Author Topic: Excessive House Size in the U.S.  (Read 34556 times)

GrowingTheGreen

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Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« on: January 16, 2016, 10:11:12 AM »
While doing a little research for a blog post, I decided to take a look at how house size in the U.S. has changed over history.  I was pretty astonished to find the following:

In 1970, the average size of a new, single-family home was 1,500 square-feet.  In 2004, that number grew to 2,349 square-feet. House size increased 156% over a time period that the number of births per woman decreased from 2.48 to 2.05 and the number of single-person households increased from approximately 17% to 27%.  In other words, we're "needing" more space for fewer people.

How crazy is that?  It just goes to show how we live in a society of excess.  We somehow got by in the 70's with 1,500 sq-ft houses and now it's the norm to need over 2,300 sq-ft?  Explains a lot as to why, as a whole, Americans are in so much debt.

Sources: NPR, World Bank, US Census

ender

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2016, 11:31:13 AM »
BUT I WANT MORE THINGS

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2016, 11:40:29 AM »
And more space to store my things!

A family member made an interesting hypothesis: Americans need more square footage to park their increasingly larger hind quarters. If you graphed house square-footage divided by average American weight, it would be constant with respect to time.

deborah

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2016, 02:06:13 PM »
Well, we have you all beat in Australia!

cats

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2016, 02:17:42 PM »
A few years back we visited my father's elderly cousins in St. Louis.  They lived in a 3 bedroom house that they had bought when they first started a family (so, probably 1950s if I remember the ages of their children correctly).  The two children's bedrooms were about the same size as some walk-in closets I've seen in more modern homes.  I'm pretty sure they only had one bathroom.  And as for separate rooms for different kinds of sitting around/recreating, nope.  They had a kitchen and then a dining/living room area and that was it.  No "bonus" room, basement home entertainment center, none of that.  The place was very neat and tidy and it didn't feel "too small" at all, but I definitely remember being struck by how small it was compared to many homes I had been in up to that time.

FLA

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 02:24:47 PM »
I prefer less sq ft.  I went from a 2000 sq ft townhouse to a 2000 sq ft ranch but combined 2 households.  Even with the 4 of us here it feels too big, we added an office and a family room/guest room in the basement.   

my next downsizing move will be to a small condo or a one BR apt

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 02:37:56 PM »
Well, we have you all beat in Australia!

That graph is way cool. I had no idea Russians didn't use much space per person.

deborah

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 03:55:43 PM »
Well, we have you all beat in Australia!

That graph is way cool. I had no idea Russians didn't use much space per person.
It comes from http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/how-big-is-a-house - which is a pretty good post in my opinion. You might like the other graphs as well.

Tom Bri

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 04:31:25 PM »
I'll hazard a guess. Part of the increased perceived need is due to the popularity in recent decades of the 'open floor plan', type of house. These houses allow you basically zero privacy, and so living/dining/kitchens get blown out of proportion just to let people get further away from each other.
Of course, part of it is the increased space we need to store junk. When you have a computer and TV and multiple game systems in the bedroom, you need space.
Also, with modern building systems, adding square feet on a new lot is relatively cheap. If the lot size is the same, why not build 2500 feet instead of 1500, since the cost isn't all that much different?
Add in cheap loans...

The Guru

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 04:31:48 PM »
In fairness, the people are 50% larger now too.

Villanelle

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 04:40:47 PM »
I always thought 2000sqft would be about my ideal.  Due to a temporary living situation, DH and I are currently in a roughly 1000-1100sqft place and I'm so glad we've had this experience.  While I still find one toilet to be a major issue (I "need" that extra half bath!), I think that it this place had a garage for some extra storage, we'd be pretty comfortable like this long term.  I'd not have really accepted that had we not tried it, and I'd never have tried it if I'd needed to make a longer term commitment to it. 


nobodyspecial

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 06:15:59 PM »
Well, we have you all beat in Australia!
Well you have an entire continent and about a dozen people.
And of course you need enough bathrooms so that if you see a spider in one of them you can just brick up the door and leave it alone.

deborah

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2016, 06:35:54 PM »
Well, we have you all beat in Australia!
Well you have an entire continent and about a dozen people.
And of course you need enough bathrooms so that if you see a spider in one of them you can just brick up the door and leave it alone.

A toilet takes up a lot less room than an extra 12 sqm per person compared with the USA - that's a reasonable sized bedroom!

