Newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction shows that the trend toward smaller home sizes, which started during the market downturn, has since reversed itself. In fact, since 2009, the median size of newly started homes has increased steadily to a record high of over 2,300 square feet last year. NAHB’s economists have analyzed the latest numbers to produce a helpful summary of Characteristics of New Homes Started in 2012, which is now available free of charge from HousingEconomics.com. They explain that, because the data applies to newly started homes as opposed to newly completed ones, it sheds light on emerging trends that much faster. Spotlighting some of the more interesting findings, they show that the average number of bathrooms in new single-family homes rose to a new high of 2.56 in 2012 following a period in which it edged down to as low as 2.20 in 2009.
Meanwhile, the average number of bedrooms in newly started homes – which had also declined during the downturn – has since very gradually but steadily increased. Looking at garages, the share of newly started, single-family homes with garages for three or more cars rose to over 19% in 2012 after having fallen to 16% in 2009. The latest findings are all the more interesting because, to many experts, the decline in home sizes seen during the latest recession was due to factors that were more likely to persist after a downturn ended — including, for example, an increased desire to reduce energy costs. However, when the size of new homes began to rise again in 2010, that happened against a backdrop of historically low housing starts and tight credit conditions, so it was likely driven primarily by the smaller share of first-time and other marginal buyers in the market. (In other words, those who were able to purchase a new home tended to have more resources and greater space requirements.) Our economists’ latest report also looks at recent financing trends for new homes, as well as the prevalence of certain exterior amenities such as patios, porches and decks.