By Mike LaFirenza
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are rethinking whether their monthly mortgage payments should go towards obtaining bigger living spaces or securing the ease of nearby work and school proximity. Today, according to a recent Pew survey, more potential and existing homeowners prefer larger houses with more rooms to accommodate specialized family tasks, rather than smaller houses with shorter commutes to work, school, and consumer conveniences.
That survey conducted in the summer of 2021 is comparable to a similar survey conducted in 2019 before the pandemic hit. The latest survey found that people are now more likely to prefer owning a home in a community where “houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away.” Further, fewer people are willing to own smaller homes that are “closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.”
Responses to additional questions suggest that people’s preference for homes with greater elbow room is due to an increasing number of families adapting to lifestyle changes imposed by pandemic-related restrictions. This includes more employees working from home, parents managing online schooling for their children, and more family dinners prepared from the kitchen.
While pandemic life has undoubtedly impacted home buyer preferences, data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that America’s appetite for larger homes had been growing for decades. The average size of newly constructed, single-family homes has steadily increased from around 1,700 square feet in the mid-1970s to around 2,500 square feet today. This increase in house size corresponds with an increase in the average number of rooms per house, which also increased markedly during this period. Indeed, the percentage of newly constructed, single-family homes with at least four bedrooms climbed from 23% to 44% over the same time period.
The continuing trend towards “bigger is better” in residential home construction has gradually changed the composition of the nation’s housing stock, but size varies widely by state. For example, less than 17% of all existing homes in Florida, Arkansas, and Rhode Island have four or more bedrooms. This compares to over 42% of homes in Utah. In general, homes in the North Central and Mountain West regions skew larger than those in coastal states or in the South. Interestingly, the share of houses with four or more bedrooms in each state is not highly correlated with either median home price or median household income.
At the city level, there is even more variability. While many cities in the aforementioned states stand out as having large homes, notable additions include younger cities in California and Texas, such as Elk Grove and Sugar Land. When compared to older, more established cities, those that have experienced rapid growth in recent years tend to boast larger homes.
The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau and Zillow. To identify the states with the largest homes, researchers at HireAHelper calculated the percentage of existing homes with four or more bedrooms. Researchers also included the percentage of homes with five or more bedrooms as well as the median home price.
The analysis found that in California, 21.4% of homes have at least four bedrooms, compared to 21.6% of all U.S. homes. Here is a summary of the data for California:
- Share of homes with 4+ bedrooms: 21.4%
- Share of homes with 5+ bedrooms: 4.3%
- Median home price: $727,370
- Median household income: $80,440
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Share of homes with 4+ bedrooms: 21.6%
- Share of homes with 5+ bedrooms: 4.6%
- Median home price: $316,368
- Median household income: $65,712
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on HireAHelper’s website: https://www.hireahelper.com/lifestyle/us-cities-with-the-largest-houses/