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2016, 06:46:32 PM »
I never really gave much thought to the open floor-plan being a factor, but now that you mention it, I think it definitely contributes. I can't stand super open houses because I feel as though I cannot escape everybody.
I'll hazard a guess. Part of the increased perceived need is due to the popularity in recent decades of the 'open floor plan', type of house. These houses allow you basically zero privacy, and so living/dining/kitchens get blown out of proportion just to let people get further away from each other.
Of course, part of it is the increased space we need to store junk. When you have a computer and TV and multiple game systems in the bedroom, you need space.
Also, with modern building systems, adding square feet on a new lot is relatively cheap. If the lot size is the same, why not build 2500 feet instead of 1500, since the cost isn't all that much different?
Add in cheap loans...

tobitonic

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2016, 08:30:48 PM »
In fairness, the people are 50% larger now too.

I LOLed.

Kitsune

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2016, 08:27:25 AM »
I never really gave much thought to the open floor-plan being a factor, but now that you mention it, I think it definitely contributes. I can't stand super open houses because I feel as though I cannot escape everybody.
I'll hazard a guess. Part of the increased perceived need is due to the popularity in recent decades of the 'open floor plan', type of house. These houses allow you basically zero privacy, and so living/dining/kitchens get blown out of proportion just to let people get further away from each other.
Of course, part of it is the increased space we need to store junk. When you have a computer and TV and multiple game systems in the bedroom, you need space.
Also, with modern building systems, adding square feet on a new lot is relatively cheap. If the lot size is the same, why not build 2500 feet instead of 1500, since the cost isn't all that much different?
Add in cheap loans...

Having just built a home this year:
- The difference between finishing the basement (800 square feet added onto the house: extra bathroom, walls, vinyl tiles, etc - giving us a bathroom, family room, and 2 extra bedrooms or offices) was an extra 8K. Considering what it costs to build a house in the first place... why WOULDN'T you add on the space, if you can use it productively? Especially considering that, if you sell the house, the added value of that extra space is way more than what it costs to build it?
- The open-concept first floor is amazing for a lot of things, but does mean we need a 'retreat' space (especially while working from home: you CANNOT work in the same room as a toddler. Or at least we can't.) For our family, the design works, but damn does it make me glad we added on the space in the basement.

Interesting fact, though: when calculating the square footage of a house, most places don't include the basement, even if it's finished. So, technically, our house would be 1600 square feet, which seems so nice and compact, right? Except we're talking about 3 floors, 2.5 bathrooms, and 4-5 bedrooms, depending on if you're including the office). I hear about 4000sf houses and I just have no idea how you'd use all that space.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 08:43:18 AM by Kitsune »

enb123

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2016, 08:33:41 AM »
We moved from an 1800 sq ft. house to a 1500 sq. foot house last year.  The new place is still huge.  Down the road from me is a neighborhood of McMansions, which stand in stark contrast to my street, which is all 1950s era houses.  I can't imagine why anyone would want one - they're too big for the lots they're on, a nuisance to clean by yourself (and probably many of their owners don't), and more costly in every way.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2016, 08:44:19 AM »
Canadians need those big houses - we hibernate all winter (except when we are outside having fun in the snow).  And of course the house needs to have a hot tub (to thaw out in after playing in the snow) and a huge hall closet (for all the winter coats and boots and skis and snowshoes) and a big TV room with a wet bar (to watch the Scotties and the Brier with all your buds) and of course all the kids need their own bedrooms with room for the desk and computer and Wii and all that.  Right?

music lover

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2016, 08:50:37 AM »
Canadians need those big houses - we hibernate all winter (except when we are outside having fun in the snow).  And of course the house needs to have a hot tub (to thaw out in after playing in the snow) and a huge hall closet (for all the winter coats and boots and skis and snowshoes) and a big TV room with a wet bar (to watch the Scotties and the Brier with all your buds) and of course all the kids need their own bedrooms with room for the desk and computer and Wii and all that.  Right?

Basements are great if you're in a band. I have just under 1000 square feet (3 bedrooms, 1 bath), but also have usable finished space in the basement of about 800 square feet which has 2 band set-ups (drums, amps, PA, etc.) at opposite ends, and a pool table. I'm in the process of planning a bathroom for the basement.

