The Size of Home That Buyers Say They Most Want

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

The “small home” craze continues as buyers say they find less square footage more desirable. Nearly half of Americans say their ideal home size would range from 1,000-1,999 square feet, according to a recent survey by of nearly 1,500 home owners and buyers.

Just five years ago, the National Association of Home Builders reported the average home size to be 2,400 square feet — that’s 400 square feet larger than what buyers say they now want.

So what’s to happen to all the McMansions out there from just a few years ago when big homes were in their heyday?

Naturally, you would assume that the cost of homeownership has gotten buyers thinking smaller. But according to this survey, when asked whether cost was a main deciding factor in choosing a home, most respondents said it wasn’t very important. In fact, only 29 percent of survey respondents said that living costs was the most important reason when considering a move.

So why have buyers gotten so practical with their home buying decisions?

“As home owners rethink how much space they need, I think we’ll continue to see more innovative approaches to living well and sustainably within a smaller footprint,” said Sharon Asher, chairperson and founder, in a public statement about the survey results.

Other notable findings among the survey results:

  • Sububia reigns: The survey also found that 54 percent of Americans continue to find a home in the suburbs the most desirable. They want to live near the city but prefer the peace and quiet of the suburbs. Urban and rural neighborhoods were only preferred by 24 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
  • Main priorities in selecting a home: Neighborhood safety was an important factor in choosing a home. Buyers judged neighborhood safety by the upkeep of homes and front lawns in the neighborhood, word of mouth reputation, and local crime reports and statistics. Besides neighborhood safety, respondents also ranked proximity to decent shopping and having a large backyard as important factors in selecting a home.
  • Most sought-after features: Survey respondents said the most desirable features of a new residence are central air conditioning (87 percent); custom, walk-in closets (50 percent); and “top of the line” dishwasher and/or refrigerator (43 percent).
  • Least sought-after features: The least desirable home features were custom window coverings, followed by an in-ground pool or spa.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Where are those McMansions? Many are in foreclosure! Moved out and empty. But for those that are not, homeowners have chosen to get practical and down size. During the “heyday”, you could drive by those homes at night and find only a small corner lit up. A family of four found themselves living in only a small square footage of the home and rest was dark, cold and empty. The recession has helped people come back and realize smaller can be better and more affordable. Families are now using spaces for practicality. I’m redesigning McMansions now and the REALTORS are selling them for half of what they were worth 5 years ago. People are thinking smart again.

  2. I’ve always preferred small urban homes. I’ve made that my niche in Nashville.