I’m sure you have a friend who quit smoking and then turned into the world’s biggest anti-smoking fanatic. Sometimes I feel I’m turning into THAT PERSON about living in a smaller space — I love it and it’s such an improvement in our lives. Let me proselytize a bit, I’ll probably calm down in 20 or 30 years.
Now that I’m a confirmed believer that small is the new black (should I get that on a T-shirt? No, maybe not) I am on the lookout for stories that others are joining the movement, buying and building smaller houses. There’s the Tiny House Movement and for a while it looked like housing in the US was getting smaller.
The median size of new homes built for sale peaked in 2007 at 2,295 square feet, then fell to 2,159 two years later, after the housing crisis hit.
But it looks like that trend is over — in fact
the appetite for ever-larger homes has returned: In 2012, new homes reached a new peak of 2,384 square feet and, according to the National Association of Home Builders, some 41 percent of new homes had four or more bedrooms, up from 34 percent in 2009.
Those quotes are from a story in the New York Times about how the recession-led reduction in the size of new homes was just a blip on the radar screen.
“The housing market is being driven by the move-up buyer, the luxury buyer,” said Brad Hunter, chief economist and director of consulting atMetrostudy. “And those who have strong incomes, secure jobs, their stock portfolio is doing well — they are able to buy whatever they want. And what they are buying is larger houses.”
The New York Times is also the paper that tells of the jobless recovery and the shrinking middle class, so I’m guessing these mega-houses are out of the question for most of the population. But some people feel they are entitled to buy huge homes.
Maybe it’s sour grapes. But this seems out of line to me.
This six-bedroom house, which has six full and three half bathrooms, measures about 9,000 square feet, including the basement. … added a wall of windows to the basement and furnished it with a pool table, a media room, a wet bar, a home office and a suite for their youngest daughter to use when she was home from college. …
That’s right, this 9K square foot home is for two people. Sure it has everything they ever wanted in a home, but did it really take 9,000 square feet to indulge their every whim?
Media rooms, sunrooms and in-law suites can be added to standard models. Some customers are even opting for a so-called dirty kitchen, a separate galley off the main kitchen that is used to prep food. It keeps the dirty work of cooking hidden so it doesn’t sully the increasingly large kitchens that have morphed into granite-slathered family gathering spots.
It’s not just schadenfreude to think that these people will very soon become used to living in such, let me say it, excessive luxury. It’s human nature to forget the joy of possessing something new and shiny, and to want something newer and shinier. It’s called the Law of Wealth’s Diminishing Returns. The reality of maintaining that huge house, vacuuming and dusting all those extra rooms, mowing those acres of lawn will take over and you’ll find that the property owns you, not the other way around.
And let me tell you something you probably already knew. When you have more space your stuff expands to fill it. There’s some kind of law of physics that explains it, but to put it in layman’s terms you have something, it wears out, but you keep it because you think you might use it sometime, it cost you something to buy, and YOU HAVE THE ROOM TO STORE IT. So you do. And your stuff increases exponentially.
And lets not forget the cost of those homes. There’s the larger mortgage which is easily absorbed when it’s 1 or 1.5% but could really get ugly if the rates go up even as high as 7%. (I’ve seen rates as high as 12% but then I’m a little old lady).
And the enormous amount of power and resources it takes to build and run a home of that size. It doesn’t help that your refrigerator runs on less p0wer if you have three of them.
This is not likely to become a big problem in our neck of the woods. For one thing the costs of these homes is quite modest when compared to Vancouver prices.
Affluent buyers have been flocking to real estate, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, with applications for home loans of $625,000 to $729,000 up 56.7 percent from August 2012 to August 2013. Mortgageapplications for more than $729,000 were up 41 percent.
As I say, this is still a relatively small market. This “trend” won’t ever have the devastating effect on the subprime mortgage crisis did. But it still makes me uncomfortable.
I don’t understand why people can’t be happy in less space – happier than they would be in a large house. With more money to spend on travel and fun experiences.