shrinking” American home is still two times larger than in France and Spain and three times larger than in Great Britain.

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