McMansion envy spreads as Americans demand more bedrooms, baths


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Real estate agents are equipped with a whole new set of talking points about new houses on the market today compared with a decade ago.

Jeff Whiton is hearing the buzz about added space, energy savings and tech integration as he looks for a home in Colorado’s red-hot home buying market. As CEO of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver, Whiton is no stranger to the features homeowners want most.

“It’s changed an incredible amount,” Whiton says. “Homes are being designed to be much more livable from a technology standpoint and an energy efficacy standpoint.” New homes are also growing larger in just about every respect, new data reveals.

The latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show newly-constructed homes in 2017 are 4 percent larger on average than a decade ago. And they come with a larger price tag — the average price of a new home jumped 23 percent from $313,600 in 2007 to $384,900 last year. Meanwhile, the average family size in the U.S. continues to shrink, from 3.33 persons in 1960, to 2.54 in 2017.

Everybody wants the bells and whistles

At the higher end of the market, builders are piling on the extras. Tim Jackson Custom Homes works with homebuyers able to drop upward of $1.5 million on their property in and around Dallas.

“Outdoor living environments are big right now, including full-blown outdoor kitchens with grills, sinks, and refrigerators,” says Tim Jackson, president and owner of the Fairview, Texas, builder. “I can’t remember the last house we built that didn’t include some kind of outdoor living environment or pool.”

People with more money to spend typically want five bedrooms with bathrooms, porcelain tile and quartz countertops. “Most everything we’re doing at this price point includes a garage that fits a minimum of four cars,” Jackson says. “We just finished a home that had a nine-car garage.”

Custom Homes by Robert Wood is seeing a similar tend roughly 300 miles to the west in Lubbock, Texas. Even buyers with smaller budgets are looking for at least four bedrooms, Wood says. But their price constraints are prompting them to consider smaller lots and footprints.

“If you’re going to make the move you might as well make it, because materials are going up. Interest rates are going,” he says. “You need to realize that prices are not going to go down.”

Below are some takeaways from the Survey of Construction data released in June. Based on the most common features, the most popular home built in 2017 was a two-story, two-garage home with more than four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

AC is a must-have for new homes

Chart: New homes with air conditioning

The share of homes built with air conditioning units reached its highest level ever with 93.3 percent of the 795,000 new homes built in 2017 including a cooling unit.

3 or more bathrooms most popular

Chart: Number of bathrooms in new single-family houses completed

In 2013, three or more bathrooms became the most popular option for new homes for the first time since at least 1987. Last year, nearly four out of 10 new homes (37.2 percent) included at least three bathrooms. The second most-popular option among new single-family homes was the two-bath house — 30.6 percent of units included that option.

Most homes build included 4 or more bedrooms

Chart: Number of bedrooms in new single-family houses completed

Another housing trend that popped up in 2014 was the rise in homes with four or more bedrooms. About 362,000 homes (45.5 percent) included at least space for four in 2017. Builders added three-bedroom homes at a slightly lower clip — 44.5 percent of new single-family houses.

Demand for fireplaces cools

Chart: Fireplaces in new single-family houses

The percentage of new homes with a fireplace reached a 43-year low in 2017 with 55 percent of the new houses added to the market lacking the longtime family room staple. Demand for fireplaces has been cooling since the ’90s with 2007 being the first year that more homes were built without the feature than with.

Square-foot prints level off

Chart: Square feet of floor area in new single-family houses completed

The average home size has experienced some slight shrinkage since its all-time high of 2,687 square feet in 2015. The average square feet of floor area in a newly completed single-family home was down 2 percent or 56 square feet in 2017 from the high mark. But at 2,631 square feet the average last year was still higher than any time before 2013.

Chart: Number of stories in new-single family houses completed