Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dude, Where's My House?

Give me a McMansion please - and super-size the square footage!

I was watching a report last night on the sub-prime housing debacle; the camera panned over several neighborhoods of recently-built homes around the country, and I couldn't help noticing how HUGE they were.

Could the fad of oversized homes have something to do with the housing crisis at hand?

Homes have increasingly become larger and larger over the past several decades even as family size has gone down. Home prices go higher, and more square footage means higher piles on top of higher. Add in a portion of low interest rates, shovel in a second mortgage to keep up with the Joneses (even though the Joneses are doing the same thing) and, voila!, you have a full-scale overinflated real estate market.

According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average size of a home built in the United States is 2330 square feet - up from 1400 square feet in 1970.

Let's just say we cut that increase in half. If homes today were built at 1865 square feet on average, that would result in home values at 80% of current appraisals. Even with all other factors at play, 20% less of a mortgage could make a real difference for those whose homes are in the balance.

Good design carves out "usable" space, not just space for the sake of size and almost always results in a smaller footprint than the colossal fake mansions we've come to think of as normal. Oversized homes cost more to maintain, and utility bills can be sky-high.

So a great big house just may not be all its cracked up to be.


Sage said...

Those houses are commodities - spec plans - created by builders not architects for shelter not homes.

The bigger question is when or how will ecological design become fashionable and valued.

And who are the architects capable of producing meaningful, beautiful, efficient houses?

James Polk said...

I believe it is in the job description of Architects and Planners to lead and inspire.

Mimicry never got us anywhere, really. Mass production leads to a massive headache when the product is nauseating.