With This Herring

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2016, 09:48:30 AM »
What would interest me is a graph (by country) of sq. ft. per capita (or your area unit of choice!) compared to annual temperature change cost by area.  Ideally the cost would be expressed in terms of some good that commonly used in all countries (loaves of bread?), as currency value can get a bit distorted.

ender

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2016, 01:20:00 PM »
We moved from an 1800 sq ft. house to a 1500 sq. foot house last year.  The new place is still huge.  Down the road from me is a neighborhood of McMansions, which stand in stark contrast to my street, which is all 1950s era houses.  I can't imagine why anyone would want one - they're too big for the lots they're on, a nuisance to clean by yourself (and probably many of their owners don't), and more costly in every way.

I think too a lot of it has to do with how useful the space is.

If you have a formal dining room and a  sitting/living room that never gets used, and each are about 250 square feet, that's a lot of extra space that is useless.

Some square feet are definitely more useful than other square feet.

Making Cookies

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2016, 02:53:28 PM »
Anyone shopped for furniture lately? Some of the couch sets are HUGE and would completely fill a family room in a modest sized home.

We've lived in a 35x35 1940s home, an 1100 sq ft 70s home, and now a ~1600 sq ft home.

Each have been comfortable if carefully furnished.

Our smallish house is easily overwhelmed by any projects and company.

I think where a person lives makes a difference. I would not afford to heat and cool a McMansion in the more extreme temps of the continent. In other places the weather is much more mild and not as big a concern. Also - would not want to go the major metro commutes some people do just to have a bit of land near a major city - so we don't live in a major city. ;)
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 02:59:58 PM by Jethrosnose »

Zehirah

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2016, 06:05:44 PM »
Interesting fact, though: when calculating the square footage of a house, most places don't include the basement, even if it's finished. So, technically, our house would be 1600 square feet, which seems so nice and compact, right? Except we're talking about 3 floors, 2.5 bathrooms, and 4-5 bedrooms, depending on if you're including the office).

Given that we don't generally have basements here in Australia, I wonder how the graph would change if basements WERE included? 

Less

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2016, 06:11:13 PM »
And more space to store my things!

A family member made an interesting hypothesis: Americans need more square footage to park their increasingly larger hind quarters. If you graphed house square-footage divided by average American weight, it would be constant with respect to time.

can this be done as the projected floor area of the person/the total floor area of the house. there is a fantastic info-graphic jut waiting to be developed.

Lski'stash

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2016, 06:11:56 PM »
This is really just more of a mustache an gripe on the subject. My husband and I are trying to downsize and move closer to our works. Currently, we live in a 2400 sq. foot home, and are looking for more of a 1500 sq. ft. The smaller starter homes are really hard to find in the newer neighborhoods that we are looking in that are close to our works:(

mamagoose

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #25 on: January 17, 2016, 06:19:41 PM »
We're a family of 3 in 2050 sf + a 2-car garage (workshop), it's 4 beds 3 baths, with a family room + a living room. Yes, it feels ENORMOUS but when we bought it, we thought we'd have 3 kids - now we're content with just one. My home office is in one of the bedrooms, the other is a guest, plus the master plus the baby room. The "living room" turned into a playroom. I sometimes go nuts when I think about all these extra rooms, and how our home would be perfect for us if the previous owners had never done the master suite addition and left it as a 3/2. When I look on realtor.com in our neighborhood for the right-sized home for us (about 1300 sf, plus a garage) everything is in very, very poor shape. The quality of homes in our neighborhood tends to be polarized - you have the old dumpy homes that have been trashed by decades of renters, and then the new McMansions popping up in their place. I miss the days when everything I owned fit into my car.

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #26 on: January 17, 2016, 06:43:41 PM »
And more space to store my things!

A family member made an interesting hypothesis: Americans need more square footage to park their increasingly larger hind quarters. If you graphed house square-footage divided by average American weight, it would be constant with respect to time.

can this be done as the projected floor area of the person/the total floor area of the house. there is a fantastic info-graphic jut waiting to be developed.

