Joan’s Real Estate Corner… What’s In, Out of Smaller Homes?

Buy a super-sized, outdated home today and you could have a tough time selling it when it’s time to move on.  By 2015, new homes will be 10 percent smaller, greener and packed with more technology and “universal” features than today’s homes, according to a new study by the National Association of Home Builders.

The NAHB’s “The New Home in 2015” alludes to the economic downturn for ratcheting up a “less is more” movement that includes everything from homes designed with fewer frivolities to small “pocket neighborhoods” with small homes.

The study says the lousy economy is the force behind the changing characteristics, features and sizes of homes to come, as well as the reason for the record low numbers of homes being built today.

The findings are answers from 238 home building professionals, among them home builders, architects, designers, manufacturers and others who say the average, new single-family detached home in 2015 will be about 2,152 square feet, 10 percent smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010.

That may yet be too large; given more than 60 percent of all U.S. households today are comprised of only one or two people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Smaller homes cost less to build and maintain and today’s consumers are focused on reducing heating and cooling costs, they’ve don’t have the equity to buy up, and appreciation probably won’t come to their rescue for years. The aging population and tight mortgage money are also prompting consumers to buy smaller.

The Census Bureau also says the average size of single-family homes peaked in 2007, at 2,521 square feet, was virtually unchanged in 2008, and declined in 2009 to 2,438 square feet. Early data for 2010 shows a further decline, down to 2,377 square feet.

The report also says:

• The living room is dead. The living room will either vanish, merge with a “great room” or the kitchen, or become a smaller parlor, retreat, library or music room. Only 5 percent of those polled said the living room would remain as it is.

• Room for less. Other rooms to get the boot will include a third bathroom, fourth bedroom, unheated porch, dining room, three-car garage, media room and a second master bedroom suite.

• Greener living. Expect “low-e” windows, engineered wood beams, joists, and trusses, water efficient features and whole-home Energy Star ratings.

• Design for all. More technological and “universal” features will help better adapt the home for more people from kids to older people and people with disabilities.

Published March 24, 2011, by Broderick Perkins, Realty Times

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Joan Byrnes SRES, Realty ONE Group,