Homes are getting smaller again – which will make many Americans happier.
Facing rising mortgage rates and a shortage of affordable homes for sale, Americans are opting for new, smaller homes that don’t have dining rooms, living rooms, spare bedrooms and even bathtubs, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Builders build smaller homes in part to give budget buyers a less expensive option.
But it is mostly because this is the only way homebuilders can make a reasonable profit, thanks to the rising cost of building materials, which has skyrocketed in the past few years.
House sizes have certainly gone up exponentially since I was a kid in the 70’s.
According to the US Census, in 1972 the average home had an area of 1,660 square feet.
In the 1990s, with the “McMansion” era in full swing, many homes never exceeded 4,000 square feet — homes so unnecessarily large that you need to order an Uber to get from the living room to the kitchen.
The American home continued to grow until it peaked in 2015 with an average of 2,467 square feet, but now it’s quickly returning to the 1972 numbers, which offers some good news.
In my experience, a modest-sized home generates more closeness and happiness among family members.
The suburban home I grew up in was 1,500 square feet. Built in 1964, it was a four-bedroom rectangular box with a red brick front below and white aluminum siding above.
It also had one full bathroom, and by 1973, me, my parents and all five of my sisters had to share it!
Fortunately, my parents had enough money to add a master bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, which for them was heaven on earth.
However, the house was modest in size and forced the eight of us to live together – there was simply no way to avoid each other.
In those days we couldn’t take our smartphones to our remote bedrooms and isolate the rest of the family.
During the 34 years my parents lived there, the front door was never locked, and friends and relatives came and went all the time.
We’ve had a million birthday parties and family gatherings there. Every emotion under the sun — love, anger, joy, sadness — happened there.
After dinner a few nights, my sisters and parents sat in our cramped little kitchen around a giant table, laughing and sharing stories.
We have never felt like our home was so small.
Interestingly, according to Business Insider, the only reason house sizes continued to grow after the housing crash of 2008 is because many people with plenty of home equity, good jobs and excellent credit have the financial qualifications to meet the stringent lending requirements.
But by 2015, when young people without such qualifications began buying homes, smaller homes were all they could afford.
Now, with the highest interest rates in years, and a lack of affordable homes on the market, builders are turning to smaller projects.
The paper cited a construction worker in South Carolina who said buyers happily buy homes between 1,500 and 1,700 square feet.
In my opinion, they will find more happiness in their small house than they ever will in a much larger one.
The modest sized house in which I grew up was a mansion by really important measures.
Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, offers pet advice he learns from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.