I'll start working on it this week. Or atleast something similar.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2016, 07:17:43 PM by GrowingTheGreen »

CanuckExpat

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #27 on: January 17, 2016, 09:04:04 PM »
I find this topic pretty interesting. Some more stats, pulled from this article, I particularly like this quote "Sharing bathrooms? Thatís for people in 3rd-world countries!":



Our house was built in the 1920s: It's a ~750 sq ft detached single family home, that's probably unheard of now, but it was a normal when our neighborhood was populated. We quite like it here (two people, two dogs, and one baby) and find that the layout is designed surprisingly functionally; this might have been a matter of neccessity given the size of the house. Strangely we lived in an apartment that was just slightly smaller, but we found it more annoying. Layout matters a lot. 

Villanelle

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #28 on: January 17, 2016, 10:01:12 PM »
I do think the basement thing is interesting.  When a someone in the mid-west says she has a 1500sqft house, I know that often means it's actually 2000 sqft  of finished space plus the equivalent of another 2 car garage worth of unfinished storage.  In SoCal, 1500sqft is 1500sqft. 

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #29 on: January 18, 2016, 07:30:34 AM »

I find this topic pretty interesting. Some more stats, pulled from this article, I particularly like this quote "Sharing bathrooms? Thatís for people in 3rd-world countries!":



Our house was built in the 1920s: It's a ~750 sq ft detached single family home, that's probably unheard of now, but it was a normal when our neighborhood was populated. We quite like it here (two people, two dogs, and one baby) and find that the layout is designed surprisingly functionally; this might have been a matter of neccessity given the size of the house. Strangely we lived in an apartment that was just slightly smaller, but we found it more annoying. Layout matters a lot.

+1 on the layout mattering a lot. We currently live in 635 square feet and it is plenty of space but designed so poorly that we just can't wait until the day we can move. The kitchen is an absolute nightmare and came with only 4 square feet of counter space. We have added a little bit, but we rent, so we didn't want to put too much of our own money into it. I could definitely live in this much space again if only it was designed properly.

Dictionary Time

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #30 on: January 18, 2016, 08:22:52 AM »
Well, we were at 26 sq m per person, but our oldest went off to college so now we're at 32. Moving on up!

Also, I see things like this and I wonder about the people that moan that we have it so much worse off now than in the past. "2 incomes just aren't enough anymore" and the middle class is screwed. People seem to have enough money to buy these bigger houses and eat out more than they cook. Hmm...

Kitsune

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2016, 09:32:06 AM »
Well, we were at 26 sq m per person, but our oldest went off to college so now we're at 32. Moving on up!

Also, I see things like this and I wonder about the people that moan that we have it so much worse off now than in the past. "2 incomes just aren't enough anymore" and the middle class is screwed. People seem to have enough money to buy these bigger houses and eat out more than they cook. Hmm...

On one hand: yeah, absolutely. The standards of living regarding what is considered 'essential' for a middle-class family now vs in the 1950s is a huge change : restaurant dinners, dry cleaning, salon haircuts - or, hell, professional haircuts for ANY children, buying most fruits and vegetables, no preserving, no growing anything, hiring out housecleaning - or buying most household supplies, for that matter, the quantity of clothes deemed 'essential', most gym classes, cell phones and internet, multiple paid-for classes for children under 5, childcare, etc... It's a never-ending stream of expenses that has grown to be 'normal', and, frankly, that can suck up all additional income a family makes (bias statement: you will pry my cell phone and internet out of my cold dead hands, and we do have swimming lessons for out toddler... because we live next to a lake and would like her to know how to float and not drown, and also they're affordable and tax-deductible. For the rest of the list? We're pretty damned close to 1950s levels of spending (or, rather, not-spending).

On the other hand: we looked at the cost difference between building the house we wound up building (technically 1700 square feet according to the plan, but add on an extra 700-ish square feet of finished basement and wow do we have a huge house...) and building a smaller house. Difference for us: an extra 40$/month on our mortgage payment. Difference to the resale value of the house: about 45K, at a conservative estimate from our real estate friend... and this is in addition to the use and value we get out of it while we're living here. (Could we have done without? Sure, but once we have our next kid - hopefully within a year, depending on how quickly I get knocked up - we couldn't successfully work from home wihtout the extra space, and we'd be spending more than 40$/month on commuting expenses, sooo... )

TL;DR: I think the size of houses affects budgets, absolutely. But I think the 'extras' affect budget way more. It's pretty easy (especially for a family) to spend 300-400$/month on restaurants, 200-300 on sports and classes, 100-200$ on clothes (doesn't seem like that much, but it adds up so quickly)... add a few haircuts for the family, maintenance on an extra car, and the 'extra' money spent on not preserving/eating in season/doing one's own household maintenance, and then add daycare expenses on top of that... and there's a full post-tax salary, right there.

bobechs

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #32 on: January 18, 2016, 09:40:29 AM »
What would interest me is a graph (by country) of sq. ft. per capita (or your area unit of choice!) compared to annual temperature change cost by area.  Ideally the cost would be expressed in terms of some good that commonly used in all countries (loaves of bread?), as currency value can get a bit distorted.

Surprised you have never heard of the Big Mac Index:  http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index  .

But absolutely baffled at "annual temperature change cost by area"

What in the name of sweet baby jesus are those words supposed to mean in that order??

GrOW

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #33 on: January 18, 2016, 09:50:54 AM »
This is really just more of a mustache an gripe on the subject. My husband and I are trying to downsize and move closer to our works. Currently, we live in a 2400 sq. foot home, and are looking for more of a 1500 sq. ft. The smaller starter homes are really hard to find in the newer neighborhoods that we are looking in that are close to our works:(

Same here. Our area has two types of newer construction - 3k+ sqft McMansions and senior living communities. And no, we are not in Florida or Arizona. So we crossed off new construction.

Sub 2k sqft ranch homes do exist but they are usually just a handful in each subdivision in our area. Low supply and growing demand means.....you got it, higher cost per sqft and rising faster than the rest of the market. Ugh.

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #34 on: January 18, 2016, 09:53:44 AM »
What would interest me is a graph (by country) of sq. ft. per capita (or your area unit of choice!) compared to annual temperature change cost by area.  Ideally the cost would be expressed in terms of some good that commonly used in all countries (loaves of bread?), as currency value can get a bit distorted.

Surprised you have never heard of the Big Mac Index:  http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index  .

But absolutely baffled at "annual temperature change cost by area"

What in the name of sweet baby jesus are those words supposed to mean in that order??

My first guess would be the heating and cooling costs per year for some arbitrarily-sized building, assuming an average level of insulation and an average number of south-facing windows.

astvilla

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #35 on: January 18, 2016, 10:47:40 AM »
This is one of the principal reasons cited by the Tiny House Movement (big fan follower, but don't ascribe to as I lack the construction/house skills). 

Bigger homes, less people per home. WHY?

I am starting to see some changes in this.  More young people prefer NYC living, or smaller spaces in condos, apartments, townhouses as opposed to single family homes with big lots and big sq footage.  People are wondering what the purpose is of new homes with yards.  Plus immigrants (big source of people moving into my town) don't understand the concept of cutting grass, raking leaves, they find it bizarre and stupid (who can argue that?).  So almost all the new construction of living space has been townhomes or apartments, very few single family homes built b/c little land, not as profitable, and people don't want it. 

All the better, less consumption, better environment, more people save...win win for everyone.  Except contractors.

mm1970

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2016, 10:48:46 AM »
Canadians need those big houses - we hibernate all winter (except when we are outside having fun in the snow).  And of course the house needs to have a hot tub (to thaw out in after playing in the snow) and a huge hall closet (for all the winter coats and boots and skis and snowshoes) and a big TV room with a wet bar (to watch the Scotties and the Brier with all your buds) and of course all the kids need their own bedrooms with room for the desk and computer and Wii and all that.  Right?
Yes.  My SIL has a house 3x the size of ours.  Her basement is bigger than our whole house. But they live in the northeast.  That is a space for their noisy teenagers to go.

I live in So Cal.  I can kick mine into the backyard


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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #38 on: January 18, 2016, 11:54:16 AM »
What would interest me is a graph (by country) of sq. ft. per capita (or your area unit of choice!) compared to annual temperature change cost by area.  Ideally the cost would be expressed in terms of some good that commonly used in all countries (loaves of bread?), as currency value can get a bit distorted.

Surprised you have never heard of the Big Mac Index:  http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index  .

But absolutely baffled at "annual temperature change cost by area"

What in the name of sweet baby jesus are those words supposed to mean in that order??

My first guess would be the heating and cooling costs per year for some arbitrarily-sized building, assuming an average level of insulation and an average number of south-facing windows.

Bobechs - I have indeed heard of the Big Mac index.  It is an interesting idea, but in some areas a Big Mac is going to be considered cheap, while in other areas it might be what those fancy rich people eat.  As your article states, it was originally intended as a joke.  Perhaps something like a "base meal" (whatever the local most common/least expensive meal is in that area) might be a better unit of measurement.  So, in some areas that would be a bowl of rice, in others a bowl of beans and rice, and in others a loaf of bread or maaaybe a Big Mac.

TheGrimSqueaker - You have hit it.  :) 

My phrasing was poor, but I was thinking of total cost to heat and/or cool a standard building per square foot per year.  I didn't want to just say "heating cost" and exclude cooling costs, so I chose "temperature change costs."

So, in country A it might cost 0.5 base meals to heat 1 square foot of dwelling space per year (and the base meal might be just rice).  In country B it might be 3 base meals to cool most of the year (but heat part of the year) 1 square foot (and the base meal might be fish with veggies).  Then we would need to know what the average per capita dwelling size square feet is in country A vs. country B vs. country C, etc.  I'm thinking a scatterplot would be the best way to view this information.

nobodyspecial

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #39 on: January 18, 2016, 12:04:47 PM »
I'm guessing that house size correlates to temperature range - at least in N America.
People try not to build major metropolises at -40, so these places have low population density and so cheap land.
Heating is more expensive, but people didn't start developing suburbs in these places until fuel was cheap in the C20.
In europe these places would mostly have large multi-generation farmhouses, which became single family homes when everyone moved tot he city.
 

going2ER

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #40 on: January 18, 2016, 12:24:48 PM »
Don't forget too, that we also need storage units for all the stuff that will no longer fit in our large homes. I wasn't able to find numbers, but I have heard that the number of self storage units in the US has exploded over the past several decades, I'm sure it is the same for Canada. So not only do we need more space where we are living we must also rent more space at a separate location.

golden1

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #41 on: January 18, 2016, 01:46:59 PM »
I live in a 1960 built multi-level home that is 1800 square feet.  It is really plenty of space.  My town has become popular in the last 15 years since I moved there and tons of houses like mine are being torn down and rebuilt into 4000 sqft plus monstrosities.  If I wanted to find a sub 3000 sqft house in my town I'd probably have to buy a condo.  Who wants to heat and clean all that space? 

Logic_Lady

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #42 on: January 18, 2016, 02:28:04 PM »
Well, we were at 26 sq m per person, but our oldest went off to college so now we're at 32. Moving on up!

Also, I see things like this and I wonder about the people that moan that we have it so much worse off now than in the past. "2 incomes just aren't enough anymore" and the middle class is screwed. People seem to have enough money to buy these bigger houses and eat out more than they cook. Hmm...

On one hand: yeah, absolutely. The standards of living regarding what is considered 'essential' for a middle-class family now vs in the 1950s is a huge change : restaurant dinners, dry cleaning, salon haircuts - or, hell, professional haircuts for ANY children, buying most fruits and vegetables, no preserving, no growing anything, hiring out housecleaning - or buying most household supplies, for that matter, the quantity of clothes deemed 'essential', most gym classes, cell phones and internet, multiple paid-for classes for children under 5, childcare, etc... It's a never-ending stream of expenses that has grown to be 'normal', and, frankly, that can suck up all additional income a family makes (bias statement: you will pry my cell phone and internet out of my cold dead hands, and we do have swimming lessons for out toddler... because we live next to a lake and would like her to know how to float and not drown, and also they're affordable and tax-deductible. For the rest of the list? We're pretty damned close to 1950s levels of spending (or, rather, not-spending).

On the other hand: we looked at the cost difference between building the house we wound up building (technically 1700 square feet according to the plan, but add on an extra 700-ish square feet of finished basement and wow do we have a huge house...) and building a smaller house. Difference for us: an extra 40$/month on our mortgage payment. Difference to the resale value of the house: about 45K, at a conservative estimate from our real estate friend... and this is in addition to the use and value we get out of it while we're living here. (Could we have done without? Sure, but once we have our next kid - hopefully within a year, depending on how quickly I get knocked up - we couldn't successfully work from home wihtout the extra space, and we'd be spending more than 40$/month on commuting expenses, sooo... )

TL;DR: I think the size of houses affects budgets, absolutely. But I think the 'extras' affect budget way more. It's pretty easy (especially for a family) to spend 300-400$/month on restaurants, 200-300 on sports and classes, 100-200$ on clothes (doesn't seem like that much, but it adds up so quickly)... add a few haircuts for the family, maintenance on an extra car, and the 'extra' money spent on not preserving/eating in season/doing one's own household maintenance, and then add daycare expenses on top of that... and there's a full post-tax salary, right there.

But one "essential" 1950s middle-class expense, that is not so essential now, was a stay-at-home wife.  Many of the things you describe (child-care, haircuts, food preparation, making/mending clothes, growing and preserving food) would have been done by a housewife. So families might not have had as many expenses sucking up extra income, but they also didn't have as much income to begin with because only one person was working. Depending on the particular work schedule, it is difficult if not impossible for a working person to do all of the things a stay-at-home spouse can do.

I agree that these expenses can be excessive, and many people spend way too much on "necessities" like the latest gadget. But I don't think we can really compare modern expenses to 1950s expenses without taking the increasing participation of women in the workforce into account.

mm1970

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #43 on: January 18, 2016, 02:56:15 PM »
I do think the basement thing is interesting.  When a someone in the mid-west says she has a 1500sqft house, I know that often means it's actually 2000 sqft  of finished space plus the equivalent of another 2 car garage worth of unfinished storage.  In SoCal, 1500sqft is 1500sqft.
Yes, when describing my house, I say "2BR, 1BA, 1100 sf, no garage".  I'm in So Cal.  If I'm talking to someone who isn't from here, I add "no attic, no basement".

Kitsune

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #44 on: January 18, 2016, 03:22:36 PM »
Well, we were at 26 sq m per person, but our oldest went off to college so now we're at 32. Moving on up!

Also, I see things like this and I wonder about the people that moan that we have it so much worse off now than in the past. "2 incomes just aren't enough anymore" and the middle class is screwed. People seem to have enough money to buy these bigger houses and eat out more than they cook. Hmm...

On one hand: yeah, absolutely. The standards of living regarding what is considered 'essential' for a middle-class family now vs in the 1950s is a huge change : restaurant dinners, dry cleaning, salon haircuts - or, hell, professional haircuts for ANY children, buying most fruits and vegetables, no preserving, no growing anything, hiring out housecleaning - or buying most household supplies, for that matter, the quantity of clothes deemed 'essential', most gym classes, cell phones and internet, multiple paid-for classes for children under 5, childcare, etc... It's a never-ending stream of expenses that has grown to be 'normal', and, frankly, that can suck up all additional income a family makes (bias statement: you will pry my cell phone and internet out of my cold dead hands, and we do have swimming lessons for out toddler... because we live next to a lake and would like her to know how to float and not drown, and also they're affordable and tax-deductible. For the rest of the list? We're pretty damned close to 1950s levels of spending (or, rather, not-spending).

On the other hand: we looked at the cost difference between building the house we wound up building (technically 1700 square feet according to the plan, but add on an extra 700-ish square feet of finished basement and wow do we have a huge house...) and building a smaller house. Difference for us: an extra 40$/month on our mortgage payment. Difference to the resale value of the house: about 45K, at a conservative estimate from our real estate friend... and this is in addition to the use and value we get out of it while we're living here. (Could we have done without? Sure, but once we have our next kid - hopefully within a year, depending on how quickly I get knocked up - we couldn't successfully work from home wihtout the extra space, and we'd be spending more than 40$/month on commuting expenses, sooo... )

TL;DR: I think the size of houses affects budgets, absolutely. But I think the 'extras' affect budget way more. It's pretty easy (especially for a family) to spend 300-400$/month on restaurants, 200-300 on sports and classes, 100-200$ on clothes (doesn't seem like that much, but it adds up so quickly)... add a few haircuts for the family, maintenance on an extra car, and the 'extra' money spent on not preserving/eating in season/doing one's own household maintenance, and then add daycare expenses on top of that... and there's a full post-tax salary, right there.

But one "essential" 1950s middle-class expense, that is not so essential now, was a stay-at-home wife.  Many of the things you describe (child-care, haircuts, food preparation, making/mending clothes, growing and preserving food) would have been done by a housewife. So families might not have had as many expenses sucking up extra income, but they also didn't have as much income to begin with because only one person was working. Depending on the particular work schedule, it is difficult if not impossible for a working person to do all of the things a stay-at-home spouse can do.

I agree that these expenses can be excessive, and many people spend way too much on "necessities" like the latest gadget. But I don't think we can really compare modern expenses to 1950s expenses without taking the increasing participation of women in the workforce into account.

Oh, absolutely,  in that those things all need to get done via the medium of time or money, and so a stay-at-home spouse is a huge asset to the family workload. But my point was: for the people who say that having a stay-at-home spouse is "impossible these days", that's just not true... It can be done, just not with the same level of outsourcing. Aka: you can pick whether you have spare time or spare money, but very rarely both.

And if you want both time and money, you need to marry someone who does half the work so that you're both left with some free time in the end, because you can't expect two incomes AND the woman handling all the household tasks, that's just utter bs.

Drifterrider

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #45 on: January 19, 2016, 07:20:23 AM »
"Excessive" is subjective.

House size has grown in relation to amount of disposable income.  For over 40 years we, in the US, have been told our home was an investment, being in debt is great because one pays less in taxes (which were obviously invented by the Devil) and house prices always goes up.  Most of them (not us mustachian people) believe it.

We have a lot of space (land).  Land is relatively inexpensive.  We build rooms for our clothing instead of using wardrobes.  We do this because we have a lot of clothing because we have a lot of disposable income because we don't save.

BUT...............  let' discuss the cost of our "mansions".  The average cost per square foot new residential construction on the lower east coast for a vinyl clad house (not brick, stone, or wood) is $100 per sf.

What is your construction cost?  For those on the metric scale a square meter is roughly ten and one half square feet.




TVRodriguez

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #46 on: January 19, 2016, 07:47:46 AM »
Yes, when describing my house, I say "2BR, 1BA, 1100 sf, no garage".  I'm in So Cal.  If I'm talking to someone who isn't from here, I add "no attic, no basement".

Similar here.  I'm in South Florida, and we're in about 1250 sq ft, no attic, no garage, no basement, 3 BR, 2BA, 2 adults, 3 kids.  Ah, but one very large pool (19x35), and a backyard that is a kids' heaven--mud pit, swing set, treehouse, zipline.

Who mentioned furniture?  So true!  It was hard to find couches that fit in our house.  Took some doing.

Who mentioned open floor plan being a cause for larger homes?  I agree!  Our 1952 home is divided into smaller rooms, but people often tell me how big it seems b/c they walk through a front room, a kitchen, and a back room before getting to the backyard, where their kids play.  And the right size furniture makes the rooms seem bigger than they are.

Jack

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #47 on: January 19, 2016, 08:10:02 AM »
BUT...............  let' discuss the cost of our "mansions".  The average cost per square foot new residential construction on the lower east coast for a vinyl clad house (not brick, stone, or wood) is $100 per sf.

What is your construction cost?  For those on the metric scale a square meter is roughly ten and one half square feet.

My built in 1948/cheaply-renovated in 2001 1500 ft2 house cost me $77/ft2 in 2009. New construction in my neighborhood (mostly teardown/rebuilds) sells for $150-200/ft2. That's for slightly upscale finishes (fiber-cement siding (maybe with brick or stone accents or front wall), fancy granite-counter kitchen, hardwood floors in common areas but probably not in the bedrooms, etc.).

(That's good, because I could probably sell my house for $150/ft2 without putting anywhere near $73/ft2 of work into it!)

I've seen houses similar to mine that were renovated to turn them into open-concept, and I like them. In fact, my house is "half-open-concept:" the front half is mostly as it was in 1948, but the back half is open, and I'd love to take down the remaining wall in the front to open it up completely. (I haven't yet, because it's load-bearing and it'd be a major project.) I can see how it might make the house feel smaller, though. I think the key is to define the spaces with things like columns, archways / very wide door-like openings, kitchen island/peninsulas, different ceiling heights, etc. so that you still get the feeling of openness, but also have the suggestion of separate rooms.

zhelud

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #48 on: January 19, 2016, 08:27:01 AM »
My sister and her husband, who live in a house that is at least 4x the size of our little 1500-foot colonial, just rebuilt their stand-alone garage into a new 2-story structure that is the same size as our house.  (and now they are wondering why the neighbors are complaining)

GuitarStv

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Re: Excessive House Size in the U.S.
« Reply #49 on: January 19, 2016, 08:35:39 AM »
I'm guessing that house size correlates to temperature range - at least in N America.
People try not to build major metropolises at -40, so these places have low population density and so cheap land.

Tell that to Calgary, Winnipeg, or Edmonton.  :P